08.02.2017 07:36 AM

Affirmative action – yesterday, today and tomorrow

The white supremacist who is running the Disunited States of America wants to abolish affirmative action.  No surprise there.

It is a surprise, however, when I sometimes hear this from otherwise-intelligent white people: “Why do we need affirmative action, anyway?  It isn’t fair.”

And I always provide them with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s address at Howard University on June 4, 1965:

You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.

For the task is to give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other American to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities–physical, mental and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness.

To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough. Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in–by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.


  1. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Russ says:

    Warren, thank you for that quote. We oftern forget how much LBJ did to advance civil rights in the US. Substitute negroe for First Nations and it could apply (sadly) to Canada today. It still amazes me how many people I talk to who still don’t understand the true impact that colonization and residential schools had or that the “fix” is neither simple nor quick.

  2. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Kevin says:

    Yes, and what Russ said too. Judy Trinh made the same point about refugees in an article in the TStar. She wrote “My hope for them… is that we don’t just applaud their journey to safety, but pave a way for them to succeed.”

  3. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Patrick says:

    It’s sad how we can take a few steps forward and then, instead of expanding policies like this to include yet more disadvantaged people, or people displaced by a changing economy – no instead of that we drive a wedge and play identity politics. Being poor, or displaced, or disadvantaged for whatever reason is a real tragedy – so why don’t we ever include more people in this stuff instead of pitting one person’s suffering against another’s. We can agree that systemic racism is real and is a real issue to overcome, but so too is any kind of poverty a person is born to, or forced into irrespective of their background. So instead of driving a wedge, why not expand the policy to reduce poverty wherever it exists, and to empower people, for once, who aren’t connected, and advantaged beyond their value at birth –

  4. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Patrick says:

    Job creators aren’t people born easy with a sense of entitlement – the genius untapped and starving in poverty without hope for themselves, but who when enabled are real hope for the economy and innovation and economic growth – they are the job creators who can turn the world around – not a clan of soft palmed wimps who have never really been able to do it for themselves.

  5. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Miles Lunn says:

    I would rather live in a society where we judge each person as an individual and affirmative action still judges people on their skin colour even if well intentioned. I am not against it under any circumstances, I realize sometimes it may be necessary, but it should only be done if certain groups face greater barriers than others and only so long as those barriers exist. The ultimate goal should be to move towards a society where gaining admissions to university or getting a job is based solely on qualifications and race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or ethnicity plays no role. In cases of university admissions, I think the real issue there is under investment in schools in minority districts and we have the same issue with First Nations. By neglecting them there are fewer who meet the admission qualifications so we should invest more there so long term more will qualify. In the US in particular the GOP is long known for under funding public education as most their supporters either are rich enough to send their kids to private school or they are uneducated whites and can count on them to continue to vote for them. That is the main reason for all the problems. Likewise the civil rights act should have been strengthened not gutted by the courts as the fewer minorities that vote the less their concerns matter and the GOP is good at suppressing minority voting.

  6. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    JKR says:

    Thanks Warren. Lyndon Johnson was capable of making very profound statements. He also possessed the political skills needed to achieve transforming, positive change in society. It is also worthy of note these words came from an individual raised in a racist, southern society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.