The Original Struggle
I believe the fight for civil rights was for equal opportunity in America. The object was to make America a colorblind society where race was not a determining factor in accessing the opportunities offered to Americans in all things, including education, self-improvement, health, housing, and even the freedom to fail. The government and our various institutions could no longer block one’s way to the proverbial water, but at the time, no one said it was their place to make someone drink it. It was believed that given equal opportunities, by taking personal responsibility everyone could move up.
The struggle reached remarkable success in toppling Jim Crow, and then removing the laws and practices, both direct and subtle that stood in the way of black progress in America. Schools, lenders, realty companies, hospitals, and any agency or institution that is a recipient of Federal money must proclaim and show themselves to be free of bias, must post signs to that effect, and have various government departments and agencies looking over shoulders to enforce the laws with punitive measures.
Affirmative action was soon introduced, creating push back from new quarters: people who had previously supported the struggle for civil rights. They had been in agreement that we all should be on equal footing, but affirmative action seemed like a golf handicap. It attempted to level the playing field at the expense of the best performers. Now for the sake of diversity, we had firemen, policemen, teachers, and college students who were not necessarily the most qualified. The success and fairness of affirmative action is still being debated today. Based on the lack of progress or even set backs in large swaths of the urban black population more than half a century after Dr. King marched in Selma, I am reminded of making water available, but being unable to force everyone to drink, even with encouragement. Little is heard of personal responsibility.
Today I read of an effort that actually spells out the need to guarantee not just equal opportunity, but an equal outcome. This was not the original goal of civil rights, but it has become widespread across American institutions with deleterious effects. A high school in Virginia sent a letter home to parents stating that honors and advanced placement classes would now be filled not based on grades, test scores, or merit, but by filling those classes with white, black, Hispanic, and Asian students in the same proportion of those classifications to the student body. Since the school is 40% white, then only 40% of the students accepted in AP or honors classes can be white. Only 10% can be Asian, which is the percentage of Asian’s in the school’s population. The school administrators do not explain why there is such a disparity in academic achievement among the various classifications of students who came up through the exact same school system. In spite of equal opportunity for education, apparently the black and Hispanic student populations were not adequately represented in the advanced classes to satisfy the proponents of diversity. The massive effect of taking or denying to take personal responsibility is not considered.
Here is an excerpt from the letter:
“American demographic trends indicate that America will be a majority minority nation in the next 25 years,” the letter read. “Therefore, the new work of American public schools is to develop systems to address disparate outcomes.” (The boldface is mine). No mention is made of the responsibility of students and their families.
Been There. Done That.
In The Color of Character, a mild mannered boy attends a liberal school in 1970, where it was thought best to overlook the sometimes violent, frequently disruptive behavior of his black classmates, and to grade on an ever more extensive curve, creating an inflation of grades. If you want to know the unfortunate outcome of this approach both in and out of school, and its effect on race relations, then please read the book. We continue to promote failed paths. The intentions may be good, but we all know how to pave the road to Hell.
Equal opportunity? Definitely, yes. Attempting to manipulate the rules to guarantee an outcome? My belief is that no one benefits from it.