Over the last thirty years, minorities have been given a better chance to succeed in America by way of Affirmative Action. Recently, there has been a surge of non-minority Americans claiming reverse racism. Affirmative Action is now being called “preferential treatment”. In the beginning, it was designed to help minorities have a more equal opportunity in the world. A group of non-minority Americans in California claimed that they were being denied admittance to universities in the admitting process. This led to Ward Connerly, a member of University of California Regents, promoting the anti Affirmative Action message (NLSPAC, 1). Proposition 209 bans both discrimination and preferential treatment to various minorities on the basis of race, creed, sex, or place of origin (NLSPAC, 1).
Connerly does not clearly structure his mode of thought. His understanding of reality is not real pertaining to minorities. The social context of Affirmative Action is its origin in the Civil Rights Movement. It was designed to give minorities and women special consideration for contracts, employment, and education (Froomkin, 2). Connerly is not a woman and he does not acknowledge the fact that he is African American, a minority. Connerly owns a consulting firm and only divulges his race when necessary, “ I felt that it could be damaging to my business to be identified as a minority firm,” he says (Pooley, 4). Connerly does not understand or cannot relate to other minorities about the struggles that minority’s face getting into corporate America. Since Connerly has already received his degree, owns his own business, and does not reveal his race for contracts, he does not understand what minorities who do not have these things go through. Therefore, his mode of thought is completely obscured and distorted.
I consider Connerly’s group to be minorities. However, he cannot relate to his group because he does not speak the same language as his group. By language, I mean social attitude. Most minorities try to accept all of the help they can get. For instance, the government will defer a company’s capital gains taxes indefinitely if that company sells a cable system to a partnership controlled by a minority (Birnbaum, 1). There have been other programs like this one where minorities benefited. This too will end if Affirmative Action is ended. Connerly does not understand that minorities still need special privileges to be as successful as non-minorities. He does not realize how much minorities stand to lose.. The meanings or opinions of a situation depend on which group you belong to in society. There are two different opinions to the same situation. One is held by minorities and the other by non-minorities. Connerly associates himself with the non-minorities.
Connerly’s inherited situation changed twice during his childhood. When he was four, his mother died and he was taken in by his middle class uncle and aunt (Pooley, 3). At age twelve, he went to live with his grandmother who was in the lower class bracket. It was during this time that Connerly’s work ethic and also hate of his race began (Pooley, 3). He worked to help his grandmother and resented the fact he went to a lower income household.
Connerly could not further his ways of knowing in his inherited situation because he disassociated himself from others in his race. This is due to struggles that he faced. Connerly’s struggle with nature is one of his biggest problems. It is a natural fact that he was born a black male in the late 1930’s in a lower class family. Civil Rights had not been established and he was considered an inferior citizen. Connerly wishes he could live in a colorblind society. Therefore, he could not be classified by something he wishes he were not.
The struggle of an individual with another individual happens on a daily basis. Minorities and non-minorities compete for contracts, educational, and employment opportunities on a daily basis. This causes major conflict between people. Critics of Affirmative Action claim that schools rely too heavily on racial double standards (Gwynne, 2). Now that Affirmative Action is helping minorities, non-minorities are feeling the same effects of not getting jobs and contracts that they had been getting previously. The playing field is more equal and non-minorities are getting upset. They are the ones who are being passed over for jobs, contracts, and educational opportunities. That is how Connerly got involved with Proposition 209. His friends, Jerry and Ellen Cook, (a white family) were upset that their son was not accepted into the school of his choice (Lynch, 1). Helping the Cook’s became his mission. This is another example of struggles between social groups.
The particular issue, Affirmative Action, always leads to clashes between race and gender. America has many problems and race is a large part of many problems. People of different races have been arguing since the forming of our country. It has even lead to a civil war. Gender is another problem since women are steadily moving up the corporate ladder.
People have been trying to overcome the limitations imposed upon them by society for centuries. Non-whites have to prove themselves worthy and competent. Society has labeled them as slackers, lazy, and inferior. Women have been trying to overcome being seen only as domestics and homemakers. This has taken many years. Women could not even vote until the twentieth century. It has gotten better for women, but there is still a glass ceiling that they reach. Connerly has a problem with the struggle regarding his understanding with his group. He does not fully understand the true day to day struggles that minorities go through. The human possibilities are endless for minorities if given the chance. The government has come to realize the detrimental effects that would come if Affirmative Action were abolished.
Social groups are very practical about their concerns. People’s basic concerns are making a descent living and providing for their families. This is why minorities are upset that Connerly is supporting Proposition 209. Social groups are close knit groups. When something happens to effect the group the bond gets closer, however there is backstabbing, and mud slinging among them. When Connerly went public, there was an outcry from minorities all over the country. They rallied together and tried to stop this initiative. Rev. Jesse Jackson organized rallies and others got petitions together. Social groups exist for very real purposes. Hispanics and women are gearing up to lobby together to save as many programs as they can (Birnbaum, 1).
Individuals in this country have not been very successful fighting for causes by themselves. Connerly is just another example of one group using a person from an opposing group to make a point. Connerly chose to help end the very program that helped him start his own business. Connerly has been very successful at his consulting firm. He does not realize that by ending some of the positive effects that has come from the program. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies shows that Affirmative Action programs opened new opportunities for blacks, but the measurable benefits in terms of wages and employment have been quite small (Birnbaum, 2).
While social groups act with and against one another, they also think with and against one another. It is human nature for people to bond more closely when a crisis arises. When Connerly went public, minorities all across the country thought of him as a traitor. People tend to think of themselves as hard working individuals. Connerly made this thought more prevalent in people’s minds. He brought to the surface many feelings of old mentalities to minorities. Old ways of thinking such as racial discrimination for jobs. It has taken minorities many years to win the confidence and respect of non-minorities and Connerly made people think back to hard times.
Social groups also think against one another because of competition. There is a great competition for jobs, educational opportunities, and contracts between minorities. Everyone is out for self. If given the opportunity, people will make other look bad to give them a boost. In this particular case, the social groups hurt their own chances by not thinking together and coming up with a game plan. The minorities did not work together. Women had their own agenda, while Latinos had theirs. No one worked together as a collective group to help end this proposition. African-Americans called the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who lives in a different state, to help them. He has clout in Washington D.C., but the decision was being made in California.
People act in accordance with the position of the groups to which they are members. Minorities are very hostile to non-minorities who are in competition with them for contracts, jobs, and educational opportunities. They understand the fact that through Affirmative Action the government is trying to give them an equal chance for success. Also, minorities understand that non-minorities are upset and jealous over the “preferential treatment” given to minorities.
Minorities tend to act on the defensive and they try to make sure that certain policies such as Proposition 209 stay in place for the future generations. They also try to help society understand the inherited situation of minorities. This is done through events such as Black History Month and other cultural events. Many minority groups have heightened cultural awareness.
Groups ten to act in a certain way. It has taken many years but African-Americans have tried to disprove the stigma of the character that they are loud, defiant, and lazy. Minorities, especially African-Americans and women, have tried to dispel those myths. They strive by trying to change the mindset of people and also by educating the younger generations on what is appropriate and how to help themselves.
Connerly does not strive in accordance with the character and position of the group in which he belongs. He is trying to change the surrounding world, but against his group. Connerly has a false consciousness towards Affirmative Action. He has taken the position that everyone loses with the program.
The direction of this will to maintain produces problems for minorities. Sometimes they are seen as “stepping out of line” or taking advantage of the system. This is Connerly’s view of Affirmative Action. Connerly believes that colleges teach segregation by allowing ethnic ceremonies at graduation and by letting racial groups live (as a collective group) on the same floors in the dormitories (Lynch, 8). It is his perception that when African-American students get out of school, they will have been so sheltered by segregating themselves they will not know how to deal with white America in the outside (business) world. His mentality is African-Americans are always looking for a handout. They have separated themselves so long that they expect other races to treat them the same.
It is sad that the opinion the Connerly takes is that Affirmative Action is only hurting African-Americans. The concepts that Affirmative Action produces for African-Americans is a more equal chance than before of getting the best jobs, contracts, and educational opportunities. African-Americans have formed the thought that equality can only be made through justice. Justice in this case is the Affirmative Action Program. Since their ancestors did not have an equal opportunity, they want to make sure that they and the next generations have a better opportunity.
The crisis of supporters of anti-Affirmative Action is causing disorder in many states in the country. The problem is how can opposers of Affirmative Action believe that the program is going to make the racial situation better in America? Human nature allows us to have a dominant group. The dominant group in our culture has always been white males. Since the time when our country was first founded, white males have been the primary focus.
African-Americans, Indians, and women have been downplayed as being by-standers during every major historical event. Minorities in the culture were seen as people who just did not need to succeed. They were there to assist the white males in society. During the Civil Rights Era, the government realized that minorities would never make it in society if they were not given a more equal chance. This brought about the Affirmative Action Program.
It is hard to believe that an African-American male is leading this group of opposers to Affirmative Action. He should understand clearer than almost anyone about the hardships that African-American males face. The fact that he denies that Affirmative Action has never helped him in his life is troublesome. Ward Connerly is leading a group to end Affirmative Action.
He and his followers believe that Affirmative Action is bad and should be ended. They feel it is doing the opposite effect than what it was designed to do. Connerly believes it is making minorities expect a handout or helping hand because they are a minority instead of because it is needed. He feels African-Americans, in particular, have become lazy and dependent –not self-sufficient like Affirmative Action was intended.
The future of the country depends on programs like Affirmative Action. If they cease to exist, society will become more one sided than ever. I am hopeful that Connerly is not successful. It is hard enough now for minorities to get jobs. It was even tougher for them thirty years ago. But if the program is gone totally, getting jobs will be more difficult than ever. Connerly believes race should not matter, but he has not had to go look for a job in the last twenty years. Society needs programs like Affirmative Action and minorities are not going to let one man hold them back.
Birnbaum, Jeffery. “Turning Back the Clock.”
URL: http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/1995/950320.politics.html (March 20, 1995)
Froomkin, Don. “Affirmative Action under Attack.”
URL: http://wpo.washingtonpost.com (October 23, 1998)
Gwynne, S.C. “Back to the Future.”
URL: http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/1997/dom/970602/nation.back_to_the_f.html (June 2, 1997)
Lynch, Michael. “Racial Preferences Are Dead.”
URL: http://www.reasonmag.com (February 1998)
New Liberal Society Political Action Committee. “About Ward Connerly.”
URL: http://www.nlspac.org/aa/connerly.html (February 1999)
Pooley, Eric. “Fairness or Folly?”
URL: http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/dom/970623/race.fairness_or_fo.html (June 23, 1997)
Word Count: 2330