I’ve Seen A Light: Thoughts on Affirmative Action

I admit to occasionally being wrong. It’s a part of my life. I’m not always going to be 100% correct. And I think I’ve been a bit wrong to think that affirmative action is on its way out. Last week, I claimed that in Oregon, we are past race. Race shouldn’t even come into question when you’re applying for a job or college. I still believe I’m right, that it shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it does matter. Colleges and universities are better than most organizations. The people I’ve met who work at state colleges and universities are some of the most caring, progressive, and open-minded people in the book. They strive for diversity because they know that education and learning is best when we are stretched and melded together with different ideas and backgrounds. You don’t only learn in the college classroom. You learn around campus, each time you encounter a different person from a different family, different town, and different upbringing. But in the workplace, depending on the state, people are not always so enlightened. This is sad, but I worked in a school in Nampa, Idaho where our administrator clumped the “problem kids” (with low grades, lack of familial support, and poor behavior) into one category: brown. That was tough. I was shocked to hear this and realized right away that racism is not dead in America. I still hate the fact that I have to check that box “white” especially since the dang sun has burned my skin time and time again this summer. If only I’d been born with that resilient skin one of my best friends from high school got from her Mexican-American parents. She NEVER burns! But alas, I was born white. She was born a tannish color. That’s just life.

I truly believe that race shouldn’t matter anymore. I actually got schooled last year when I was talking about race and ethnicity and I was told that I was misusing the two terms. Ok, I thought. I obviously missed something in class. I still don’t understand why Jewish people have been crapped on so much. And I don’t see why people in different areas of America still hate on black and Hispanic populations. That’s just mean. I love my darker-skinned friends and neighbors. (Does that sound bad? To some, I’m sure it does, but I’m just trying to say I like everybody.)

I looked up Race on the most accurate online source, Wikipedia. Check it out.

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It made me kind of sick. It reminded me too much of the movies I’ve seen about World War II and Nazi Germany. Do you remember Swing Kids when the guys had to learn the signs of the Jewish person? It always frustrated me and sort of disgusted me. Granted, I learned that some of those classifications were accurate, but because the Nazis used those signs to help weed out and eliminate an entire race, the entire practice of race classification started to disgust me.

I think my family may have had Jewish roots: the Bunns all have big noses. Unfortunately, I think I could also say that I may not know a whole lot about the “signs” of other ethnicities or races and because both of my parents were born into families with long noses and to my knowledge, none of them were Jews. (Plus, these days so many of us Americans are mutts that it’s hard to determine pinpoint our ethnic backgrounds. I may be 1/16th Irish, but when I use this as an excuse for why I celebrate St. Pattie’s Day with such verve, I usually get laughed at.)

I feel bad for being selfish and saying that I think affirmative action should be on the way out so I will again feel like I can get a job based on just merit. (Though I believe this is the way it should be, it’s pretty apparent that it’s still too early.) I started to feel this way when I read this post by Stephen Colbert.

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Our country isn’t quite healed yet. Yes, we have a black president, but have you ever watched, Game Change? It’s one of my favorite political films and it shows that while Sarah Palin was gaining support for the republican campaign in 2008, supporters started to put down Barack Obama and use racial slurs to talk about him. Right now, Obama continues to lose approval from the people that stood with him for the “Change We Can Believe In.” And some of the people, either the ones who didn’t like him from the start or who just lost faith in him have started to pull race into their opinions. Race should have nothing to do with our comments about our president. To assume that his “blackness” is why the economy isn’t getting better is just wrong. You can attack his background in community planning all you want, just don’t comment on his race. Right there, that comment, shows me that our country is not really ready for an overhaul of affirmative action. It’s too soon.

If the Lincoln joke Seth MacFarlane gave at the Oscars in 2013 was still 148 years too soon, it’s definitely too soon to give up affirmative action.

Yes, I’ve read that in 2050, I will in fact be the minority in America. I will be one of “the others.” But what does that even mean? I trust that in the end game, the majority won’t play a “Mockingjay rebels” move on us and try to subject me and the rest of “the others” to the same crap we put them through for hundreds of years. I think perhaps it will take that census for our nation to realize and appreciate that we are in fact a melting pot. We are all people made of the same atomic material. Most of us have the same general makeup and yet we are all different. Even doppelgangers don’t look that alike. Honestly, they look similar, but not identical. (Vampire Diaries so screwed up on this one.)

We, these brilliant citizens of the United States of America, are still on the journey to become truly enlightened and progressive people. I would like it if we one day could move beyond the race card and actually live up to the (positive) reputation we have in other parts of the world as a superpower, land of the free, a wonderful country. Though I know that not everyone thinks this of us, there are many people in Ukraine that believe that America is the land of milk and honey. People in Britain, on the other hand, think we’re a messed up bunch. I suppose that both countries are correct, if only we could work together to find a middle ground then we could be a mediocre country that didn’t fight so much.

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Tata for now.

Rece

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