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Deserving the Gift of Affirmative Action

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In my last article I posed the question of whether or not this last generation and future generations of African-Americans deserved the fruits of affirmative action. During a conversation with my aunty she expressed how mad she was at the idea that President Obama is considering a way to cut out affirmative action. The biggest opponent of affirmative action and most famous person to me from what I remember is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He expressed to everyone during his nomination hearings that he achieved his success through hard work and perseverance. Not through some quota system that was implemented to actually hurt African-Americans, not help them.


Affirmative Action is a quota system implemented to “make” employers and schools give African-Americans a fair chance to work and attend schools that were once off limits because of skin color. For awhile it was good, African-Americans were making more strides in all areas of life. Not that we weren’t making them before with our own businesses and schools. Several prominent African-Americans are products from our industries, schools, and the business world. Affirmative action just offered more opportunities to expand their businesses in the world period.


Until the mid-nineties it was good, it really was, African-Americans were doing it for themselves and I was able to use it to my advantage as well. My public schools when I was a child were great, my high school was crap. It was great that I was able to attend San Francisco State University because of a program that said I had potential, SFSU needed to look at me as a whole and not just on my high school grades. As much as I was in honors classes when I was in high school I can admit there were times when I was not that focused in certain classes especially when it came to math. I will admit that it was not until I took a class in basic math at SFSU that I finally understood what “x” meant, I know DUH! But that was me …


Now sixteen years later we have young African-Americans like my little cousin who thinks life is a game and an aunty who thinks that it will be President Obama’s fault when we do lose affirmative action. When will African-Americans, my people, learn that we have to keep fighting to make sure we keep what laws we had put into place to give us what rights we do have.


Right now in Baltimore there is a lawsuit for racial discrimination being filed for the people of certain housing projects because they are being torn down and rebuilt with the help of Habitat for Humanity. The basis for the lawsuit is that the residents are claiming:


1. No one notified them of any meetings to discuss the plans for the housing projects.


2. Will the current residents be considered for the new housing and will they be able to afford to live there?


The article can be found on line at hometownannapolis.com along with several other stories that will let African-Americans know how small town American really thinks of them. Now when you read the article you get the picture of the project mom who has a lot of kids she does not work and lives on public assistants. Then as you read further into the story this mom is the great-grandmother and her daughter and granddaughter also live in the same housing development with their kids keeping the cycle of generational poverty going. Which is the other side of the story, why are people staying in what was supposed to be temporary housing and not leaving?


Many theories have been thrown into the fire but the main idea is that the people who live there just do not want to work hard enough to leave what is basically free housing and now that it is to be taken away they want to holler and scream racism. My question is this, is it really racism?


What responsibility do the residents of the housing projects have in their lives to make it better for themselves and their children? When are the residents going to take advantage of the programs that are given to them when they move into the housing development to encourage them to make this a temporary situation? To do what is needed to move in to their own home that they “have” to be responsible for, are they not responsible for their own destiny regardless of where they live? My oldest niece came to visit and to drop off her two daughters for a few weeks for the summer. When they arrived they headed to the bathroom. I am one for conservation and I told the girls to not run the water. To watch how they turn on the spigot and to follow the rule of, “If it’s yellow let it mellow and if it’s brown flush it down.” Their mother looked at me like I was crazy and then asked did I have to pay for the water? I told her no, her response was, “then what’s the problem?” This type of attitude is what is wrong with this “Ghetto Fabulous” African-American. 


I was sent an email that rings true today as it did when it was written in (circa 1900) The title is: 


Twelve Things the Negro Must Do for Himself 
by Nannie Helen Burroughs

1. The Negro must learn to put first things first. The first things are: education development of character traits, a trade, and home ownership.

2. The Negro must stop expecting God and white folk to do for him what he can do himself.

3. The Negro must keep himself, his children, and his home clean and make the surroundings in which he lives comfortable and attractive.

4. The Negro must learn to dress more appropriately for work and for leisure.

5. The Negro must make his religion an everyday practice and not just a Sunday-go-to-meeting emotional affair.

6. The Negro must highly resolve to wipe out mass ignorance.

7. The Negro must stop charging his failures up to his “color” and to white people’s attitude.

8. The Negro must overcome his bad job habits.

9. He must improve his conduct in public places.

10. The Negro must learn how to operate business for people, not for negro people only.

11. The average so-called educated Negro will have to come down out of the air. He is too inflated over nothing. He needs an experience similar to the one that Ezekiel had (Ezekiel 3:14-19) and he must do what Ezekiel did.

12. The Negro must stop forgetting his friends “remember.”

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