Letter in Response to "Affirmative Action at the Crossroads"
by Jerry D. Jones
Editor's note: This letter is in response to Helen Thomas' syndicated article that was distributed by Hearst Newspapers on April 6, 2003.
Ms. Thomas thanks for your article (Sunday April 6, 2003) in the Mobile Press Register entitled "Affirmative Action at the Crossroads". After reading it, I came to the conclusion that after sitting back for years seeing and hearing this silent debate take shape (and only discussing it among my little circle), it was time to get off the sideline and weigh in with some rationality that I hope and believe will touch the hearts and minds of all with regards to this issue.
First of all, let me just tell you who I am so that you can at least understand where Iím coming from and then possibly develop a better stomach for what Iím about to say.
Black American Born/Raised in Birmingham AL, 1963 (thatís 39 years old)
BS Degree in Civil Engineering, Tennessee State University
MS Degree in Civil Engineering, Colorado State University
(Lower) Middle Class family
(P.S.) I only spoke of the degree stuff since most Americans are impressed by the "surface stuff" and I thought I might have a better chance of being heard.
It is really mind boggling when I hear the masses that are against the "Affirmative Action" process. I came straight out of Tennessee State University in 1986 and went straight to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile, Alabama not because I was or was not an outstanding potential Engineer, but because the District was in the last year of a class action lawsuit brought by a former "Black Employee" for the historical unfair treatment of blacks. During 1986, the Mobile District offered at least 8 of my graduating classmateís jobs (numerous other Black Colleges provided additional well educated blacks to the Mobile District in this time of need). Since that time (17 years ago), to my knowledge, not one single individual from Tennessee State University has been recruited by the Mobile District, let alone hired. The point Iím making is it does not take a genius to figure it out; the same old systematic way of thinking that occurred prior to 1986 is still in effect today, operating in less obvious ways, but with the same results (exclusion). Very few of us professional Engineers would have ever had the opportunity to work for an organization like the Corps had it not been for the lawsuit. I understand that this is just one place, but believe me, I travel all over the country, and the same horrors exist everywhere, not just in the "SOUTH".
I truly have a problem when America (whites, women, other minority groups) try to lump the issues facing Black Americanís into the same bowl as those facing other non-white Americans.. Iím by no means an achieved Psychologist, but if I understand Americaís history, no other group in this country has ever been "enslaved, cutoff from their roots, and systematically mistreated the way blacks have been. Most Black people I know do not sit back and blame "white America" for some of the atrocities that we see taking place in urban America. But I can tell you, a great bit of it is the direct result of "slavery and the subsequent fallout. You can not do what America did (oh, for those who say they had no part in it then, I say, "allowed to take place while you sat by) to a whole race of folks for as long as they did it and honestly say, everything should be alright. Keep your eyes on South Africa and letís see together how long it takes those folks to recover even running there own Government now.
I hear so often from the pundits, Ií didnít enslave you, you were not a slave" so why do we need this affirmative-action stuff. Weíll my common-sense letís be honest answer is the effects linger on, like it or not. For example, as a result of the historical oppression inflicted on Blacks by the majority, the following occurred:
Control of political process and subsequently skewing the laws to benefit themselves
High Self Esteem
No understanding of where they came from (since slavery was extremely effective in cutting that off)
No - Education
Low Self Esteem
These are just some of the few. White Americans (in particular) need to be real honest with themselves and recognize that by the" forces of mother nature" there is nothing that you can "build up quicker than you can tear it down. Nope, not credit, not a relationship, not a broken glass, not anything (P.S. Iím really a rational guy, so if you run across anyone who can show you something they can fix faster than they can tear it up, please let me know and I will reevaluate myself).
So, if Americaís cruel system of slavery occurred over 100-years (just for discussion purposes, we know it really occurred over a much longer period), then is it not rational to believe that it will take at least that long (probably twice as long) to fix it, and thatís with no subversion taking place behind the scenes.
The messages being put out by the "against affirmative action" foes have been the single biggest detriment to this program. These folks have spewed "blasphemyí that has continually eroded this nation and begun to make us retreat into our racial camps. No one in their right mind is asking for raw handouts, but only that people be honest with themselves and realize that what we are seeing today is not the result of actions that occurred just yesterday, but many, many years ago. It is utterly foolish for Americans (particularly white Americans) to believe that we can really be this great nation without "atoning for its most prolific transgression). As you and I and all others can imagine, being a slave and sustaining the "Black American Race" during that period took guts, and heart and was a remarkable feat that most of us Americans today probably would not survive. On the same token, itís going to take guts and heart for "White Americans" to work through this.
This whole issue can be simply summed up as,
If you want to make this 100-yard dash (i.e., life) fair, some canít start on the 50 yard line and others on the 0-yard line. Mainstream America started the race cheating and continues to do so today. Short of any new idea (thatís yet to surface), Affirmative Action stills offers the best solution for today.
I would love to hear back from you or any other who have views on this issue.