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Counterfeit Equality
by La Shawn Barber
19 June 2003

Should the University of Michigan Law School be allowed to continue admitting blacks because they’re black and discriminating against whites and Asians because they’re white and Asian?

“…we have seen the high court of the country declare that discrimination based on race was repugnant to the Constitution, and therefore void.”--President Lyndon Johnson, 1965

Will the University of Michigan Law School be allowed to continue admitting blacks because they’re black and discriminating against whites and Asians because they’re white and Asian? Will the U.S. Supreme Court uphold the Constitution by declaring that Michigan’s race preference policy is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause? If the nine justices choose to honor those who fought and died for equal justice during the Civil Rights Movement, they will.

Affirmative action was once a noble objective. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making segregation in public facilities and discrimination in employment illegal. In a speech given to a graduating class at Howard University in 1965, Johnson acknowledged that after centuries of oppression, blacks needed more than just freedom to catch up with the rest of society. “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.”

Johnson was correct, but added, “We seek…not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” He unknowingly framed the underlying concept for racial quotas, planting the seeds for a system that would become tainted by the use of skin color in determining admissions and hiring. Sadly, the struggle for equality of opportunity has become an expectation for equality of result, an idea that still reverberates through the collective psyche of liberals who erroneously believe the two concepts are interchangeable.

“Affirmative action” was first codified in a 1961 Executive Order by President Kennedy, instructing federal contractors to take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” A 1965 Executive Order signed by President Johnson required all federal contractors to take “affirmative action to expand job opportunities for minorities.” In 1970, President Nixon unwittingly opened the door to racial quotas when he authorized the U.S. Department of Labor to set goals and timetables to correct the “underutilization” of blacks by federal contractors. Well-meaning whites took full advantage of correcting “underutilization.”

Affirmative action’s original intent was to “cast a wide net” to draw in blacks who otherwise wouldn’t have had opportunity, a notion that made sense and carried with it the potential of equality of result. For the past 30 years, however, it has operated as an entitlement and set-aside program. Underqualifed blacks are admitted to universities under race preferences because they’re black. I write from experience.

My black peers imply that I lack the authority to speak out against race preferences because I’ve benefited from them. Using the same reasoning, how many of us would let a child touch a hot stove so he could gain the same benefit we’ve gained in knowing that a hot stove shouldn’t be touched?

Not only am I morally obligated to reject race preferences, I am compelled to caution its proponents to think critically. I plead with them to abandon the victim-entitlement mindset and function on a higher level, one free from emotionalism and illogic. To white liberals, blacks are a commodity, and if descendants of slaves won’t free themselves from the mental chains of low expectations, they’ll carry on a legacy of bondage.

Race preferences are damaging and demoralizing. Under such policies, blacks are treated not as responsible moral agents with accountability, but as objects of pity, shame and failure, incapable of human excellence. The Civil Rights dream turns into fool’s gold.

Just as a burn from a hot stove leaves a permanent mark on delicate skin, dehumanizing race preference policies leave a mark on the conscience. White liberals’ scheme for a racial utopia has failed, resulting in self-doubt, defensiveness and divisiveness in America. Let’s hope the nine justices care about healing the wounds.

La Shawn Barber's bi-weekly column also appears on TheRightReport.com.  A frequent contributor to the Washington Times, her work has been published in the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jewish World Review, The Black World Today, Grace-Centered Magazine and other publications. A freelance writer and former liberal, La Shawn is now a renegade supporter of conservative ideals."

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