Addressing unequal opportunity

By

The article “Affirmative Action is a Losing Deal for Everyone” (page 18, Dec. 2) could not have been published at a more fitting time. Riding the beginning of the Diversity Week activities, the article highlighted why it is so important to continue to talk about race, class, and (gasp) whiteness at Macalester, at our jobs, and everywhere we go. Schultz states that affirmative action policies “increase the level of discrimination for arbitrary reasons.” Indeed, I also feel that it is very arbitrary to say that people of color, the disabled, queers (yes, Schultz in case you hadn’t noticed heterosexuality is preferred in this culture–check out how many jobs give health benefits to a “partner”–it’s not a lot), women, and the lower and working class have never been held back, discriminated against, or refused citizenship in the US.

It is completely arbitrary to say that even today women are unable to achieve high-paying jobs in the white-collar market alone, that the working class is paid a wage so low it is impossible to live on. The police do not arbitrarily round up men and women of color simply because their skin color marks them as deviant.

It is ridiculous to say that institutes of higher education are largely populated by white middle-upper class students. Or that the people in positions of authority–be they college presidents, firefighters, police chiefs, presidents, CEOs, or Hollywood celebrities–are not largely straight, fully-abled, white, and wealthy.

No, such discrimination is not present in our society.

If only it were true. We live in a society that has created a state based on white supremacy, intellectual “labor”, the straight family, and the “healthy” person. The people who are born with characteristics that are marked on the body–race, sex, gender performance, forms of sexual orientation, class, and nationality–are the people who are given the worst health care, shown the worst places to live, regularly rounded up by the police, mocked on television and in the White House. They are also the people who are routinely denied access to higher education, citizenship, voting booths, white-collar jobs, and visibility in our society.

Affirmative Action is not here to “reverse discrimination” or to “fix” discrimination. Those things could only be accomplished through a radical change in the way our society works. Affirmative Action is merely a step on the road to admitting that there are unequal opportunities for certain peoples everywhere they go.

Try opening a bank account with two women’s names as “partners,” or try driving late at night as a person of color. Macalester’s own cafeteria demonstrates how institutions of race and class keep certain people behind the scenes and others eating the food they prepare behind closed doors. Specifically created by society to reproduce a culture where whiteness, maleness, and all those other poor “discriminated” characteristics are honored, Affirmative Action merely states that no one can get across these gaps without a little acknowledgment.

The education you receive in the barrio is not the education you receive at Miss Porter’s School. It should not be the fault of a person born into a situation that they are in the situation they were born into. That ridiculous circular thinking blames collective groups that have currently and historically never held power for their own situation. Nevertheless, such discrimination happens every day.

In closing, I would encourage Joe Schultz–and all who believe affirmative action is discriminatory–to listen (key word there) and attend the group meetings of our fine Macalester cultural orgs which are open to all. Also, I encourage you to take classes in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, American Studies, and History.

After such experiences, I sincerely hope you will never consider saying that one “black woman” being hired (and why is this always the category people are most afraid of? What are they going to do to you, Schultz?) benefits “all black women” in the US, or that all minorities are getting free rides because none of them deserve to be where they are as none of them have the credentials. Such thinking only shows how years of privilege and power have allowed those who have always had unqualified and unquestioned access to resources to be unwilling to share them with others.

Contact Maggie Kinkead ’07 at [email protected]