« on: July 14, 2004, 10:31:04 AM »
I was reading the discussion from last week, and felt the urge to voice my opinion on this.
First of all, I'm white, female, and middle class. I consider my upbringing to be relatively priviledged. Far from wealthy, but access to a decent education and a safe environment.
For many years, I was against affirmative action. For many of the same reasons others are: that race should not make up for lower scores. Recently, I've been engaged in a number of discussions on the topic, and my views have changed radically.
From 1641 to 1865, approximately 95% of the blacks in this country were slaves. By the time the last slaves were freed, it had been several years since they had been promised freedom; several years since the famous "all men are created equal" speech. By the time they were freed, they had good reason to be skeptical and distrustful of white men and their promises and rhetoric.
From the time they were freed until 1954, they were treated as second class citizens. The life they lived was nothing like the life they were promised back in 1865. Though they were no longer legally anyone's property, it was still perfectly acceptable to rape, torture and murder them. They were denied access to the opportunities whites had, the same opportunities they had once believed they would have. They could now take jobs, but were not expected to be paid a decent wage. They were harassed and tortured by the people who felt the jobs should've belonged to them. As of 1911, men were still writing books and making movies declaring blacks to be inferior.
When our grandparents were born, it was a very hostile environment for black people. Isn't it natural then, that those black people would teach their children to fear the white man? It's a survival instinct, they had to. They had to teach their kids that the white men could not be trusted, because to teach their kids otherwise would be poor parenting.
And their kids grew up with that fear, skepticism, distrust. Isn't that the natural reaction to that environment? Those children born in the forties had children in the sixties, and taught their children, too, to be wary. Though that distrust will fade with each generation IF WE GIVE NO REASON TO MAINTAIN IT, it will take more than two generations for it to disappear completely.
Look at current society, accept that the wariness still exists among today's blacks because they are only a generation or two away from those who did not enjoy the legal equality. There are still people who are racist. Not as many as there once was, but enough to cause the wariness to remain.
Because of that distrust, other actions with innocent intent are likely to be construed as racist. For example, my husband and I are the only ones on the block not invited to neighborhood parties. because we're white, we laugh about it. If we were black, we would likely think it was our differentiating factor (of being the only black ones) that resulted in our different treatment (being the only ones not invited to the party).
where does affirmative action come in? as a society, it is in our best interests to continue to see progress in the area of race relations. Besides being morally right, it will also benefit as all by alleviating the division, leading to more cooperative relationships, and in the end, creating a better society, advancing technology, etc.
As future lawyers, we all play an important role in this. our government and legal structure is set up in such a way to encourage the sharing of diverse ideas, the addressing of varying needs, and finding compromise or solutions to best meet the needs of all the people. since lawyers fill most of the roles in the legal system (lawyers, judges, lawmakers), it is important that as a community, our members are diverse, able to speak for a variety of populations, and willing to seek out and understand the other perspectives.
the bottom line: we need black lawyers and lawmakers. we need the best and brightest among those interested in legal careers. If the test scores and GPAs of the best and brightest don't measure up exactly to the test scores and GPAs of non-minority groups, it does not detract from the point that we need those people in our law school classes. Especially when you figure in the reasons those test scores and GPAs may be lower have a lot to do with the condition of black America. we know that black people have the same abilities, and given the same opportunities, can perform at the same level as white people. but we also know that black people are more likely to have less favorable conditions.
the history of black oppression is not 100+ year old. the legal oppression of blacks lasted until 1954. those grandparents and parents had less, thus less to pass onto their children and grandchildren. the wealth that accumulated among white families was not there for black families. the opportunities, the focus on education. black communities (thanks to white flight, etc, as recent as the 70s and 80s) had less money, since black families had less money. they had fewer teachers willing to work there. the school districts, relying on local taxes, couldn't afford decent materials or facilities, and still can't.
As long as these conditions still exist, where the living conditions and educational opportunities for black children are not equal that for white children, then we NEED more black lawyers and lawmakers. we need them there to help address the problem, help create the laws, help fight for the justices, and whatever it takes to get them into law school, we need to support. it's right, fair, and in everyone's best interest.