For years we’ve been fooled into believing that affirmative action is about our dark faces. This fallacy is no cause for alarm. It’s the same case being argued by President Trump, the reality TV star who grew his political resume by claiming the nation’s first ebony president was not from this soil. Using twitter as a big-league weapon with the sole purpose of convincing his all-white base that he is busy “making America great again” or more to the point, Trump is reassuring white America that their hands will forever control the levers of power.
Now, add an historic racist to this already toxic formula and charge him with defending the very institutional advances he detests, and we will see affirmative action is the smallest of our fears. However, it is where we find ourselves. So, let us address it within the proper context.
For the sake of this argument, let’s use a taller definition of affirmative action. By doing so, we will detect that it is not only mandatory, but it must be fortified to correct this country’s original and persistent sin: racism.
Even a minimal level of research will reveal the documented history of affirmative action in the United States of America. However, for most of that history these programs were federally mandated programs, and the benefactors of said programs were not blacks. Black Americans were not allowed to participate in these programs. They were reserved for whites.
America, as a nation, should not be allowed to pretend that this information is new for it is beyond uncouth. It is plain and elementary history about which many scholars have penned bestselling books. One of the most articulate arguments presented is by Ira Katznelson, who held no punches in describing the very graphic economic harm done to black families at the expense of these “whites-only” affirmative action programs.
Without excavating beyond the 20th century, let me share a couple of accounts that express with summer-sky clarity the dirty history of this country’s “whites-only” affirmative action.
History of Whites-Only Affirmative Action
There are very few examples available to express iniquity like the truth of the Black women who worked at a resort often frequented by President Roosevelt. They were excluded from the protections outlined in the minimum wage law which was part of his New Deal. As Katnelson’s wrote in When Affirmative Action Was White, the women were forced to work long hours as domestics for less than $5.00 per week.
I would argue that none of them saw Roosevelt’s work as a new deal. It was just more rhetoric to better situate the whites around them. This form of “new” oppression is easily explained by Roosevelt himself who admitted making concessions to “good ole boys” during the negotiations.
Another account of America’s willingness to act affirmatively when whites were in need is on display when we look at the history of Black veterans returning home from WWII. Black veterans were not benefactors of the four (4) billion dollars allocated between 1944-1949 for unemployment compensation included in G.I. Bill. Black veterans were not included among the 10 million veterans who received education and training paid for by the federal government. And, Black WWII veterans were definitely not included in the $50 billion of government insured home loans that were also part of the G.I. Bill.
With this “new” knowledge, we are obligated to marry this history with what is happening [now] at the federal level of this country’s government, and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to be more specific. The words of the nation’s top cop remind us that he himself is a direct descendant of the same ilk of southern culture that required the racist concessions from Roosevelt during the New Deal. For it was Dr. King’s widow who first warned us of Jeff Sessions’ evil(s) in 1986, and Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s deepest fears have grown gnarly bat-like wings and begun to take flight.
We cannot, for one second, believe the Justice Department’s claim that recent articles about new investigations into race-based admission policies at universities are inaccurate. After all, Sessions believes the voting rights act is intrusive; Jeff Sessions is the same man who tried and convicted civil right workers for assisting elderly blacks with voting. He was born and raised alongside this country’s fields where people who looked like you and me were enslaved, beaten, raped, and murdered. From where I am sitting, he seems dead set on protecting that legacy.