On Affirmative Action, Liberals Promote Fear Over Progress, by Ak’bar Shabazz

It seems chic in liberal circles to elicit black support by telling us we can’t succeed without their help. Liberal expectations of black students are obviously low. Their confidence in our natural abilities and intellect isn’t strong by any means.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could redefine affirmative action programs that set de facto racial quotas in school admissions. Liberals liken this to the end of our world, but what does it say about their true opinions of our talents?

Liberals sell us a pessimistic view of our potential. Unfortunately, those calling themselves our leaders actively support this horrendous philosophy. For example, to encourage parents to get more involved in local schools, the New Jersey Teacher’s Union distributed a brochure to parents of white children full of descriptive adjectives and insightful words. A Spanish version is available for Hispanics, while another is for African-American parents. The latter version is dumbed down with simple instructions and far less volume. Obviously, little faith was put in the comprehension skills of the African-American parents. The brochure, regrettably, was produced in conjunction with the Black Minister’s Council of New Jersey.

President George W. Bush calls this sort of thing “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Liberals believe that, if we don’t have racial quotas and people are left to succeed or fail on their merits, white males will dominate American life. Howie Kurtz of The Washington Post says, “If colleges don’t consider race at all, some of them would end up looking like the Republican side of [Congress] (Number of blacks: zero).” I’m sure Mr. Kurtz would say he got his job because of his talents and not because he is white. But he and others like him don’t seem to have the same faith in a young black from East Point, Georgia or Harlem.

Hillary Clinton echoed the same viewpoint: “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving diversity in every classroom and boardroom in America… That’s why I’m concerned about the President’s faith that ‘race neutral’ programs are the answer.” She agrees we cannot have a diverse environment unless colleges and businesses neglect merit and focus on race.

Affirmative action was intended to ensure that blacks could produce at the same level of whites without fear of discrimination. They’d follow up this affirmation by actively recruiting blacks at proportionate levels to whites. Unfortunately, it has morphed into racial preferences and a philosophy demanding a minimum number of minorities. The qualifications of applicants become secondary to achieving that quota.

Obviously, it’s hard work to ensure that all black children are as equally prepared to enter and succeed in college as the average white child. I would submit the main cause of this disparity is not individual ability, but the vast inferiority of inner city public schools. This inferiority lies not with the students but in the poor performance of teachers and administrators and parents who don’t care.

Efforts to implement learning standards, accountability and alternatives to failing schools meet fierce opposition from liberal activists and the equally liberal teachers’ unions. Although at least 40 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members and the majority of other members of Congress use private schools to educate their children, liberals insist that Americans who cannot afford this option continue to send their children to failing and underachieving public schools.

By no means do the teachers’ unions want funding linked to performance. They are content to herd students through schools without actual learning requirements. Keeping the status quo is their goal. Their main suggested change: more money.

Obviously, having a diverse campus is the ideal campus environment. However, this goal is achieved through alternative plans already in place in Texas, California and Florida. Students in those states being graduated from high school in the top percentiles of their classes are guaranteed spots in state colleges and universities. You can achieve diversity, reward students for their achievements and not discriminate against other qualified candidates in the process.

Liberal elites promoting one set of rules for themselves and their children while virtually mandating another for poor families must be exposed.

In this country, you can accomplish your goals and do great things through hard work and education. But, it’s insulting and outrageous for people who have accomplished personal goals in their lives from such hard work and preparation to suggest that it’s not possible for others to take the same route.

(Ak’bar Shabazz, an Atlanta native, is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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