Whining Won't Cut It In Era Of Competition

April 23, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

In July of 1995, the University of California's board of regents voted to end affirmative action in student admissions, hiring and contracting. Earlier this month, a three-judge federal court upheld Proposition 209, the California law that would end affirmative action in state government.

Both events sent black liberals and traditional civil rights groups into peals of yelping. The action of the board of regents and Proposition 209 would be the death knell of affirmative action programs, naysayers assured us. Jesse Jackson, in one of his more exhilarating performances, said the board of regents' action two years ago was "an act of blatant racism" that would lead to a precipitous drop in black college enrollment nationwide.

Jackson apparently forgot the hundreds of historically black colleges and universities that are still an option for black students. Apparently he forgot he graduated from one. And, apparently, black liberal leaders don't realize we've moved from the affirmative action era to the competition era. As leaders, they should have seen the handwriting on the wall and predicted the end of affirmative action and come up with an alternative course of action.

Did they really believe that white colleges and universities were going to perpetually admit black students with SATs lower than whites' in the name of diversity? They must have, because that's what the defense of affirmative action in higher education has come down to: black liberal and traditional civil rights leaders mumbling a few phrases about diversity. No longer do they have the moral high ground Thurgood Marshall had when he argued - as the NAACP's top lawyer - that state universities were excluding black applicants solely on the basis of race.

What we have now is a black leadership that gives tacit approval to the idea that black students can't compete academically. Witness Jackson's reaction to the board of regents' decision, which he claimed would lower the number of blacks enrolled in college. It is a noxious and insidious notion that insults the intellectual abilities of black students. For those who wonder how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas can be against affirmative action after having benefited from it, they might consider that he recognized this revolting development in its inchoate stages when he was a Yale law school student.

An undeniable truth hit Thomas in his Yale years: Black liberal leadership had not prepared black people to compete. Black liberal leadership had prepared black people for only one thing - begging.

My mistake. Actually, black liberal leadership has prepared black people for two things: begging and whining. When whites denied admission to certain colleges and universities have filed suits claiming blacks with lower test scores were admitted, the black liberal machine whined that blacks are forced to attend academically inferior schools.

As if whites uniformly have attained educational Valhalla. The notion underlying affirmative action programs - especially those involving higher education - is that all whites are rich and privileged and all blacks poor and disadvantaged. Thus when middle-class black student A applies to college with test scores lower than those of working-class white student B, we can pretty much guess which one's going to be accepted.

Two years ago, a white Boston girl named Julia McLaughlin took the entrance exam to the prestigious Boston Latin School and scored higher than 103 minority applicants who were accepted. She was rejected, penalized for a racist history not of her making. Odd how no traditional civil rights or liberal black leader stepped forth to champion her cause.

We can guess that such leaders were too busy predicting doom and gloom for black America in light of recent anti-affirmative action trends. But there is no doom and gloom.

California students who don't have the test scores to get into the University of California have a plethora of other two-year and four-year colleges in which to pursue a higher education. That situation prevails in states throughout the nation. Folks of all races use this option all the time. A Morgan State, a Towson State, a Coppin State are just as capable of educating students as the Harvards and Yales.

Traditional black leaders have started to wax churlish because not everyone - including some blacks - is buying into the notion of perpetual black victimization. Those days, thank goodness, are over.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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