REDRESSING RACISM-Since the founding of this country there has been what we might accurately call an affirmative action program that has given exclusive advantages to whites, while denying them to minorities. Be it initially de jure or now only de facto, what remains ensconced in this country is our still segregated political, economic, and social system that functions as a white affirmative action and entitlement program.
But when it comes to redressing this age-old discriminatory system by using a more limited form of affirmative action to recognize past discrimination against minorities by leveling the playing field, some whites balk at having to pay their fair share of the deferred costs of racism.
Is it fair that at least some innocent whites should have to bear part of the burden by losing some of their opportunities due to the actions of others in the past? Not really. But I defy you to come up with any other way to share and redress the injustices of the past that up until now have been exclusively borne by minorities through predictable underachievement, the byproduct of centuries of endemic racism.
While now it is politically correct to talk about the more pernicious aspects of racism, the system that flourished before, during and after slavery has continued to generate massive profits for mostly white Americans who have allowed it to exploit minority segments of our population to this day. It occurs to me that this generational damage to minorities from which our society has financially benefited, has run up quite a debt that somebody has to pay. Someone needs to finally be held accountable for the injury caused to minorities.
I don't see a way for whites to avoid assuming some of the burdens necessary to assure that minorities get up to speed and become equal contributing members of our society. But I do see several ideas that, if implemented correctly, could lessen the cost and time to would take to accomplish this daunting task. At the same time, however, we must assure that we do not continue creating more inferiority by leaving elements of the old racist system intact; this could cancel out what we are doing with affirmative action.
Probably the most important step toward ending affirmative action is to fix public education to ensure that all students are taught at their subjective level and reach their potential as early as possible. This means ending social promotion, a practice that only puts off the predictable future failure of minority students – students that have the same potential as their white counterparts. While not presently part of the public education system in districts like LAUSD, there is no cheaper substitute for addressing the academic and physical needs of all students in an age-sensitive manner than fixing the public system of educating our children. If this can be done, it just might be a lesson that could catch on around the world.
(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.