Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Affirmative Action will die

I  expect Affirmative Action to die.

Any other outcome seems completely unlikely. The program has been the whipping boy of white folks from all political vantage points for years, and increasingly even black folks have come to believe that it's outdated and unnecessary. People recoil at the mention of quotas and inferior candidates being offered positions they don't deserve. Affirmative Action has become a symbol of the mistakes inherent in trying to legislate fairness.

There is some truth to that viewpoint. No one who has studied or considered Affirmative Action can deny its failings. People implementing it have reserved spots for black folks and other disadvantage minorities, they have denied people who on the surface appear to be better candidates a spot at the table. It has been poorly implemented and horribly defended. On many levels, it has failed.

But, how many folks recognize its mission. If you talk to many people they think Affirmative Action programs were enacted to get black folks jobs they otherwise couldn't earn. Or get them into colleges that otherwise wouldn't give them a second look. They think the program was a free gift to black folks to make up for slavery and Jim Crow. It was our reparations.

Ignorance is such an ugly thing sometimes. Affirmative Action was not created to give black folks something, it was created to prevent white people from denying us those things that were rightfully ours as American citizens.The program wasn't created to give the unqualified jobs, but to stop white people from consistently denying black people the right to work in jobs they could do, and attend schools they could prosper act simply because of the color of our skin. It wasn't a program designed to make everything fair, it was designed to stop black folks from getting legally screwed.

Most folks don't get that. They don't understand exactly how unbalanced the system has been in this country for centuries. And if they do understand, they don't really want to acknowledge what that means to their lives today. No one wants to admit that their success is tied directly and indirectly to evil perpetuated by their ancestors. Hell, most folks don't want to admit that their ancestors were evil at all. But it's true, it's completely true.

The program has been thwarted by the complete unwillingness of most white people to ever admit that racism and discrimination cause serious problems until well after those serious problems have become entrenched and intractable.  White people have never, ever been interested in creating a society where they relinquished their position of authority, power and privilege, and they never will be. To believe otherwise is to ignored human history in totality.

Unfortunately that is not a part of life that most Americans will ever deal with. Instead, it's been swept under the rug of forgetfulness. Folks don't want to deal with the true legacy of racism and discrimination because some problems just aren't fun to fix. And they are tired of trying.

So Affirmative Action has to die.



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Friday, February 17, 2012

My First Mind

Momma taught me to go with my gut.

She didn't oppose thinking things through, and recommended that with every decision you consider the pros and cons. But, she said in the end, you trust your gut. Since Momma's a Christian just like me, she used terms like the "Spirit of Discernment."

When this birth control thing broke, my gut said this wasn't about people forcing a religion to do something it found immoral. My gut said it was about choice, and the need to limit choices. In my gut, I knew that when it comes to core issues like abortion or birth control or even divorce, the Catholic church isn't interested in compromise or allowing people to deal with God's consequences for their choices. No, the Catholic church has certain issues where compromise is impossible and birth control is one of them.

My gut told me that.

But, I wavered in that belief. I listened to folks who said it was just about a fear of government intrusion into religion, not a desire to limit people's choices. Those people thought that if the government could find a way to allow the Catholic Church to wash its hands, to make sure it wasn't required to directly pay for or provide certain services, things would be ok. Sadly, those people were wrong.

The White House has offered a compromise that would allow the Catholic Church to avoid directly paying for birth control, but that would still provide it for free to women who want it and work for Catholic business or attend Catholic schools. It placed the burden for payment on insurance companies, and while it's true that those companies might pass along those costs in higher premiums, it still means the Catholic Church wouldn't be paying for it directly. The church could reasonably claim its innocence.

 That plan has been rejected.

Some might see this as a principled stand. It might appear to be an example of the church refusing to allow practices that conflict with its beliefs, even indirectly. Those people must have forgotten that we're talking about the Catholic Church.

You know, the Catholic Church that turned a blind eye to a worldwide sexual abuse scandal that ruined the lives of thousands of young boys who were molested repeatedly by priests the church protected from prosecution or punishment. Men the church allowed to resume their duties and molest again. Abuse that continued for decades and still has not been properly revealed because of the church's attempts to first deny that it occurred and then to cover up its scope.

Yeah, that Catholic Church.

So the church's principled stand on birth control, much like its principled stand on abortion, feels false. Those stands seem like just the type of hypocritical tripe that people always accuse religious groups of wallowing in. The church is not in the business of standing up and speaking loudly against all sin or even most sin. It's in the business of focusing on certain sins that overwhelmingly impact the lives of women.

And my first mind tells me something ain't right there.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Trouble With Believers

You know, "believers" do the strangest things.

By believers, I mean Christians, but it can be applied to true believers of any religious bent or ideology. People who become completely and totally invested in something to the point that they sacrifice all vestiges of their God-given ability to critically process information can be quite interesting. I am a believer, but I'm not that sort of believer.

The reason for this observation lies in an issue currently taking up valuable space in our news cycle. Recently, President Obama has been lambasted for a requirement in his healthcare law that mandates that faith-based groups provide mandatory contraceptive coverage for their employees. The rule has driven Catholics insane because of their prohibitions on birth control, and the feeling that the government is forcing them to violate the tenets of their faith. I heard Mitt Romney appealing to that very sentiment at a recent rally, telling the crowd that they are under attack by people who don't share their belief in God.

Poppycock.

No one is forcing Catholics or any other religious person to take birth control. No one. People are not being forced to have abortions, or take the morning after pill, or fornicate or commit adultery or do any of the other sexual sins discussed or implied in the Bible. Nobody is infringing on First Amendment rights.

Instead, what's happening is that the government is telling religions they cannot reap the benefits of the government without following some of its rules. They are not forcing believers to violate their faith, they are saying that healthcare providers must provide certain levels of care to all people. Those people have the choice of whether they accept that care.

It's the choice that's the problem. Conservatives love to claim they want government out of their lives, but in reality what they really want is for government to stop guaranteeing other people rights that they would prefer to limit. See, abortion doesn't impact other people. It impacts the woman having the abortion and the child whose life is ended before it's begun. There is no impact on anyone else. Yet, other people would prefer to make that choice illegal for a woman because they don't agree with it, even as they get upset that the government would make it illegal for them to do the things they want to do. Blatant hypocrisy.

Too many religious people are afraid to give their converts choice. They want to take on a role that even God has rejected. God does not force us to make certain choices. There are options and there are consequences. We may not like the options and we may not agree with the consequences, but ultimately we have the freedom to make whatever choices we want to make. These social conservatives don't want that for people whose beliefs don't align with their tenets, and that bothers me deeply. The sort of hypocrisy that allows you to be comfortable with denying other people freedoms you yourself demand is the sort of hypocrisy that allows people to justify terrible atrocities.

That is what scares me about many conservatives. They can justify things that are not justifiable. They are willing to set aside their beliefs when those beliefs become too inconvenient. That spells trouble. Serious trouble.



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