Don't pin the plight of blacks on racism

James K. Fett's letter was published today in the Livingston Daily and is already sparking a lively debate:

The June 26 editorial about racial preferences, "Core problem is beyond affirmative action," struck a raw nerve with me and, I am sure, with many of your readers.

We are told that it is a "stretch" to feel that affirmative action (i.e. racial preferences) "gives an unfair advantage to minority students, particularly blacks" or to be "offended when a white student is denied access to a college even though a black student was admitted with lesser grades or lower test scores." Really?

It is a "stretch," we are told, because racial preferences are justified by the historically poor treatment of blacks 50 to 150 years ago. Although justified, the editorial contends, racial preferences are ineffective to lift blacks out of poverty and into elite colleges because of our collective failure to enact effective social policy (welfare?) and "lingering racism." The race card yet again.

Most people would agree that blacks (like many other ethnic groups throughout history) were treated poorly in the distant past. However, this historically poor treatment furnishes no excuse for racial preferences or any lack of black progress.

Bill Cosby in his now famous 2004 "Pound Cake" speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education took black people (not whites) to task for their lack of progress. Significantly, he acknowledged that "we cannot blame white people."

Black Fox News commentator Juan Williams, in his 2006 book, "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America - and What We Can Do About It," blames what he calls a "culture of failure" characterized by hip-hop music, high school dropouts, high incarceration rates and teen pregnancy. He expressly rejects slavery and racism as the causes for blacks' inability to get ahead.

There is no discounting the damage done by slavery and racism. They are a tragically heavy weight of history on black people. While much of the burden has lifted, it can still be found weighing on black people, through stereotypes and negative images, leaving us at a real disadvantage. But with the Brown decision and the passage of civil-rights and voting-rights laws, the historic damage done by slavery and racism is no longer heavy enough to stop most black people from fighting through the static and making their way to a better life.

It is 2013. We have twice elected a black president. Blacks hold responsible positions in every walk of life - business, government, academia, the legal system, etc. No, the plight of blacks in society cannot be blamed on mistreatment by whites or, as the editorial proclaims, "lingering racism."

The editorial is also inaccurate because it fails to recognize that the unfair advantage accorded blacks by racial preferences extends largely to blacks from wealthy families who have never suffered the effects of slavery or 1960s discrimination. This unfair advantage is no more apparent than at my alma mater. The University of Michigan Law School, like all the elite schools, admits black students from mostly wealthy families over white working-class students with superior grades and test scores. How is that not unfair?

Most thinking Americans are burned out on racial preferences and rightly so. They punish individuals who had no hand in repressing blacks and largely benefit the children of black parents who have realized the American Dream. As Juan Williams says so aptly in his book, enough!

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Categories: Civil Rights

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