America, 1967: Five years after the assassination of President
Kennedy, and the Civil Rights March in Washington D.C., the Kerner
Commission wrote a report that found that America was 'moving towards two
societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.' Three decades
later, in an address at the University of California in San Diego,
President Clinton called for a year long conversation about race relations
in the United States. According to Clinton in half a century there will be
no majority race in America. 'Will we become not two but many Americas,
separate, unequal and isolated,' he asked, 'or will we draw strength from
all your people and our ancient faith in the quality of human dignity to
become the world's first truly multiracial democracy?'
Is such a democracy possible? Or will our differences always come
between us? Looking around today it might seem a little odd for Clinton to
call for racial healing. 'For now, no cities are burning. No divisive
events like the O.J. Simpson trial are preoccupying Americans. Among
African-Americans overall, income, life expectancy and employment have been
rising.' A Gallup poll released in early June showed that 74% of the
black respondents said they were satisfied with the way things were going
in their personal lives and also with their standard of living. Among
whites, levels of acceptance and tolerance are unprecedented. For example,
93% of whites, a higher percentage than of blacks, said they were willing
to vote for a black candidate for President.
So why would Clinton be calling for racial healing in a time when '
a curious new element' of peace 'seems to have descended over America's
roiling racial landscape?' Not everything is as perfect as it seems.
Unemployment rates in the poorest neighborhoods have barely budged.
Problems in the quality of education continue, and many blacks are quietly
fuming over the taking back of affirmative action programs. Fifty-eight
percent of the whites and 54 percent of the black respondents said they
felt that race relations would always be a problem in the United States,
and as more blacks move into middle class societies and their contacts with
whites increase, their doubts that racial harmony can be achieved have only
grown. Meanwhile we have conservatives who seem to think that everything
is fine-race relations a 9 out of 10. We moderate liberals feel that there
really is not much way to tell what the future has in store for our country.
We wish for nothing more then racial harmony, and instead of focusing on
the similarities, we should look at all the parallels of our cultures, and
look for ways to make every relation better.
How do we make relations in this country better? Many have said
that the first way is to get rid of affirmative action. Is affirmative
action necessary in todays society? Was affirmative action ever necessary?
It is difficult to say when we have Ward Connerly, the nation's most active
opponent of racial preferences, using the idea proposed by psychologist
Claude M. Steele of 'stereotype vulnerability.' 'Black students, Mr. Steele
says, are overwhelmed by fear of living up to negative ideas about their
race, stripping them of confidence.' Connerly, a conservative, says that
affirmative action has battered away at the self-esteem of blacks. It made
them feel as if they were inferior to all the other whites in their same<...
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