Columnist misinterprets history of race relations

To the Daily:

I found it difficult to swallow that on the day of Rosa Parks’s funeral the Daily allowed Jeff Cravens to write such a misrepresenting column (Affirmative action and the shadow of slavery, 11/02/2005). He seems to almost encourage violence as a way to solve societal problems. He couched this belief by writing “I don’t support violent protest,” but in the same sentence writes, “but, don’t we live in a violent society with crime and poverty, drugs and war?” Instead of fixing those problems, Cravens seems to instead want to add to them by encouraging violent protests instead of the peaceful change that Parks encouraged.

Next, Cravens states that it is slavery that makes the treatment of black Americans salient. “Slaves literally built this country – the richest and most powerful beacon of freedom in the world A– on their backs.” As a student of slavery, I can assure you that this is a falsehood. Some of America was built by slaves, but not all – not even most. Most Americans did not even own slaves in antebellum America, the period in which American slavery boomed. America during this time was divided into slave and free states, see “the American Civil War” in any encyclopedia to learn how that turned out.

After that, Cravens recounts how southerners used Black Codes and Jim Crow to subjugate the newly freed slaves. This is true: blacks were treated unfairly, but unfortunately, a constitutional amendment didn’t immediately change the racist feelings of 400 years.

However, American society continued to progress toward equality. Cravens conveniently forgets to mention something that happened between the years of Jim Crow and today – the civil rights movement. This is kind of a big omission. Cravens seems to be tying Jim Crow to today’s problems while ignoring one of the most important social movements of American history.

Moreover, Cravens continues to prove injustice by using sophistry. He writes that an education advocate points out that “districts with high concentrations of blacks receive less funding that those in the suburbs.” Why does Cravens say “suburbs” instead of “white?” Could it be that there are school districts in this country that are predominantly white and also receive less money than the suburbs? Maybe this problem is not completely about race. Maybe it is an urban versus suburban problem. This is where race-based affirmative action fails. Not all poor school districts are black and not all suburbs are white. Yet, race-based affirmative action seems to say that no white people live in disadvantaged urban areas and that no black people have the advantage of living in the suburbs. Martin Luther. King Jr. dreamed of an America in which his children would not be judged by their color of their skin but instead by the content of their character. Affirmative action’s generalization about black people not only fails to live up to this ideal, but also seems to prevent it from happening.

Carl Paulus

LSA senior

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