Friday, January 06, 2006

How Can We Bring Whites and Blacks Together? End Affirmative Action!

This is the conclusion that James Taranto, who writes the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" editiorial page, reaches after a superficial examination of an article that appears in the most recent issue of

The publishers of, Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, interview Prof. Michael Dawson, of the University of Chicago, who conducted a survey of whites' and blacks' attitudes about state and federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina. Dawson writes that the Fed's anemic reaction to Katrina victims suggests to blacks - who overwhelmingly feel that white victims in a similar situation would have received help quicker - an "utter lack of the liberal possibility in the United States."

Taranto, not surprisingly, disagrees, "To say that there is an 'utter lack of liberal possibility' for black Americans is to ignore recent history. Can anyone seriously claim that blacks are no better off today than they were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?"

Of course no thinking person will attempt to argue that. Dawson certainly doesn't. His statement about an 'utter lack of liberal possibility' doesn't suggest that he feels things haven't improved for many African-Americans. Dawson's remarks are about Black Americans' perceptions of racial dynamics in this country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Most black folks (and 20% - no insignificant number - of whites) can not imagine a scenario in which an entire city of white people would be stranded and seemingly abandoned in unbearable conditions for close to a week. I certainly can't.

But Taranto makes it clear that he isn't interested in delving into this issue too closely. After he dedicates a small paragraph to misinterpreting Dawson's conclusions, he wades into more familiar territory: trashing affirmative action. Why are whites and blacks views about race so dissimilar, according to Taranto? Because affirmative action frustrates blacks and creates indifference in whites. In Taranto’s world, attempting to grant African-Americans equal access to job opportunity via affirmative action has created a quota system that puts true equality of access on the back burner, “This leaves us with a system that aims for equality of result but cannot deliver it. Maybe it closes the gap enough that it is worth the effort anyway. But by promising blacks something it cannot deliver, affirmative action breeds frustration and resentment.”

Gee, thanks for the conservative, leather desk chair psychoanalysis, James. But I’m guessing that part of the frustration has to do with the fact that people like you – who never seem to give a damn about race at all unless you feel like your white, corporate, manifest destiny absolutism is being challenged in some small way – seem to think you can identify racism better than those of us who suffer from it daily. Perhaps the resentment has to do with what Jesse Jackson describes as this country’s “great tolerance for black suffering and black marginalization.” And maybe, just maybe, white and black perceptions of race will begin to convene once people of your ilk take some responsibility for your part in divorcing them.



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