No Middle Ground in The Quest for Equality

by Nathaniel Fick | 11/9/95 6:00am

I have never felt the sting of discrimination because of my race, sex or creed. I am a white male from a supportive family. I enjoy the benefits of one of the best educations available on this planet. Except for a few forgettable experiences in the backcountry, I have never feared going to bed hungry or without shelter.

To some, this background renders me unqualified to offer a worthy opinion on the subject of racism in the United States. Unfortunately, the repercussions of the topic run so deep in American society that there really is no objective third party. The obstacle is a personal one for each of us. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to present a few ideas in light of the recent debate between Professor Roger Masters and Dinesh D'Souza.

A fairly apathetic black classmate of mine in high school gained admittance to a prestigious Massachusetts university, while his white counterpart, complete with higher SATs, superior GPA and stronger extracurriculars, was denied. I also know another black former-classmate who now attends an equally renowned university. He was passed over in two separate job interviews, for no apparent reason. He was constantly harangued by the Baltimore City police, for no apparent reason. He went on to graduate at the very top of our class, and I respect him tremendously. He is the most intelligent person I know, and he's certainly one of the kindest. Despite his many merits, he was constantly the victim of "bad luck," for no apparent reason.

I know the reason. I know the reason behind both of these situations, and it makes me furious. Treatment based on skin pigmentation carries as much validity as separate standards for height, shoe size and eye color -- none.

A poignant scene in the movie "Gettysburg" depicts a weary Union soldier defending his conviction for fighting the war. "There is," he claims, "only one true aristocracy -- the aristocracy of the mind." This does not mean that the geniuses among us may trample those less generously endowed. It means that no person ought to be judged based on what he looks like, how he speaks or who his father is. We must be judged according to who we are.

Imagine a world without ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, without shameful oppression and neglect as seen in incidents involving Denny's and the Los Angeles Police Department. This also would be a world without quotas, affirmative action and preferential treatment of all kinds. Each person would rise or fall according to individual merits and demerits. Students and employees could have faith that they were the best of the applicants. They need not worry that the company sought an Hispanic woman in order to avoid a confrontation with the American Civil Liberties Union, or that the college required a black male from Louisiana to round out its "student profile."

Young blacks frequently cry out (correctly) that they must not be classed and shelved as a group. They are individual human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Reason dictates this stance. Any other opinion clashes with the truth. How, then, may affirmative action be justified in the next breath? Is this not class generalization at its finest? It appears to be a supreme irony. The irony wields potentially lethal consequences.

Future generations will either live in a floundering nation that treats some groups differently because of their skin color, or a country that thrives on the notion of equality for all. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise. Inequality defines any circumstance where there is an absence of total equality. I certainly don't want my children branded, whether for success or failure, simply because of their heritage.