True Equality: The Unifying 'Field' That Trumps Race
by Adam Abraham
SACRAMENTO — Let's be clear on one thing about race-preference policies and practices today: from the beginning of our country's history, race has since never not been an issue. Once the low-cost labor force represented by forcibly imported Africans – with their convenient "color-coded" skin and distinctive physical features – became regarded as God-given, and an economic necessity, "race," as opposed to human beingness, has been a persistent "issue" in America.
By arguing the vagaries of "race" as though they were real, we could sidestep the true realities of what both defines and unites us as human beings. All have a spirit. All have a mind. All have and use thoughts. All choose beliefs. All choose attitudes, positive and negative. All choose, or try to impose, limitations to varying degree. All have the power to transcend limitations, whether self-imposed or otherwise. All learn experientially. All humans want love and respect. All want to feel safe from harm. And when harm happens, the "race" of the perpetrator doesn't really matter. These are just some of the factors that humans hold in common. The field of the human spirit has always been "level," and always will be, even if we debate it, or deny it.
Debate and deny we have. Because we believe in the "differentness" of it so whole-heartedly, race has served as a grand and effective diversion. We have searched in vain for a "missing link" that would "confirm" a human hierarchy, with certain ones on top and others below. No such "link" exists. We have cracked the genetic code and found more profound unity than difference. With all that, we still focus on differences, conflicts, disparities, and gaps, and then attribute them to "race." People in high places with questionable intelligence will attest that the harm that members of one race group does isn't harm because of their race, but the harm that another does is, because of their race. And all of this is subject to change with the shifting of the political winds.
The scenario described above is reality in many communities of America today, but not equality. Race remains a reliable object of polarity for anyone ripe for an argument about what's "wrong." It's become an accepted perspective with regard to how government both views and responds to, the governed. And yet, equality, one of the operating principles upon which America was founded, would by its very meaning, nullify the race rationale as a factor of governance.
Whether we are talking about voting, or about jobs and hiring, promotion practices, housing, or education, "the race card" has been played for generations in America. It has been used to explain and excuse a full range of regrettable behavior, from inane to insane. Through all of this, the principle of equality remained unmoved, unchanged, and unswayed.
Today's so-called "affirmative action" policies in college admissions maintain a thimble-full of respectability because, in a 2003 ruling on two landmark cases (Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger), the United States Supreme Court gave them a reprieve. Nonetheless, said policies continue to stand on shaky as well as uneven footing, for they remain inconsistent with this founding principle.
The fact is that equality trumps race. It always has, and always will. As a way of life, equality won't stop "whispering" in our ears until we are aligned with it. Those who see themselves, and act as human equals, find that their lives begin changing in sometimes dramatic, always rewarding ways. And though some people would beg to differ, that is the true desire and intent behind equality initiatives.
Equality initiatives that would end racial preference policies, thus putting true equality into practice, would not take anything beneficial away from black, Hispanic, or American Indian citizens. In spite of what "old guard" and "nouveau" civil rights activists assert, ending race-based preference regimens – in government policies, hiring practices, and academics – will give these groups something that has long been withheld: a clear field – meaning not racially skewed – in which to explore, reveal, exercise, and be their best, the opportunity for new growth, and the respect that only comes from unquestioned achievement.
Opponents of equality initiatives like California's Proposition 209 (1996), Initiative 200 in Washington State (1998), and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) currently in the signature-gathering phase for the ballot in November 2004, staunchly defend current policies because of what they believe will be "taken away" if said policies are shelved. They fear that individual and social advances made in the past forty years will be obliterated if government enforced oversight does not continue to be shaded in one racial group's favor versus another. They don't really have an answer to the question of how confidence in the greater possibilities of human potential can be built if it isn't first put into practice and applied to all.
Ratifying equality initiatives will indeed take something away. Assumptive complacency will certainly go away when government agencies, companies, and schools begin seeing each citizen, applicant, and student as inherently equal human beings. Such complacency is born of, and fed by the notion that, by virtue of the shade of one's skin or ethnicity, all one has to do is simply breathe, and favor (or disfavor) will automatically be shown. Also gone will be the notion that an individual's color "trumps" attitude, that being disadvantaged is an "advantage", and that under-preparedness and under-effort in life is okay if you come from the "right" chromatic background. Lastly, gone will be the ability to say, "I got where I am because of affirmative action," which is tantamount to saying, "I'd be unable to reach my goals unless I had an unfair advantage on other people like others used to have on me." You'll rarely hear affirmative action supporters put it that way.
With real equality will come the realization that a closed mind and "bad attitude" works against everyone who adopts it, and that all have the power to shift polarities, open their minds, lift their goals and self-expectations, and choose new, positive, and abundant ways of living. There is neither courage, nor honor in playing the role of victims.
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, it enumerated, in more specific and practical terms, the principles – i.e., the self-evident truth that all men are created equal – under which America was founded. For 188 years, it was glaringly apparent that the principle of human equality had not been put into practice. Said principle was powerful because it was and is a timeless truth, and still inspires many freedom lovers today.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created a bureaucracy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) came into being in 1965 – with its own power and groupthink. In time, the pattern of injustice that it was created to eliminate became the "food" EEOC bureaucrats needed to ensure the agency's survival. Overlooked and left unchanged was the notion that certain groups of people were predisposed to needing governmental oversight and "protection" from certain other groups of people. The self-evident, inherent equality of each – as human beings, and as Citizens of the United States – remained a dream, and had not become reality.
Today, a generation of Americans has grown up with race-based social and public policies as "the norm." They hear that our country is great because the Founding Fathers saw human equality as self-evident, but they see that it wasn't put into practice, and even when it was written into law over and over again, we've only succeeded at "switching roles."
They also see that the people who were at a disadvantage, and who rightfully spoke out for equality, suddenly became "okay with it" when the "advantage" appeared to be switched into their "favor." The kids don't know the oppression of their forebears. They only know what they've been told. They also don't know equality. But if they understand the meaning of the term, they can see that their society isn't practicing what it preaches. The current state of unequal affairs represents a humungous booty call for a select vocal few, one rife with advantageous (i.e., lucrative) conditions stacked in their favor and subservient to the status quo. This is not equality. It is social and political expediency. The fact is that in this very political year, no Democratic or Republican candidate has shown the political balls to embrace, articulate, uphold, and promote the principle of equality head-on. It's good that equality, which would harm none and protect all, needs no defense, since few politicians have stood squarely on its shoulders. Fortunately, courageous citizens are remembering, and acting on their own. Doing away with race-based preferences won't be the magic wand that suddenly "fixes" all of our social problems. Not in the least. Of its own, it won't help more under-motivated and under-prepared black or Hispanic children raise their test scores enough to get into college on academic merit. This doesn't change the fact that colleges and universities should set and maintain a single admission standard for all applicants. Doing away with race-based preferences won't keep minority job applicants from being turned down, sometimes losing out to applicants with more "__(fill in the blank)__." Yet it is more likely to stimulate resourcefulness, tenacity, integrity, determination, creativity, and enterprise. It will build confidence, and relationships based on common interest and mutual benefit. It will also affirm that our society now sees that equality is not a "right," but a state of being human. As such, no human will be presumed to be less (or more) capable, or less (or more) deserving of assistance simply due to his or her ethnic, cultural, or racial status. It can be shown that those who have historically or habitually lagged behind in certain areas of social participation and achievement can excel if they so choose, and they can fail if they don't. "Guilt equity" won't uplift a human spirit that refuses to raise itself, or open a mind determined to stay closed. The best we can do is to help people know that failure only applies to those who have stopped dreaming and striving to realize their dream, and not to those determined to succeed.
Rue not the day when society casts an equal eye against antisocial and destructive behavior, regardless of the race, color, and ethnicity of the victims; regardless of the race, color, and ethnicity of the perpetrator. It'll be a day to rejoice.
Equality was a good idea two hundred-odd years ago because it's truth stood in glaring contrast to the standard operating practice of the day. While much has changed, it remains a promise yet to be fully realized. If put into practice, equality would benefit and protect all citizens, equally, today because, in order to work, every citizen participates, both those who govern, and the governed. It was a courageous principle to rally a nation around in its day. It still is.
Who's to say that, if those important lines weren't written, this great nation might not have happened? The fact is that it was, and equality still "trumps" not only race, but differentness. We are more alike in our equality as human spirits than we are different as races, genders, or sub-cultures.
Even if we can't all agree as to when, there is general agreement that equality is best. Yet, why not do what is best now? Doing the best requires courage, and equality remains a courageous principle. Put into practice, equality will take an already great country to a new level.
Adam Abraham is author of I Am My Body, NOT! (www.phaelos.com/iambn.html) and A Freed Man: An Emancipation Proclamation (www.phaelos.com/afm.html), with a third title, I Am Spirit! due to be published later this year. For more information, send an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2004 Adam Abraham. All rights reserved.