Fix the school systems first

With all of the arguments and screaming and crying about Affirmative Action going on, here’s my two cents. First of all, I do not like Affirmative Action. I believe that it is a hand-out to people based on race and I believe that what people get in life should be based mostly on merit. It’s kind of like giving a $20,000 raise to an employee who takes three-hour lunches and never comes in to work on time and always leaves work early. What are you rewarding this person for, exactly? Unfortunately, Affirmative Action is very necessary, for two reasons. The first reason is that, frankly, regardless of how progressive the civilized world claims to be, people are prejudiced. Whether it’s against blacks, Asians, whites, Arabs, women or the disabled people, people are prejudiced.

There will always be prejudice. It was there when time began, it will be there when time ends. Hence, prejudiced people in positions of power will try to find a way to keep down the people that they are prejudiced against. With Affirmative Action in place, those prejudiced against have something on their side to protect them. I truly believe that if Affirmative Action were eliminated tomorrow, you would see fewer minorities–blacks, Hispanics, women, etc.–in higher positions (not that they are in a lot of high positions now) and a lot fewer in universities. I do not believe that the civilized world, with regards to race, is as progressive as it claims. With Affirmative Action gone, even if administrators didn’t use prejudice against someone, the person’s lack of merit would hold them back, particularly in college academics.

Which leads me to my next point. Growing up as an African-American woman in Detroit, I went to elementary and middle and high schools that were surrounded by overgrown shrubbery, were painted dismal colors and had bars on a lot of windows. Inside, the school books were of very mediocre quality, a lot of the time the teaching was below average, and not a lot of care was taken on the part of the administration. Furthermore, there were certain things that we were never exposed to. For instance, I never heard the term “stream of consciousness” until I got into an English lit class here at Bowling Green. There have been several classes where I have felt completely unprepared because of things that fellow students have had exposure to that I’d never had. Now granted, I always got good grades in school, but there were always subjects I was never exposed to. There were always Advanced Placement subjects that I could never take part in, because of no exposure. In other words, I, and a lot of other inner-city Detroit school kids, never got the perks that, say, the white kids in Bloomfield Hills or Troy got. I know I got here on some of my own merit, but mostly because I satisfied a quota. It pisses me off, but I know it was necessary.

The point of all of this: Had my own school system and my own city and my own state’s government better prepared me by leveling the playing field with the suburban schools, perhaps I would not need to rely on a quota (let’s assume for a moment that the world is not as racist as I think it is). If a comparable amount of money were given to Pershing, Cooley, Denby and Mackenzie High Schools in Detroit as is given to the posh, campusy schools in Birmingham, then you wouldn’t have administration handing out as many minority scholarships left and right. You wouldn’t have so much administration recruiting in the city so that they can mix up their student body a little more in the name of diversity. And don’t try the argument that parents can just send their kids to schools outside of their district. First of all, you have to get permission from the district for that (at least in Detroit you do) and they don’t always give it. Second, you need the extra money to do. A lot of families in Detroit are just killing themselves to get by with what they do have.

The Detroit city school system has gotten progressively worse since I graduated years ago. It has lost more money per year, has worsening facilities per year, has had even worse instruction per year. I feel sorry for the kids who are part of that system now, because they are really going to have to rely on that quota. And until each individual state’s government and the U.S. government starts working on putting the inner-city schools and the suburban schools on the same page economically and academically, then we will continue to have minority students going into college on racial quotas and not academic merit. Fix the school systems before they get to college; give the disadvantaged kids a better shot beforehand; then and only then can disadvantaged students be judged based on their academic merit and get into colleges on that. (This is, of course, again, assuming that the world is more racially progressive than I think it is.)