Bishop Desmond Tutu
What is Affirmative Action? By definition, according to Webster’s Dictionary, it means: An action taken to provide equal opportunities, as in admissions or employment, for minority groups and women. Sounds nice…in theory. Let’s look at this more closely; Affirmative Action programs were developed and designed to eliminate the current effects of past discrimination and to provide equal opportunities to individuals and groups of individuals that have been systematically and institutionally discriminated against because of their race and/or gender. Now that sounds even better, yes? Which group of people was Affirmative Action created for? Yeeesss, you can say it—Black People or Black Americans to be more specific. From the outset, Affirmative Action was envisioned as a temporary remedy or measure that was supposed to end once there was a “level playing field” for all Americans. But this hasn’t happened yet. Because in spite of civil service laws and constitutional guarantees to redress discrimination—discrimination in some form, still persists. Equality as a fact (not as a theory) and as a result must be realized for Affirmative Action to be successful; then someone whispered: What about Reparations?
I’ve been trying to stay abreast of the discussions surrounding reparations and Affirmative Action for many years now. The U.S. and its American institutions have been discussing ways to address and apologize for the most inhumane, murdering and heinous system of slavery ever erected in this country’s two-hundred year history; and since the duration of which the inhumanity was inflicted is unprecedented, it made the struggle for justice intergenerational and our U.S. government not only guilty of criminal behavior, but also their participation in the enslavement of Africans. Our Ancestors were victims of a historic national crime…our ancestors were dragged here in chains, shackled and sold on the auction block like cattle. So, one of the forms of reparations IS Affirmative Action…but here’s the problem…there are more and more immigrant, undocumented person or illegal aliens—whatever nomenclature you which to use, for any individual or group of people who are not American, that is slowly changing any discussion on Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action has become a grab bag-free for all, for anyone who isn’t White—American or not. Well, let me set you straight on a couple of things!!! The original mission of Affirmative Action was to address ONLY ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE that has spent over four-hundred years enslaved (some books state two-hundred years, but that’s incorrect) and that the descendants deserved consideration because of it (and why not? The Jews, Japanese and Indians received some kind of apologetic consideration/reparation from the U.S and the world at large).
Affirmative Action wasn’t intended for people recently arrived from India, Africa, Latin America, Asia and so on. Black Americans, meaning the descendants of the transatlantic slave trade realizes that what happened to us, our experience is extremely unique. Black Americans are unique to this country because we were created out of slavery?and have long suffered under legislated and institutional racism. The people who have not only benefited, but have been the greatest recipients of affirmative action are White women. Yeesss I said it! We live in a system that values whiteness. It is easier for White men to hire people who look like their wives, sister, etc. That way a company can turn around and claim diversity. White people are not aware of the connection between color and success because their whiteness has put them in good stead in the first place. Darker-skinned people tend to face greater adversity in corporate environments. But in order to be heard, we need to articulate and frame our thoughts and goals…and that, yes damn it, AMERICAN BLACKS ARE OWED!!! So before the American government ups and start doling out rights like confetti to other minority groups, it must first give it to the American Blacks. As for reparations, it should come to us in the form of free college education…not land or money. I say education, because our ancestors were denied the right to read and to education; even to learn how to read was considered a crime…and punishable by flogging (being whipped) or even death!! So again I say yes, American Blacks are owed…
Alexis Gigi Thornton is a published writer and author of: FAMILY, FRIENDS, HUSBANDS AND LOVERS…THE BEST OF ENEMIES. For more information, please visit: www.sixela.net