On Thursday, July 20, 2006, the President addressed the NAACP for the first time in his six-year tenure in office. The gathered dignitaries were - surprise, surprise - rather lukewarm in their reception of ol' Dubya, whose initial election alone left a bad taste in the mouths of many African Americans, and whose administration has done more to curtail the advances of the Civil Rights movement than any since Woodrow "I Won't Pass a Law Against Lynching" Wilson.
Surprisingly, the president was somewhat candid, admitting that he "understood" that "racism still exists in America," and that he "understands" that "many African-Americans distrust my political party." He failed to mention the neoconservative pandering to the interests of white southerners, who have a notoriously bad track record - spanning back to the 1600's - concerning the rights of those with African heritage. Hearkening back to the last Republican President with any claim on the hearts and minds of African Americans, he labeled his party "the party of Abraham Lincoln" which "let go of its historical ties with the African American community." How have Republicans sunk so far in the estimation of the African American community? Perhaps by attacking such political ideas as Affirmative Action and Civil Rights.
Before my few conservative readers jump in with a remark about "reverse racism", I'll remind them of a remark about what the "squish" Bush (George Herbert Walker, that is) had to say on September 23, 1991 about the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism: "Zionism . . . is the idea that led to the creation of a home for the Jewish people . . . to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and indeed throughout history" (New York Times 24 Sept. 1991 pg. A6). We know what happened in WWII, and we know what happened afterwards in the creation of a Jewish state. What Mr. Bush (the elder, and in my estimate, far better President) objected to is the logical fallacy through which those two actions were being declared equivalent because of a clause of racial exclusivity - that by ignoring the historical and cultural context of the events, the victims are named victimizers.
Affirmative action is designed - much like the UN resolution creating the Israeli state - to in some way atone for the imbalance created by centuries-old discrimination. Six million Jews perished during the Holocaust. Conservative estimates place about 30 million Africans who were directly involved in American slavery, of which no less than half perished en route to the New World. That's fifteen million dead on the boat - with no mention of those who died at the hands of their masters from brutality or deprivation. Add to this an institutionalized and state-perpetuated inequality, and we still have much to atone for.