Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Racism in the 21st Century

Even as racial discrimination in its traditional form – racists in power using their position to institute racist policy for the sake of racism – has shrunk to a tiny fraction of what it was only a few decades ago, sadly it has been replaced by a new and equally onerous form of racism: racial discrimination for the sake of buzzwords like “diversity” or “multiculturalism.” The southern restaurant owner of the 1950’s with a “No Colored Served” sign hanging in the window has given way to the university administrator of the 2000’s with policy and procedure manuals.

University of Oregon senior Stephanie Ramey found out about modern racism the hard way when she tried to enroll in the only section of Math 243 Calculus for Business and Social Science for the spring term only to find a virtual “No Whites Served” sign staring her in the face. She was denied enrollment and informed that she would have to contact the class professor. He passed her on to something called the Office of Multicultural Academic Support, which apparently should be called the Office of Academic Support for Some Preferred Cultures. A staffer in that department told her she could not enroll in the class because she doesn’t identify as a minority (here she needs to learn some tricks from Ward Churchill). It turns out that the first 10 of the 18 class slots are reserved for minorities in a handful of classes under the control of the OMAS, and that anybody else has to show up on the first day of class and meet with an advisor to see if they will be allowed to register for one of the remaining 8 or fewer slots. And for those wondering, no, being female did not qualify her as a minority THIS time; the preferred list was African-American, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Chicano/Latino, Native American or multiracial.

The Supreme Court made clear in Bakke that setting aside slots on the basis of race illegal, so this silliness would obviously not stand up to a challenge, but it is sad that one would have to go to court to escape this kind of institutionalized racism 41 years after the Civil Rights Act in the first place. Dr. Martin Luther King famously said “I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.” He would surely be horrified at some of the policies being pursued in the name of affirmative action, diversity and multiculturalism in the new century, which collectively threaten to crush that dream.


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