Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Does Affirmative Action Discriminate Against White People?

First, Virginia's Governor passed a resolution honoring Confederate history. Now this.

In his Wall Street Journal article titled Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege, U.S. Senator James Webb (D-VA) wrote:

"Lyndon Johnson's initial program for affirmative action was based on the 13th Amendment and on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which authorized the federal government to take actions in order to eliminate "the badges of slavery." Affirmative action was designed to recognize the uniquely difficult journey of African-Americans. This policy was justifiable and understandable, even to those who came from white cultural groups that had also suffered in socio-economic terms from the Civil War and its aftermath.

The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. But the extrapolation of this logic to all "people of color"—especially since 1965, when new immigration laws dramatically altered the demographic makeup of the U.S.—moved affirmative action away from remediation and toward discrimination, this time against whites. It has also lessened the focus on assisting African-Americans, who despite a veneer of successful people at the very top still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration and family breakup.

Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs. The same cannot be said of many hard-working white Americans, including those whose roots in America go back more than 200 years.

Where should we go from here? Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes."

I strongly oppose Senator Webb's arguments for several reasons. Although no group is monolithic, white privilege continues to be a reality. Contrary to Mr. Webb's assertions, the so-called "WASP" elites continue to dominate the American social, economic and political system. For example, the overwhelming majority of corporate leaders are white. As noted in George Curry's article titled Race, Gender and Corporate America,

"A 1995 report by the federal Glass Ceiling Commission observed, "At the highest levels of business, there is indeed a barrier only rarely penetrated by women or persons of color. 97 percent of the senior managers of Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 companies are white; 95 to 97 percent are male. In Fortune 2000 industrial and service companies, 5 percent of senior managers are women - and of that 5 percent, virtually all are White.

The Glass Ceiling report observes, "...The world at the top of the corporate hierarchy does not yet look anything like America. Two-thirds of our population, and 57 percent of the working population, is female, or minorities, or both." The commission projects that this year, people of color and women will make up 62 percent of the workforce.

In addition, all U.S. governors, except four, are white. All U.S. senators, except one, are white.

As a result of the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, even poor and working class whites benefit from white privilege. By virtue of their skin pigment, they are treated better than African Americans and other minorities by police, teachers, employers and society in general.

Senator Webb's proposal may end all affirmative action programs. Mr. Webb cites the legacy of slavery and general societal discrimination as the only basis for continuing some government-directed affirmative action programs. However, in Regents of University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that goal of affirmative action measures must be "far more focused than remedying of the effects of societal discrimination, an amorphous concept of injury that may be ageless in its reach." The court further stated that there must be "judicial, legislative or administrative or administrative findings of past discrimination." That is a very difficult standard to meet. Accordingly, if Mr. Webb's limited view was adopted, the number of affirmative action programs would greatly diminish. Many African Americans who "still need" would not be able to reap the benefits of affirmative action plans.

In addition to past discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that diversity is a compelling interest justifying affirmative action programs. As noted in Grutter v. Bollinger, diversity enables better understanding of persons of different races. The court noted that "the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints." In Grutter, military officers filed amicus briefs stating that diversity in the military is essential to national security. In sum, affirmative action benefits America, not just African Americans and immigrants.

Furthermore, Mr. Webb offers no proof that white workers have been marginalized by affirmative action programs. On the other hand, there is substantial proof African Americans and other minorities continue to be marginalized. According to Julianne Malveaux, "The unemployment rate for black people nationwide is twice that for whites." According to Nikitra S. Bailey, "African American have a median net worth of $5,998, compared to $88,651 for whites." African Americans and Latinos continue to be denied employment opportunities based on race. As noted in the ACLU's position paper on affirmative action,"the National Urban Institute...sent equally qualified pairs of job applicants on a series of interviews for entry-level jobs. The young men were coached to display similar levels of enthusiasm and “articulateness.” The young white men received 45% more job offers than their African American co-testers; whites were offered the job 52% more often than Latino “applicants.”"

In conclusion, if lawmakers and courts adopt Mr. Webb's view, the doors of opportunity will be closed to many African Americans, Latinos and other minorities. For example, in his article titled The Fall of Affirmative Action, William C. Kiddler cites a study of college admission rates following the end of affirmative action in California, Texas and Washington. The study found that admission rates for African Americans at elite public colleges fell from 6.65 percent to 2.25 percent.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Are Some African Americans So Eager to Tear Other African Americans Down???!!!???

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are my own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the NAACP, my associates or advertisers.

On Thursday, I skimmed a few of blogs on my list and came across a provocative article on What About Our Daughters (WAOD) titled Ben Jealous Should Resign: Ben Jealous, Roland S. Martin, White House Shank Grandmother in the Back by Gina, the Blogmother. WAOD describes itself as “unapologetic, uncompromising, and unbowed in defense of Black women and girls.” Discussing the Shirley Sherrod controversy, the article focused all of its vitriol at Black men and organizations including NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, CNN commentator Roland S. Martin and President Barack Obama.

Amazingly, the article did NOT criticize, condemn or even mention the most culpable parties, right wing Tea Party blogger Andrew Breitbart and FOX News. Mr. Breitbart posted the deceptively edited video and gave it to FOX News. FOX News repeatedly broadcasted the bogus news story and later downplayed their role in spreading the controversy. Mr. Breitbart is “unapologetic” about deliberately tarnishing Ms. Sherrod’s name. In retaliation for the NAACP’s condemnation of the racist elements within the Tea Party movement, Mr. Breitbart used the tape as a means to discredit the NAACP as “racist". As far as Mr. Breitbart is concerned, Ms. Sherrod was expendable collateral damage.

Conversely, when the NAACP discovered its error, the Association promptly apologized, posted the entire video and asked the Obama Administration to reconsider its decision to fire Ms. Sherrod. The video footage vindicated Ms. Sherrod. Subsequently, USDA Secretary Mr. Vilsack and the President apologized to Ms. Sherrod and offered her a new job. Again, WAOD oddly failed to condemn or mention the actions of Mr. Breitbart and FOX News. However, WAOD had no problem trashing the NAACP, President Obama and Roland Martin.

After reading WAOD’s article, I expressed my concerns regarding this omission. Essentially, I wondered, “Why are some African Americans so eager to tear each other African Americans down and so willing to excuse or gloss over the wrongdoings of other ethnic groups?” I asked WAOD, “Are you concerned about the racist signs and racist members of the Tea Party?” I raised other concerns as well in the comment section. See the comment section of Ben Jealous Should Resign for the details.

During the discussion, WAOD and other commentators asked me if I worked for the NAACP. I did not respond to that question for two reasons. First, I did not want to create the impression that I was officially speaking for the NAACP. I was speaking as an individual. The Association has designated spokespersons. Second, the name of my employer has absolutely no logical bearing on the validity of my arguments. Arguments stand or fall based on their logic or illogic. My intent was not to deceive. If any of WAOD's commentators clicked the link to my blog, they would have quickly discovered that I work for the NAACP. WAOD's detective work was unnecessary. Moreover, I was NOT paid or instructed to comment on the WAOD article.

In response to my comments, WAOD posted a misleading article titled NAACP Legal Goons Invade WAOD Comment Section Following Calls for Jealous to Resign. Instead of presenting a substantive, cogent response in the article, WAOD’s resorted to gossip mongering, fallacious ad hominem attacks, bully tactics and puerile name calling. As WAOD stated in the comment section, “Y'all do realize that once they start calling you names. They have run out of arguments. So you win.” It is easy to attack the person making the arguments. It is far more difficult to refute sound arguments. As stated is the Nizkor Project website, “The character, circumstance, or actions of a person do not have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made.”

To date, WAOD has not provided any substantive responses to the issues that I have raised.

I realize that sexism is an issue that the African American community must confront. I acknowledge that no organization or individual is beyond criticism. All organizations, leaders and politicians should be held accountable.

Nonetheless, the dialogue should remain civil. Brothers and sisters should not fight each other. Such conflict only benefits the right wing opposition. The extremist right wing opposition wants to “take our country back” to the pre-civil rights era. Rather than simply bashing the Nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, WAOD, as a "defender of Black women and girls", should focus at least SOME of its criticism and energy on such racist elements of the Tea Party.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Andrew Breitbart Exposed!

Yesterday, on ABC's Good Morning America, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters exposed far right wing blogger Andrew Breitbart. Mr. Breitbart deliberated used a 1.55 minute segment of a 43.15 minute speech to create the false impression that former USDA official Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP are racist. After the NAACP posted the entire video, it was apparent that Mr. Breitbart's heavily edited 1.55 minute video was intentionally designed and manipulated to take Ms. Sherrod's statements completely out of context.

Instead of taking full responsibility for manufacturing and peddling the false story about Ms. Sherrod and the NAACP, Mr. Breitbart has attempted to justify his shameless actions. In response to the NAACP's criticism of the Tea Party movement, Mr. Breitbart is desperately trying to discredit the Association. However, he ended up discrediting his self.

Rather than simply bashing the Obama Administration and the NAACP, progressives should focus on the source of the problem, Andrew Breitbart and FOX News! We cannot allow them to turn the NAACP into the next ACORN.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hoodwinked and Bamboozled

Last week, the NAACP passed a resolution condemning the racist elements of the Tea Party Movement. Despite the fact that the NAACP passed many other significant resolutions, the media became fixated on the Tea Party issue.

For the pass couple of years, prominent African American bloggers such as Field Negro and Jack and Jill Politics exposed the extremist and racist fringes of the Tea Party movement. For years, other progressive media outlets such as The Huffington Post and Democracy Now have discussed that issue in depth. This issue is nothing new.

The racist elements in the Tea Party movement are apparent. Many of their demonstrations include racist and inflammatory signs. Some signs depict President Obama as a monkey, a stereotypical African Witch doctor and a Muslim terrorist. Other signs read "Obamanomics, Monkey See, Monkey Spend", "Obama's Plan, White Slavery", "The American Taxpayers Are the Jews for Obama's Ovens", "Congress = Slave Owner, Taxpayer = Niggar", "Cap Congress and Trade Obama Back to Kenya", "Impeach Muslim Marxist" and "The Zoo has an African, The White House has a Lyin' African". Recently, Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams wrote a mock letter from the NAACP to President Lincoln stating:

"We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"

Consequently, the National Tea Party Federation expelled Mr. Williams. On March 20, 2010, Tea Party protesters called Congressman John Lewis a "nigger". These action are clearly racist. As an NAACP staff member, I am proud that the NAACP strongly condemned such racism.

To counter the NAACP's accusations, the Tea Party movement has deployed several token African American spokespersons such as David Webb, Deneen Borelli and others. By utilizing such persons, the Tea Party is attempting to say, "We are not racist. We have black leaders." Before this controversy, those people were practically invisible. Where is Sarah Palin? Where is Dick Armey? Why hasn't the media asked them to address the controversy?

To divert attention from the real issue, the conservatives have argued that the NAACP is hypocritical for failing to renounce the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). That argument is flawed for several reasons. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous has publicly condemned the NBPP for its racism. As Mr. Jealous stated, the NBPP is not a partner organization, member organization or unit of the NAACP. The NBPP does not participate in the NAACP's demonstrations. Conversely, as previously stated, racists actually participate in Tea Party demonstrations and hold positions of influence.

In addition, the Tea Party supporters demanded that the NAACP renounce former USDA official Shirley Sherrod for racial statements made during an NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. During her speech, Ms. Sherrod described an incident that occurred over 20 years ago. Unfortunately, without conducting a thorough investigation, the Association issued a stern condemnation. Essentially, the NAACP was hoodwinked and bamboozled by Tea Party proponents into issuing the statement. Later, to clarify the situation, the Association retracted the statement and posted the full video of Ms. Sherrod's speech.

We must not allow our adversaries to confuse and distract us. Instead of attempting to placate right wing conservatives, we must remain focused. The Tea Party movement is an influential movement. The Tea Party is shaping the electoral landscape. We must continue to demand that the Tea Party take down the racist signs. We must demand that they expel the racists from their ranks.