Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Monday, 18 April 2016

Affirmative Action is both meat and poison; so is life!

I was thinking about this policy and wondered whether in “whiting or blacking” it we are not missing the larger picture. I enjoy listening to talk shows, as well as attending open air debates held say, at community squares or street sides. I also enjoy reading about pieces or treatises with a social justice bent in them. I have been fortunate to read about mind boggling experiences and come to know that paradigms shift, bend, sink, rise, break and are repaired.

A LinkedIn Staff Meeting. LinkedIn is spearheading a diversity trend in the IT World. Source: LinkedIn Website

 My first week in San Francisco was the chance I got to attend one cross-racial open air talk event. This one was organized by an African-American youth group from Oakland CA. The theme for that day was pointing out Bible-based discriminatory tendencies and how the Bible views anything and everything black. This debate was held on a windy evening at a corner around Halliday Plaza. It was an evening I still recall up to now. I saw how different people debated theology, philosophy, divinity and logic. I also noted how respectful disagreement was exercised.  I noticed different views expressed. People from different shades came to this place to say or hear something. When time to disperse came everyone left. No bullets were exchanged. This was some years back. I am sure this group still conducts Town hall or community dialogue events.

Later in the years, I happened to follow the Abigail Noel Fisher, Petitioner v. University of Texas at Austin, et al case. It is a United States Supreme Court Case. This case concerns the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Texas at Austin. The Supreme Court voided the lower appellate court's ruling in favor of the University and remanded the case, holding that the lower court had not applied the standard of strict scrutiny, articulated in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), to its admissions program. At the street level it is seen as a law forcing universities to admit black students to different courses without the rigorous entrance exam requirements. There are some who interpret this to mean that after High School, a black person need not apply her/himself rigorously after all there is a university place waiting. This thinking is intended to disparage the spirit behind affirmative Action. I wondered why universities are not filled up with black people. With time and experience, I have come to know that affirmative Action is about more than black people. It applies to anyone who has what it takes to be productive but certain accessories may hinder this person from achieving a certain level of excellence. I also got to know it was not about education alone. Affirmative Action can be reproduced in all sectors for all  races, beliefs, sexes and genders.

One day, I was on the train to Richmond and I happened to have a newspaper that had an article about a program helping inner city youths avoid taking the path to prison. This program is in a right place and at the right time. in other words, it is timely. As an initiative, it had achieved its goals. I remembered another incident in San Francisco. The Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth House that serves warm meals and soup. It is timely too.

I passed by Turk Street in San Francisco City just after turning off Market Street, there I met two friends whom I knew from community meetings around the Bay area. We met by coincidence at this place that is about to close;  the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth House in San Francisco on Turk Street. This place serves warm meals and soup for people who do not have homes. The sisters deliver meals to senior citizens and AIDS patients too. In order to run its activities, it relies on donations as well as the money the nuns get from selling French pastries to farmer’s markets.That is how it was able to afford paying a modest rent and use the rest of the money to keep the place neat and certified to distribute foods. The landlord increased rent from $3,465 to $5,500 a month. The nuns cannot afford that amount of money and the next thing for them to do was to close the entire place. This meant that the people who relied on the meals served here would have to go elsewhere. The place was established in 2008 and has served meals ever since. I joined many who actively engage in some form of activity to keep this place running and open, at least for some time. Our little actions are like the leaves on a tree. But, the action by a multimillionaire business coach and self-improvement guru Tony Robbins is the tree stem. He has bought the nuns a building at 1930 Mission St. This is going to be the new home where the nuns of the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen will relocate. It is amazing when we give back there is a way we create a fuller realization of our purpose in life.

These and many more examples show how humans are filling in the gaps of reaching out to address inequalities. We should note that institutions have helped address human needs. But, pro-active action plans that can be given names such as ‘affirmative action’ are helping provide services to many who may otherwise not qualify under the larger and rigid institutions. Affirmative action may be meat to them and not poison in this case.