WASHINGTON — April 28, 2011 – I have a problem with the concept of “diversity” just for its sake alone.
If it is known that a selective school or a job has diversity goals or hires, many times students and workers of color are thought of, among their peers, managers and superiors, to be beneficiaries of special admission programs, not necessarily qualified or thought to have earned their spots in the class.
The concept of diversity admission and hires can also create the scenario where the competence of people of color gets challenged. We are perceived to have been pushed along all of our lives, and are thought to be incompetent until proven otherwise.
This is the type of thinking has created an atmosphere where mainstream media ignores all challenging issues the country is going through with its budget crisis, joblessness and wars, and instead, focuses on the unreasonable demands of a loud-mouth business mogul and reality TV star.
Yesterday, the President released his long form birth certificate to appease the requests of so-called “Birthers.” For two and a half years, these individuals refused to believe Obama was born in the United States, despite evidence proving he was. Lawsuits were filed, and the news media, recently led by Donald Trump, focused on this issue.
In a statement to the press yesterday, the president acknowledged, “I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. “
He was certainly right about that. This morning, news stories indicated that members of the Tea Party movement, some conservatives, and others, are still not satisfied, and demanded that President Obama release his undergraduate and law school records.
The reason? They question Obama’s qualifications to have been admitted to Harvard Law, despite the fact that while there, he excelled, earning the distinction of being the first Black Editor-In-Chief of the very select Harvard Law Review.
To be fair, this is not the first time that opponents of a president or a presidential candidate demanded to see the academic credentials of the candidate or president at the time. Interesting enough though, in recent history, never were the records readily released by the candidate, without first being leaked or revealed by a news organization. And each time, the leak revealed mediocre grades:
- George Bush never released his grades but leaked transcripts that showed he was a solid C student at Yale college (where his father attended) yet managed to get admitted to Harvard Business School.
- Sarah Palin, former Republican Vice Presidential nominee (and possible 2012 presidential candidate), according to an Associated Press report, switched colleges six times in six years, including two stints at the University of Idaho, before graduating there in 1987.
- John Kerry’s leaked records obtained by The Boston Globe, showed he was a C student at Yale.
- Al Gore was also a C student at Harvard, according to a Politics Insider report
- Ronald Reagan’s academic transcripts have never been released, though we know he was a student actor, cheerleader and graduated from the non-Ivy League Eureka College
- John McCain finished 894 out of 899 at the naval academy, according to the Daily Paul.
That George Bush got into the very competitive Harvard business program with a C-average perhaps shows that his pedigree and family connections got him admitted, notwithstanding his grades. Arguably, this type of legacy admission could be considered a form of Affirmative Action, and one which many children from affluent families annually benefit.
That form of preferential admission is tolerable and rarely questioned. There is a double standard, however, for Affirmative Action programs that benefit students of color.
Thus, the biggest problem with quotas, which are based on a simple numerical admission of certain students, employees or contractors, based on color alone and not merit, is that they are wrongly confused with Affirmative Action.
The latter is comprised of programs created based on an acknowledgment that historical and institutional racism, inferior schools in certain urban communities, absence of word-of-mouth or legacy access that, say a George W. Bush may have, do and have limited many minorities’ admission into competitive programs.
Affirmative Action has been challenged in the federal contracting scenario at the United States Supreme Court in Adarand Constructions v. Pena, and in the academic setting in Hopwood v. Texas, and in a way, that limits how they can be instituted.
In spite of these cases, schools, governments and employers still take affirmative steps to diversify their ranks, acknowledging the value of doing so, and understanding that the student body and workforce can be enriched by people from varying backgrounds and experiences.
When White students, employees, or contractors get locked out of an opportunity, some automatically assume it is because a less qualified minority took a position reserved for that “diversity” slot. That assumption is unfair, and many times inaccurate.
Nonetheless, beyond college and later in life, the perception of being unqualified until proven otherwise persists. I can relate. For example, while on a firm-wide retreat, I got upset when I noticed that a very competitive law firm partner purposefully attempted to skip my turn in the game, and for no other reason, I assume, than he didn’t think I would get the answer right, although he had yet to work with me before, and had no basis for that assumption.
Later, during that same game, when I got an answer right no one else could figure out, I got irritated to see how amazed and shocked everyone was, including lawyers Junior to me, over the fact I stumped them all. It had me thinking that, despite doing well enough to go to a good law school and get into a top ranked law firm, the expectations of me, being the only black lawyer in an office of 60, and my intelligence, are still low, notwithstanding.
And, perhaps because of still-existing sensitivities about my own past in corporate America and of having to defend my credibility and qualifications, I find myself having the President’s back a lot recently. Perhaps, I’ve developed a send of solidarity or have empathy. and also I am concerned for my own children.
I have big plans for them, and at their young ages, I am already actively involved in their education. I guide them and want them to earn high marks in all levels of their schooling, and want them eventually excel in their college entrance exams and get into top colleges, universities and post-graduate schools based on merit.
It is a dream that many parents have for their children. Alas, you cannot control what others think about you, and I will have to remember to teach them that. Notwithstanding, it can be a nuisance to have to need to prove you belong all the time, to get skipped over, to not be asked to join study groups, or to be presumed to be a quota baby, especially when others do not have to go through the same type of second-guessing, and get the benefit of the doubt automatically.
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