Friday, October 31, 2003

Racial Strife: Can whites talk about problems in the black community, or is it just none of our business?

Some people are being pushed out of the debate. Lino Graglia, a conservative law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, has been an outspoken opponent of affirmative action, landing him in a heap of controversy from time to time.

The latest episode came in the form of a guest opinion column he wrote for The Daily Texan.

The reality of "affirmative action" and "diversity" is that they are simply euphemisms for racial discrimination on a very large scale in order to increase black (and, in Texas, Mexican-American) enrollment. The magnitude of the race discrimination must be large, because the racial group gap is large. The astounding, disconcerting fact at the basis of the problem is that the average black 12th grader performs at the level of the average white or Asian eighth-grader in reading and math, making the obtaining of a high school education a more pressing problem than admission to a selective university.
Graglia never says from what source he got those statistics. But this isn't the first time we've heard someone say that there is a disparity between whites and blacks when it comes to educational performance.

What bothers me is that people sent in letters to the newspaper calling Graglia a racist.

Graglia is the worst kind of racist. He is a white, male professor who, regardless of the individual or their scholastic aptitude, will only see a black face in the front row of class.
I didn't get that from the column he wrote. Now, I am a huge proponent of affirmative action. I believe that a concerted effort has to be made to raise the quality of education that minorities receive. I think that a diverse classroom and workplace improves the quality of learning and work for everyone. I think using race as a factor in admissions and hiring goes a long way to help alleviate past and present problems of racial discrimination.

But I don't assume that people who are against affirmative action are racist.

As I said, Graglia has gotten in trouble in the past. With what I consider more controversial language, in 1997 he criticized black and Hispanic cultures for not promoting educational excellence.

They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace.
Those words bothered me, offended lots of people, and even prompted Jesse Jackson to hold a rally on the UT campus denouncing Lino Graglia. The discussion quickly centered on whether the UT administration should fire Graglia for his comments.

But I have heard black activists essentially say the same thing Graglia said. The late John Ogbu, who was an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley, would say that many blacks look at academic achievement as "acting white".

Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has consistently preached that black parents should do more to encourage their sons and daughters to succeed in school.

I don't know if either of these people would have agreed with Lino Graglia. I'm sure each of them would find something with which to disagree. So that's why we should be open to discuss these issues.

I know I don't have the answers. For that reason, I'm not going to insult somebody who wants to have an honest discussion in hopes of finding those answers.


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