Tag Archives: Christopher J. Metzler

The Flawed Logic of Anti-affirmative Action Bake Sales

By Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

metzlerThe Affirmative Action Bake Sale is used by conservative groups on college campuses to further polarize college campuses along racial lines using affirmative action as a hammer. Writing for Fox News, Wendy McElroy said, “Through Affirmative Action Bake Sales, conservative groups on campuses across America are satirically and peacefully spotlighting the injustice of AA programs that penalize or benefit students based solely on gender and race.” Seeking to dramatize the “ills” of affirmative action, the groups charge different prices for baked goods based entirely on race. For example, White and Asian males may be charged $1 for a muffin while Black and Hispanic males might be charged 25 cents.

Recently Bucknell University students held such a bake sale that was shut down by the university. Citing the First Amendment, Bucknell students claimed that their free speech rights were violated. Of course, they conveniently forgot that as students at a private university, the First Amendment simply does not apply. But, the issue goes beyond the technical question of the First Amendment and whether it applies to a private university. Instead, the issue is that students such as those at Bucknell, who put on the bake sale, continue to propagate the myth that only White and Asian males are qualified to be admitted to university study.

First, far too many admissions committees make decisions to admit or deny students based strictly on quantitative factors such as test scores and “standardized” tests. The reality is that in our capitalist society, the more money one has, the more money one can spend on commercial test preparation services. Let us not forget that while the income disparity between Blacks and Whites has changed some, they are not even. Thus, more Whites than Blacks are able to purchase commercial test preparation services, increasing their quantitatives and admissions to colleges and universities.

Second, the Bucknell students chose to ignore completely affirmative action for White men, which is a staple of the admissions process of many colleges and universities. Of course, given that the right wing has so racialized the term affirmative action, they dare not apply it to White men. Instead, it is admission by legacy. Legacy admissions means that colleges and universities reserve places in the class for the children of alumni who have given significant sums of money. The reality is that those admits tend to be overwhelmingly White and overwhelmingly male. In these cases, the only quantitatives that matter are the dollar value of the contribution. Often these legacy admits are outside the regular admissions process and admissions committees are blissfully unaware of them. So, why don’t the Affirmative Action Bake Sales offer a discount for legacy admits?

Third, affirmative action continues to be a divisive issue on college campuses in large part because of the elitism that affects too many universities. Students on far too many college campuses have accepted the notion that Black and Brown students who have been admitted to colleges and universities are academically inferior and could not have been admitted to the exclusive halls of academe but for naked racial preferences. Students sponsoring the Affirmative Action Bake Sale are operating from a superiority complex. The logic of that complex is that they (the predominantly White students) have been admitted strictly on merit and that the Black and Brown students were not. The Affirmative Action Bake Sale is the method by which they seek to further marginalize the Black and Brown students on their campuses. The Black and Brown students are then forced to prove that they belong by denying that affirmative action had anything to do with their admission. Of course, by virtue of the way the conversation is framed, legacy admits have nothing to prove as they are the silent elite.

Fourth, the students who have these bake sales engage in racial profiling. By choosing to offer the discount to Blacks and Hispanics, they are further advancing the stereotypes of Asians as the “model minority,” whose intellectual capabilities are on par with Whites. The assumption being that students are intelligent and thus worthy of admissions based on how close they are to a “white norm” of intelligence.

Fifth, I disagree with the Affirmative Action Bake Sale because I think that such events are ahistorical, race-baiting and political pandering of the most vitriolic kind. Moreover, students who will be our future leaders should be able to engage in serious debate without relying on divisive and trite tactics that are designed to belittle rather than engage those with whom they disagree. This is a valuable skill that they need when entering the real world. Name-calling and identity politics is in large part responsible for the racial divide that still permeates America. The students in this case are choosing to repeat these tactics. However, I do not agree that the students should be silenced in the free market place of ideas.

Finally, I am also deeply disturbed by the way the Bucknell administration chose to shut down the bake sale. Here, the school had the opportunity to mount a spirited defense of affirmative action if it assumes that affirmative action has merit. It squandered that opportunity. Wayne Bromfield, Bucknell’s general counsel wrote that students did not have the required prior permission to hand out the handbills at the cafeteria entrance.  According to Bromfield, permission is required to prevent cross-scheduling and allow management to prepare for “possible reactions” to the events, “including for the safety of those involved.”

In an academic environment, we should never send the message that academic freedom is only free when we agree with the content of the message.

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is the author of The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a ‘post-racial’ America and an associate dean at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.

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A Litmus Test for Commencement Speakers?

By Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

metzlerEvery President since President Eisenhower has been invited to speak at Notre Dame’s commencements. So, why has President Obama’s invitation created such a row? It depends on who you ask.

First, many of those who oppose his invitation do so ostensibly based on Catholic social teaching and a doctrinal dedication to Catholicism.  That is, they claim that one who supports abortion rights and stem cell research and thus oppose Catholic teaching should not be honored with an invitation to speak at commencement or with an honorary degree. As a practicing Catholic I say fair enough. I would assume then that any President who opposed any tenant of Catholic teaching would not be granted this honor. My assumption is incorrect and thus the argument is flawed.

To be sure, the Obama commencement controversy is not the first. One wonders though why the amount of vitriol did not reach a fermented brouhaha when Bush41 was given the honor to deliver the Notre Dame commencement address. After all, Catholic teaching extols  the sanctity of human life without exception and makes no distinction whatsoever.  Yet Bush41 supported the death penalty and thus made the decision that “the sanctity of human life has exceptions.”  Ignoring the life question, he said in his address, “Today’s crisis will have to be addressed by millions of Americans at the personal, individual level for governmental programs to be effective. And the federal government, of course, must do everything it can do, but the point is, government alone is simply not enough.” So perhaps the vitriol depends on the political content of the speech as well as the political leanings of the protesters.

Bush 43 faced protest because of his stances on, among other things, labor and the death penalty. He said in his speech, “This University is more than a community of scholars, it is a community of conscience.” Neither Randall Terry nor Alan Keyes was present with gallows in tow.

Second, the analysis and discussion concerning the President’s invitation proves the power of the chattering class to define Obama’s Presidency in “post-racial” discourse. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, unlike all of his predecessors, the President is Black. Thus, if Notre Dame did not extend the invitation; the punditry would have certainly accused Notre Dame of being racist for refusing to extend the invitation.   “Post-racial” discourse is powerful because of its ability to ignore race and elevate “value-based” twaddle.

Third, let’s not forget that the very nature of a university is that it provides a platform for discourse even when all in the university community do not agree with the views of the speaker. Are those in opposition to the invitation suggesting that there should be a litmus test for commencement speakers? Should that litmus test be that no speaker should be invited to speak at commencement unless the speaker is in complete agreement with each and every tenet of espoused values of the University? Commencement then would be relegated to an intellectual merry-andrew buttressed by politically correct indoctrination.

 Moreover, universities would have to engage in a purging of “intellectual and community miscreants” where each and every member of the University community who does not agree with those espoused values are asked to unceremoniously  exit the University. The University then would create a list of those in opposition and then “burn them at the proverbial stake.” To be sure, Notre Dame is both Catholic and a university. Thus, the fundamental question is whether Notre Dame and others like it are Catholic universities or universities that happen to be Catholic. This is not merely an academic question nor is the difference a distinction without a difference.  Perhaps, some doctrinal and dogmatic soul searching may be in order.

The fact is that there is no university community in which all members live the espoused values of the university without deviation. To suggest otherwise is intellectually bankrupt at worst and unrealistic at best.  I am not suggesting that religious universities should not have the freedom to invite those who share our religious values to celebrate commencement. In fact the opposite is true. I am suggesting that religious universities in modern day America live, work and teach in an America that is increasingly secular, political and diverse. I am also suggesting that if we’re honest, we would admit that economics dictate that we cannot survive and thrive in an increasingly secular America if we do not find a way to interrogate secularity.  So, perhaps, the question is at what cost.

Fourth, the reality is that the Republican Party is in ataxia and they have used this invitation as a way to rally social conservatives. Both Randall Terry and Alan Keyes were arrested as part of the protest against the President’s invitation. My research did not indicate that Terry and Keyes are members of the Notre Dame University community.  Their pushing dolls in carriages despite it comic relief prove this fact. Let’s not forget that Keyes is the proverbial political bridesmaid and self-promoter.

Finally, abortion is a social and political issue that continues to divide modern day America much like slavery did. Thus, while I do not question the religious devotion of anyone involved in this debate, I do question the motives of those who have sought to politicize this invitation while pretending not to do so. The reality is that this invitation is shrouded in religion, politics and policy; I just wish that all sides would admit it rather than adopting the supercilious “holier than thou, post-racial” moniker buttressed by pretentious posturing that prevents serious debate in modern day America.

 

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is Associate Dean at Georgetown University and the author of The Construction and Reticulation of Race in a “post-racial” America.

Black Voter disenfranchisement in 2008: Jim Crow Returns

By Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

The Michigan Messenger reported on Sept. 10, that, “The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Mich., a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.”

The chairman, it seems, knows his racial history and against this backdrop, he and the party plan to use the knowledge to revive Jim Crow. In the 1890s many Southern states employed an institutional approach to Black voter disenfranchisement. Among the most popular tools were: the grandfather clause which made clear that the right to vote did not apply to Blacks because in order to have this right one must have been a citizen or a descendant of a citizen who had the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867. Of course, given the exclusion of Blacks from citizenship during this time, the grandfather clause was an effective disenfranchisement tool. The tool kit also included literacy tests of which there were many versions and where registrars of elections ensured that Blacks were given tests that they could never pass given the way the tests were designed. When it was learned that Blacks were being tutored by civil rights activists to pass the tests, state officials changed the test without notice to the test takers.

States also utilized poll taxes that permitted any adult male, whose father or grandfather voted in a specific year prior to the abolition of slavery, to vote without having to pay the poll tax. Blacks could not vote without paying the poll tax because their fathers or grandfathers were legally excluded from voting prior to the abolition of slavery.

The Democratic Party devised a system that ensured that the nomination of a candidate to a position was tantamount to an election. In an effort to exclude Blacks from elected office, the Democratic Party adopted a rule in several states that excluded Blacks from membership in the party and thus participation in the political process. The 15th Amendment which gave Black men the right to vote was not implicated because in theory the aforementioned tools theoretically applied equally to Blacks and Whites. However, in application, these tools were only used to disenfranchise Black voters.

In an effort to ensure that Blacks and their sympathizers got the message that the color of their skin disqualified them from voting, purveyors of White supremacy ensured that the tools were enforced by lynching. Railroad companies sold tickets to the lynchings and Whites proudly attended some even taking photographs that they exchanged freely. A search of the archives of Jim Crow materials revealed whites posing with glee at the dismembered bodies of Blacks. In fact, many Whites brought their children to celebrate state-sanctioned violence against Blacks.

Many of us believe that Jim Crow is no longer a way of life in America. The decision by the Republican Party in Macomb County reminds us that Jim Crow has returned on steroids. That is, whereas the old Jim Crow made no attempt to cover up its naked and virulent racism; the new Jim Crow tells us that this is not about race but about residency. In this case, the Republican Party knows that at the federal level, Congress has passed legislation to “help people stay in their homes.” In fact, John McCain has made this a central tenant of his campaign. Yet he has not denounced the efforts to revive Jim Crow and disenfranchise Blacks by the Republican Party.

Like the Jim Crow era, the Republican Party in the “post-racial” era of 2008 will claim that it is not targeting Blacks since anyone including Whites who have been subject to foreclosure, if the party has its way, loses the right to vote. The reality is that more Blacks than Whites have subprime mortgages subject to foreclosure and thus, according to this plan, disenfranchisement.

The Republican Party understands that it cannot use naked racial politics in this cycle with Sen. Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. However, it also realizes that it can resort to racial code by attempting to use Michigan law which allows challenges to voter qualification. By doing so, it can claim to be preventing voter fraud. Just like Whites in the Jim Crow era claimed to be protecting the white race from extinction by prohibiting interracial marriage and that because White people had bigger heads, they had bigger brains.

Like the system devised by the Democratic Party at the time, the Republican Party has devised a system to disenfranchise Blacks from voting by claiming that being subject to foreclosure also means being subject to losing the right to vote. An objective analysis of the causes of many foreclosures reveals that many Blacks are the subject of foreclosure because banks and other lenders gave them loans that the banks knew were inappropriate in the first instance. Moreover, many people who face foreclosure are encouraged to seek refinancing, negotiate more favorable terms and stay in their homes. The “loss of residency” argument by the Republican Party is at best a specious one. Like the poll tax, the Republican Party requires that Blacks pay their unscrupulous lenders or lose the right to vote. Should Blacks who are renters and have been evicted from their homes face the same fate?

Finally, the Republican Party seeks to strip Blacks of their right to vote not because they have committed a crime but because of financial hardship. The Grand Ole Party talks about its big tent. The Macomb County strategy reminds us that that big tent is undergirded by racism, skullduggery and Jim Crow principles. In December of 1898 the Richmond Times supported the move for disfranchisement in Virginia in the following words: “If we disfranchise the great body of Negroes, let us do so openly and above board and let there be an end of all sorts of jugglery.” In 2008, The Republican Party has taken up the charge.

 

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is Associate Dean at Georgetown University and author of a new book, The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a “Post-racial” America (2008).