For several generations, black Americans have lagged – often, significantly – behind other racial and ethnic groups in many indicators of socio-economic achievement. According to some estimates, compared to white Americans, for example, the poverty rate of blacks is more than twice as high, and black students of public colleges graduate 250% less.
So, in light of this disturbing reality, do black Americans need special treatment to succeed?
That was a question asked to me this month at the Old Parkland conference in Dallas, sponsored by the American Institute of Entrepreneurship, the Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute. It was a conference hosted by Glenn Lurie, Jason Riley, Ian Rowe and Shelby Steele to revive a discussion started at the Fairmont Conference in 1980, convened by economist Thomas Sawell, on how to combat the persistent shortcomings of blacks.
Because of his 40-year history, which has allegedly benefited black Americans, and the current challenge in the Supreme Court, I have been asked to discuss whether positive action is the solution. In short, my answer was no.
First, positive actions have never, legally speaking, been approved in favor of black college entrants. The Supreme Court has long held that schools may consider an applicant’s race or ethnicity to promote on their campus the educational benefits that allegedly result from diversity. In other words, schools are allowed to prefer darker skin pigmentation to entrants in the interest of educating white students.
Despite the Supreme Court’s approval of this practice, it is illegal under the plain language of the law, it is immoral and harms everyone, especially black and brown Americans.
Study after study found that the results of positive action were almost entirely poor for those it was designed to enhance. It should be clear that if mass preference is given to applicants whose academic credentials do not come close to parity with other applicants, these students will struggle in many ways. Indeed, students who receive these preferences have difficulty in learning or coping psychologically, and drop out of school, change majors from “difficult sciences” such as physics to “soft sciences” like sociology, and take longer to complete training in disproportionate numbers. That is, to get a fuller picture, one needs to look past college admissions on the long-term effects of positive action.
Literature is rich in the damage that affirmative action has done to black and brown people – if anyone is willing to look for it. After all, we may have had more black doctors, lawyers, and scholars if there were no racial preferences because students would study in schools where they received academic qualifications, and thus they had fewer reasons to drop out. initial areas of study. This means that in the absence of this “special attitude” black people are more likely to gain an advantage.
Indeed, with such a “friend” as affirmative action, who needs enemies?
But the question remains: do blacks need special treatment to succeed? Reflecting on my own life, I came to believe that success is achieved with less special treatments and more special sauces.
My two-year-old siblings were raised in South America by our poor single mother who got a high school diploma. We never knew our father, who is still in jail for drug-related crimes. We have witnessed alcoholism, domestic violence and more.
Obviously, the odds were not for me. Why then did I graduate from high school when neither sister nor brother? Why did I enlist in the U.S. Navy and get a college degree while my brother was in jail and my sister raised my son as a single mother? Too often we study failures when learning success can be more instructive.
I believe that three things have changed my statistical trajectory: school uniform, delayed college admission, and significant experience.
By school suitability I mean sending children to schools where they can best develop socially and intellectually to be the best individuals, rather than just sending them to schools with zip codes. Choosing a school can lead to a better education for children, but more importantly, in my opinion, the right adaptation of a child will help them develop in their own way.
Second, college is not for everyone. At first it wasn’t for me. Our government and other influential institutions have done more harm than good to a generation of Americans – many of them black – by assuming that college is the only way to success. This is not the case, and we must not continue to repeat this destructive mantra and further stigmatize other paths to achievement, such as trade.
Finally, when a child falls victim to intergenerational poverty like me, their world is very small. Theoretically, there are more, but in practice there is only their neighborhood, street or neighborhood. By failure I gained simple but meaningful experiences such as learning to fish and learning to lay the foundation of a home, which broadened my outlook and gave me confidence and self-respect. This can be repeated.
If we just followed the recipe for success, I am sure we would see that not only black Americans but all citizens enjoy this special sauce for achievement.
• Devon Westhill is President and Chief Advisor of the Center for Equal Opportunities.