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Don Roach: Paula Deen, Affirmative Action + 21st-Century Racism

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Yesterday, a person commented on GoLocalProv’s article about a HUD report that found discrimination within the housing market. Essentially, minority homebuyers were shown less available homes than their white counterparts. The commenter made the following observation:

Rather the So-Called Community leaders, such as Mr. Vincent, in Minority Communities (All of them) need to get on the case of those within their Ethnic make-up that are responsible for the image and reputation of their culture, that they created, and see to it that they clean up their act.

The ignorance of this comment is galling. It assumes that every minority is responsible for every other minority’s actions to make sure that the majority race (aka white people) understands that not all dem black people are on welfare. How about the nearly 2 million white people who are on welfare across the country? Does Tom or any other white person need to “get on the case” of those people and “see to it that they clean up their act”?

No. The thing about 21st century racism is that while it is just as ignorant as 20th century racism it is certainly not as overt as its predecessor.

Deen needs to meet another black man

Take for example, Paula Deen, a “celebrity” who up until a few days ago I’d never heard of. Apparently, she’s in hot water for the saying the N-word. In main stream media, she’s getting vilified left and right. She’s lost endorsements, was fired from her tv show, and is facing a sexual harassment and racism lawsuit. I don’t want to tackle all of that today, but instead focus on her racist remarks and how as 21st century people we should deal with these issues.

Deen has admitted to using the N-word. She’s also admitted to being born into the 1940s South and having had an experience with a black bank robber pulling a gun on her some years ago that’s tainted her opinion of people of color, apparently. Yet, these are just excuses as she seeks to rationalize her careless and senseless comments. I say excuses because they portray a person not seeking to understand what she, quite obviously, doesn’t understand. And that, my friends, is the only way to tackle 21st century racism.

Deen needs to put herself in someone else’s shoes. She’s got a great grasp on her life and how her life has impacted her views on things. If she truly wants to move away from these types of comments she needs to replace her self-admitted racist background with the reality of today. We have a black President, black business leaders, minorities at the highest levels of entertainment, sport, and academia. I think we can safely say that all races have people capable of great things.

Or maybe we can’t? In the 90s I certainly met a few folks at ultra-liberal Brown who had never spent more than five minutes with a person of color before college. And here’s my point, if our society is one where we’re going to laud tolerance of our differences, then that tolerance shouldn’t immediately end when someone makes a mistake.

If so, then tolerance is only skin deep and should be called nothing more than ‘political correctness’. Political correctness means racist folks call minorities “those people” publicly and nastier things behind their backs. Tolerance is having the willingness to say “I don’t know these people and I have some opinions that don’t seem right. Let me get to know who they are.” It’s about your logic telling your emotions that somewhere along the way you went off track in your opinions about a class of people. And so you don’t think I’m a hypocrite, I had to challenge myself the same way I’m challenging some of you after 9/11 when I got on a plane and saw a person who appeared to be from the Middle East.

Our experiences shape us, but we need to challenge those experiences if we want to overcome racism in the 21st century. It’s not easy, won’t be easy for Deen, but rather than apologies she needs to have a different experience than the one she used as an excuse for racism.

Oh Affirmative Action, when will you die?

I would have lost a bet if I had put money on affirmative action being around after we elected a black President. Nonetheless, after spending energy telling you how racism is still prevalent today can I just say how much I hate affirmative action. What’s cool about that is the fact that I can say it but what’s not cool is that I don’t believe we’ve quite reached the tipping point where Affirmative Action is a relic that should be left to our ancestral past. It seems that the Supreme Court agrees…somewhat.

In a decision this week they decided that an affirmative action program at the University of Texas-Austin wasn’t unconstitutional and instead asked the lower court to reconsider the case. The court wrote that the lower courts must “verify that it is necessary for a university to use race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity.” 

Seems fair enough, I mean affirmative action is there to assist people who would otherwise be excluded from certain programs because of race. But, as we look at the President of the United States we have to take a serious look at whether or not we need affirmative action programs in order to achieve some semblance of diversity. And if we do, is there some type of socioeconomic factor(s) that is leading to a racial inequality above and beyond your garden variety racism?

I don’t think we’ve done enough research on these issues yet to have answers, but it’s not sufficient to say we’re still living under 20th century racism. We aren’t. But I’m not sure we have a solid understanding of where we are to know if removing affirmative action programs doesn’t lead to the exclusion of certain groups.

In all, racism isn’t dead in America and it still matters in 2013. It’s different, more covert than overt, but we’ve got to tackle it head on and not be afraid of our own biases. Instead, we need to be willing to own our prejudices and humble enough to say, “I was wrong.”

Don Roach is a proud member of the Republican Party. Don can be reached at [email protected].


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As a sort of aside to the Paula Deen thing, the most egregious example of Deen's racism was her desire to throw a wedding in the style of the antebellum South; complete an all-black waitstaff. It's one thing to discuss one's upbringing and past experiences; but it's entirely another thing to wistfully long for the days of open oppression.

What I think might be worth considering is matching your feelings on affirmative action with this statement of yours: "The thing about 21st century racism is that while it is just as ignorant as 20th century racism it is certainly not as overt as its predecessor."

Affirmative action works to counteract 21st racism as well. The fact is, there are tons of ways white people have benefited from de facto affirmative action; especially at places like your alma mater. A great example of affirmative action for white people is the legacy program. As I understand it, it was initially a way for the Ivies to keep Jews out of their schools, but it works just as well for excluding non-whites. Added to that are other such benefits that accrued to white people over the years.

White people got very rich for hundreds of years in this country; often by appropriating (by force) the labor, land, and resources of non-whites. Imagine the state of racial affairs if from the moment the first colonist landed on American soil there hadn't been any racism? If white people had had to compete in a free market with other races for the last 200+ years, we could truly talk about an America where race wasn't a factor and other socioeconomic issues took precedent.

As it is, whites have enjoyed 200+ years of institutional advantage to the detriment of nonwhites. Non-whites have made superhuman strides in reaching the positions they've reached today, but that doesn't mean they've achieved parity or equality. Overt affirmative action policies give a boost to non-whites to help overcome the covert affirmative action policies that still benefit white people.

The HUD report which started this all is a testament to the ongoing advantages white people have which detrimentally effect people of color.

I don't expect this will change your mind, but I think it's worth chewing over.

Comment #1 by W. Walwyn on 2013 06 26

W - I hope I was clear in saying that I don't believe we've reached the point where affirmative action policies are not helping in ways they intended. What I am saying is that we're closer to that day than we were in the 60s and 70s. Hopefully, we'll get there sometime this century, but as a person who believes that race should not be a factor in such things as education, I'd love to see affirmative action programs gone as soon as possible. Today, it's not a possibility.

I guess the question is, when is 200+ years of institutional advantage ever equalized for non-whites? I don't have that answer.

Comment #2 by Donn Roach on 2013 06 26

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,”

“The data comes from a report released by the NYPD Monday, which showed that of the 685,724 stops made by police that year, 53% of those questioned were black, 34% were Latino, 9% were white and 3% were Asian.”

“The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009. These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago.”

“Zimmerman was not charged until 45 days after he shot Trayvon Martin. Sanford police refused to charge George Zimmerman, although he admitted to shooting Martin, claiming self defense. Zimmerman wasn't taken into custody, or given a drug/alcohol test.”

Don Roach,
What is it you read that leads to such a trenchant analysis? You are a seriously confused and shallow thinker.

Comment #3 by Johnny cakes on 2013 06 26

What am I confused about? Statistics without context are just numbers on a page.

What is your point?

Comment #4 by Donn Roach on 2013 06 26

Those who are hammering Paula Deen sound pretty intolerant to me. The sponsors who are abandoning her are sheep. How about tolerance and common sense instead of hyper-emotionalism (whether genuine or ingenuous)? Such an attitude will go miles further in melting away any vestiges of racism than will politically correct "enforcement."

Comment #5 by Art West on 2013 06 28

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