|I drive past MLK’s old church daily.|
I recently heard the mother of a white child imply that her daughter lost a competition because her child’s competitor was black… as if the judges of the competition awarded the black child with unearned bonus points in some effort towards affirmative action. This irked me terribly. I boiled, imagining any success Amelia earns in life being reduced to an explanation of, “They let her win because she’s black.” Talk about a mama up in arms. I cannot stand the thought.
Okay, okay, I know affirmative action is a real thing. I live in the city where Rosa Parks didn’t give up her bus seat, where Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored his church, and where the Selma Marches ended. Montgomery was a hotbed during the Civil Rights Movement, and is even today a million miles from ideal race relations. If any place owes restitution, it’s our town. So it’s possible that the judges of this local competition employed some sort of affirmative action, and it’s a possibility that the black child won because of it.
It is also a possibility that the black child was the most talented, and deserved to win regardless of being black, white, green, or purple. I don’t know, because I was not there. I don’t expect the mother of the white child to recognize that someone else performed better than her daughter; everyone thinks their own child is the best. It’s hard to see through our own mama bias.
Mama blindness is okay. But assuming that a successful black child owes her success to affirmative action? Not okay.
When I read the following quotes by a black author regarding his opinion on affirmative action**, I was relieved that his words pinpointed my dumbfounded frustration:
(**Note: I am not against or for affirmative action. I am not informed enough to be decided either way! I simply thought this man’s perspective was illuminating. The fact that he is against affirmative action does not mean that I am also against it.)
“The most dehumanizing and defeating thing that can be done to black Americans, for example, is to lower a standard in the name of their race.” Shelby Steele as quoted in Bloodlines by Piper
“One of the most troubling effects of racial preferences for blacks is a kind of demoralization, or put another way, an enlargement of self-doubt. Under affirmative action the quality that earns us preferential treatment is an implied inferiority.” Shelby Steele as quoted in Bloodlines by Piper
That’s it! When this mom claimed that the black child won because of her blackness, she was stating that the bar is set lower for black children. As though they need lower standards. As if they cannot compete at the “white” level. As if it is improbable that a black person could outright win in favor of a white person without the rules being specialized in their favor. It is a dehumanizing attitude that devalues the potential of an entire group of God’s children. On a personal level, it devalues MY child. Know this: Amelia is spilling over with potential. It has nothing to do with the color of her skin, and everything to do with the gifts God has given her. She has immeasurable value, and the scale used to measure it is the same that measures Caroline.
Black or white, the bar is set extremely high for both of my children. I expect I will be proud.