National NOW Times >> Spring 2003 >> Article
Save Affirmative Action
by Kim Gandy, NOW President
Despite the Bush Administration's inaccurate claims, the University of Michigan policies open doors to help overcome past discrimination and to provide opportunities for learning and cultural exchange that benefit students of all races.
There has always been affirmative action in higher education — but for many years it operated to exclude, rather than include, women and people of color. Consider one example: There is little doubt that George W. Bush's grades were lower than those of hundreds of students who were rejected by Yale University the same year Bush was welcomed there.
Yes, George W. Bush was a beneficiary of one kind of affirmative action—the kind that favored the sons of overwhelmingly white and well-to-do Yale graduates. Yet there was no White House denunciation of the "extra points" universities, including Michigan, give to children of donors or alums—only a condemnation of efforts to offset those preferences (which go mostly to white students) by also considering race and ethnic background.
Conservatives have called the Michigan plan everything but un-American, and that's probably coming soon. But what of college campuses, law schools and graduate schools, with nary a black or brown face to be seen? That's what I call un-American.
Last December, Sen. Trent Lott, that born-again civil rights supporter, said "I'm for affirmative action," in an interview with Black Entertainment Television. But where is he now? Where is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist? Where are the conservatives who talk about opportunity but only offer excuses? In "Letters from a Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that perhaps the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council were not the greatest enemies of progress—instead he cautioned about "the white moderate" who says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods. . ." Those words ring just as true 40 years later.
Consider the revealing comments of an unnamed White House official, who told the Washington Post after Bush filed an opposing brief in the Michigan cases that "we need to try, if at all possible, to promote the broadest amount of diversity without taking race into account." Who is he kidding?
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