White People Don’t Know How To Talk About Race


According to a survey conducted by The New York Times, 53% of Americans support Affirmative Action programs to increase the presence of minorities on college campuses. 38% percent oppose. But somehow I don’t trust those numbers, because with the way people STILL talk about race in this country I’m surprised there are so many supporters of the measure. Aren’t you? Anyway, when asked why they favor Affirmative Action, 63% of those in favor said we need it to increase diversity. A feeble 24% said we need it to make up for discrimination.

Truth be told, there are no sensical, legal reasons to get rid of Affirmative Action. No one is getting harmed. And when the Supreme Court ruled today on the case brought on by Abigail Fisher, who applied to the University of Texas in 2008 and was denied, Fischer complained that her constitutional rights were violated even though she was by all means an ‘OK’ student, nothing to sue the state about. She wasn’t in the Top 10 percent of her high school class, her G.P.A. was okay, and her SAT scores were within reason.

So what does she do? She sues the state, that’s what! Talk about white privilege, jesus.

The Supreme Court’s 7-1 ruling today, that “The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity,” essentially sends the case back to the federal court in Texas to deal with. But there is only a matter of time before yet another Affirmative Action case makes its way to the Supreme Court, and that will almost definitely mark the end of Affirmative Action.

Before that day comes, here are several reasons we STILL need Affirmative Action programs. And no, we don’t just need them to right the wrongs of the past.

1. White People Do Not Know How To Talk About Race In America

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu6Us7fpr00&w=584&h=390]

I know this one is going to leave a lot of people hot and bothered in the comments, but it is the truth and it needs to be said so I am saying it. White people do not know how to talk about or deal with race. Every time somebody brings up race, like right now, somebody rolls their eyes and there is always that one person who goes on a balls-to-the-wall tirade about why we should “be judged on the content of our character and not the color of our skin,” a blatant misuse of Dr. Martin Luther King. Someone else will say something along the lines of “don’t blame me and my whiteness/am I supposed to feel guilty” etc etc etc. And if you have the experience of being the only black or brown person in a classroom when you hit the race unit that semester, you KNOW what it means to have the whole class turn to you and expect you to have all the race answers. At the end, this is why we need Affirmative Action — not just to increase diversity and opportunity, but so that all people understand and know how to deal with and talk intelligently about race.

2. Because Affirmative Action Isn’t Just About Race

It’s also about gender equality and social class, too. I went to college with more than one billionaire, a fact that at the time I could barely process. It was never about jealously for me though, because everybody has problems. Even rich people. But I thought it was fascinating to meet and hang out with so many millionaires and billionaires and it was just a world I didn’t understand at all. What were their lives like? That’s why so many colleges are now trying to increase socio-economic diversity, because of course there are poor people of every racial and ethnic background. Affirmative Action is about creating opportunities for all underrepresented racial and class backgrounds. But of course, to talk about race is also to talk about class, so this kind of affirmative action makes perfect sense.

3. Affirmative Action Helps People Secure A Place In The Middle Class

I know I have benefitted from Affirmative Action programs, and I’m not about to apologize for it. I know that I am where I am today in some part because Affirmative Action programs gave me a boost, but also because I have worked really hard at my shit. I once wrote a piece about race and someone told me in the comments that if I was held up to the same standards as white people, I would have gone to a lesser college or university. SERIOUSLY RIGHT NOW!!!? I can’t even deal with the many levels of racism embedded in that phrase.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SoKFycTmVU&w=584&h=390]

But the point is that college is quickly becoming a playground for the rich, meaning you can go if you can afford it. Affirmative action programs aren’t just about getting into college — they’re about setting you on a trajectory of lifelong success. If you go to a good college, chances are you can get a good high paying job because the top investment banking firms (or whatever) recruit from your campus every year. If you go to a good college, you an get an M.D. because you are told you’re smart and the world is your oyster. These are opportunities that should be afforded to everyone, not just people who can pay for it.

4. No One Has A “Spot.”

CUT IT OUT WITH THE ADMISSIONS LAWSUITS. There is nothing more annoying than hearing people complain about not getting into a college or not getting a job because some brown person swooped in and snatched their “spot.” E-Y-E R-O-L-L. Nobody has a “spot” at a job or at a college, and if you think you do then you should check your white privilege gurl!

5. Because There Is Still A Great Deal Of Racial Insensitivity Out There

College campuses are STILL serving collard greens, fried chicken and candied yams (yum, btw) on MLK Day/Black History Month. People are still dressing up in black face because it’s hilarious. There are no roles for black writers in the television industry and it’s difficult to make it into Hollywood. The racial tropes in our movies and on our TV screens are pretty much the same as they were 50 years ago. And there are still plenty of racists out there paying black people in beer while they make millions making soul food. Something’s wrong with this picture.

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