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Opinion: It’s ridiculous to assume our nation is ‘post-racial.’ It’s not like George Floyd kneeled on his own neck.
Amara Howard, 11, left, and Maiya Peacock, 11, right, march in Kids Walk for A Change in downtown Phoenix on June 13, 2020. The march was a 1-mile peaceful protest for kids and families supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and to help continue conversations about race with children. (Photo: Catherine Rafferty/The Republic)
Let me get this straight: Conservatives are arguing that our nation is post-racial and, therefore, California voters were right to uphold their state’s ban on affirmative action in hiring and school admissions?
I’d ask “what color is the sky in their world?” But I’m certain there’s a huge overlap between the anti-Proposition 16 crowd and the “I don’t see color” crowd.
If we, as a society, are beyond racism, then I can’t wait to hear the explanations for about a million burning questions that seem to be inextricably linked to myriad inequalities tied directly to our nation’s original sin.
California, with the “No on Prop 16” vote, remains among a small number of states without protections that safeguard minority representation in public employment and on state campuses. (Arizona, of course, is one of those states.)
It’s almost like George Floyd kneeled on his own neck.
Of course, prejudice still exists
Argue all you want about whether affirmative action is the right tool to overcome systemic racism. Just don’t try to say that prejudice and discrimination no longer exist.
The evidence couldn’t be more obvious.
Fighting racism was at the core of this summer’s protest movement. People chanted “Black lives matter” because it’s impossible for all lives to matter until Black people are afforded the same rights and benefits as others – even if the “benefit” is simply “benefit of the doubt.”
Fighting racism was at the core of the presidential election. Republicans held on to offices at all levels of government across the nation despite Joe Biden’s domination of Donald Trump at the top of the ballot. Biden won by 5 million votes and a 306-to-232 margin in the outdated and racist Electoral College, thanks in large part to voters who couldn’t stand the thought of another four years of “very good people on both sides” and kids in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border.
And what else would one call the “million MAGA march” if not racist? The rally brought together thousands of gang members and thugs from all sorts of white male fringe groups.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said last month that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists – specifically white supremacist extremists – will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.”
This is the question we should be asking
None of this begins to address the disparities in wealth, public education and health care tied directly to generational systemic racism.
Nor does any of this begin to address the disproportionate effects of over-policing and incarceration from a criminal justice system stacked against Black, Hispanic and Native people. Evidence of these problems and their harms can be found in consent decrees and investigations into police practices in more than a dozen departments across the nation.
Let’s stop here, because all of this is a waste of time and space.
Clear-minded people are aware that racism exists in many forms. There’s no sense trying to prove that to people duty-bound to look past it.
We need to direct energy toward overcoming the nation’s pervasive and systemic bias to give more people access to America’s promise.
If “all men (AND WOMEN) are created equal,” then how do we make certain we reflect that?
Affirmative action is as good a tool as any
Affirmative action, the practice of giving a specific group a boost under certain circumstances, is as good of a tool as any. White men have been using affirmative action to help themselves for generations.
There’s a fear among some that proactive diversity efforts in hiring or admissions could lead to underqualified candidates reaching positions they don’t deserve. And again, if this is the case, why is it all of the sudden a bad thing? Underqualified white men have been getting their mediocrity all over workspaces and campuses for decades. They can share that opportunity.
We also need to recognize diversity as a money-making skill. There are plenty of qualities that transfer well from minority experiences to mainstream or previously segregated workplaces. Anyone who has had to overcome poverty can be trusted as reliable and adaptable. And since Black, Hispanic and Native people disproportionately come from economically depressed communities this assumption would apply directly to them.
Minorities who DON’T come from low-income backgrounds are often natural teachers, leaders and communicators because they’re likely to have an intimate understanding of both minority and mainstream culture.
Any organization or campus would benefit from these qualities.
Why California’s failure matters here
The failure of California’s Proposition 16 is significant across the nation because of the state’s inherent diversity and size. Less than 40% of California residents are white. Also, about 1 of every 8 Americans lives in California.
Because California’s policies affect so many people, laws passed there can have ramifications far beyond the state’s borders. It’s often easier for employers to adopt one set of practices than it is to have a patchwork of rules, and California standards become the default.
There needs to be a way to tap into the experiences of disenfranchised California minorities if only to encourage healthy competition.
Workplaces and schools would benefit from the contributions of the best and brightest from all backgrounds.
Some conservatives will read this and feel triggered. Like the playing field is being tilted away from them. Good. That’s how minorities have felt since the inception of this nation.
Progress has been made from slavery to “separate but equal” to modern times, but there’s plenty of work remaining before we can say that our system is anything close to fair.
And if we can fix any of the aforementioned problems with or without affirmative action it won’t matter if we’re post-racial.
Affirmative action might not be the best tool, but we should use it until the advent of something better.
Proposition 16 was a missed opportunity for California and our nation.
Reach Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.
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