Jun 25, 2013

Clarence Thomas effectively said that his degree from Yale was worthless because of Affirmative Action.  I do not follow Clarence Thomas closely but on the topic of Affirmative Action he is a walking contradiction (others may say he is an overall walking contradiction).  Is the man not a Supreme Court Justice?  He is employed at the top of his profession job for as long as he wants to be.  Whose fault is it that he fell prey to the narrative that the haters of Affirmative Action had spun on the policy?  I purposely use the term "haters" because they are spinning the law as they see it and not with substantive opposition.  Haters of the policy sabotage implementation to prove their argument.  The policy has been executed poorly at times, but those who truly embraced the spirit of the law understand how to execute the policy properly.  They intentionally seek to diversify their pool of qualified candidates.

Like I said earlier, I do not follow Clarence Thomas closely and would not ordinarily dignify his comments with a response but I chose to speak out on this because there are many others that diminish their accomplishments because Affirmative Action gave them opportunity, which was all that it was designed to do.  I clearly remember having a conversation with a good friend and classmate while we were in college.  Several white students were trying to stir the pot claiming reverse discrimination when it came to Black History Month, Black Student Unions, etc.  These students would see us and undoubtedly think that the only reason we were admitted was that we were black.  My friend said, "Affirmative Action may have gotten me here, but I have proven that I deserve to stay here."  She said it best.  My standardized test scores were not that great, but you had a fight on your hands if you tried to tell me that I wasn't smart or that I wouldn't get in to college.  I was strong in math and science and as I shared in How I Got Over My Blackness, I was placed in the advanced freshman math and science courses.  I knew what my SAT and ACT scores did not that I was more than capable to excel in college and I did just that.  You can not tell me I did not earn my degree or anything else. 

I heard a someone say in response to LeBron James' comments after the Miami Heat's second championship win that he in fact was supposed to be there.  We all understand what LeBron meant in that the deck was stacked against him.  But the fact remains that he was more than qualified to do what he did.  The same is true for us.  Affirmative Action opens a door that otherwise would be shut to us even when we are qualified. The fact that some of us stand out because we are one of the few or the only one is not our fault.  Scarcity of diverse talent no doubt stems from inequities somewhere in the pipeline. 

President Obama has been referred to as the Affirmative Action president in that people only voted for him because he was black.  Pundits say his reelection refutes this notion.  Why was it even part of the narrative to begin with?  The man was duly elected.  Yet others put an asterisk by his election that would have remained had he not been reelected.    So if we are admitted but do not graduate it is because we were not qualified to be there to begin with.  Nevermind the other students that do not matriculate for one reason or another; a reason by the way that has nothing to do with race or qualifications.  If we get the job, but do not make waves, then somehow we are a suspicious hire.  Nevermind the employees that work to the rule doing nothing more and nothing less.  As much as it is annoying to hear, I have come to expect such rhetoric from the haters of Affirmative Action.  What I do not expect is for policy beneficiaries to regard themselves as tokens and allow the haters' narrative to negatively affect their self-concept.  We need not throw our own race back in our own faces.  When that happens, the haters still win because how they have gotten in our heads and their perceptions dictate our behavior.  We have to let the content of our character, talents, and qualifications shape our self-concept, behavior, and aspirations.

My final thought on this is there is no shame or stain associated with walking through the door of opportunity that was opened through Affirmative Action.  If anyone should feel shame it should be the one who is forced by law to do what is right now because he/she did not have the courage or conscience to do what was right before.

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