Editor, Daily Nexus:
As a new member of the faculty, I was appalled to open up the student paper on the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to find James Black’s column (Daily Nexus, “Reverse Racism in Education,” Jan. 16). That holiday exists as a time to reflect on the struggle for civil rights and social justice in this country, not merely as a day off from work or classes. Perhaps the Daily Nexus was unaware of the symbolic import of printing Black’s piece on that day.
I, too, am white and I embrace Affirmative Action as an effective tool to rectify racial and gender discrimination at this time. In employment, white women have benefited the most from Affirmative Action since the late 1960s. In education, all sorts of preferences mark the college admission process, including preference for children of alumni, athletes and artistic talents. Much more than SAT scores go into making up a diverse class. A narrow definition of “merit” feeds into criteria generated by a system that excluded people of color in the first place.
Caught up in the ideology of choice, Black fails to recognize that some of us have more choices than others due to race, sex or class. To recommend “changing schools” to counter poor educational opportunities substitutes individual action for the social responsibility to provide excellent schooling for all our children. At best, Black is clueless about the circumstances under which educational inequality persists. A level playing field would require social change. A student body with many different kinds of people enriches us all – a thought I find more appropriate to the spirit of the King holiday than smugness or resentment.