Book of the Month: When Affirmative Action Was White

We read this book for my book club and I knew it had to be book of the month. The title tells you a lot about what the book is about. The author, an actual academic, traces history by detailing how economic and social policies in America’s history excluded black folks and were racist. This is truly the perfect book for the people who always complain about affirmative action. But it also is ideal for Africans and others who genuinely thing African Americans are merely lazy or complain way too much.

Instead of viewing affirmative action as developing after the civil rights movement, this book goes back in history to the New Deal policies of the 1930s and 1940s. Also, ask most folks and they will tell you affirmative action was designed with a bias for minorities. However, history is truly missing from public debates about affirmative action, because people often start the conversation with the 1960s, when beneficiaries shifted from white to black. This book details how social security programs like the New Deal, GI Bill, the Fair Deal created powerful programs for whites, even if they were not explicitly called affirmative action at the time.  History will also show you that affirmative action was in fact designed for the majority, with and (by?) racist Southern Democrats who were in support of staunch racial hierarchy. Before the civil rights movement at all, policies were created to enable the prosperity of whites and deliberately leaving out blacks. For instance, while the Fair Labor Standards Act was great for factory workers, it was practically useless for maids and agricultural workers, the fields that were dominated by blacks, and this was because of the Southern Democrats. Reading this book makes you feel like going back some decades just to punch those racist, annoying, moronic Southern Democrats.

What this book does well is making a case for how and why we need to close racial inequality; rather than ambiguities like "reparations", which are messy, and quite frankly not feasible, isn't it better to enact policies that benefit minorities and *attempt* close the gap that racism and slavery and discrimination have created? Let's face it: although the Civil Rights Acts in theory shut down and forbade discrimination, it didn't address the centuries of discrimination black people had gone through. So President Lyndon Johnson initiated a new government policy, affirmative action, designed to repair some of the lasting damage that years of racism, slavery, and brutal discrimination inflicted upon blacks. And there was and (there still is) damage. While white folks or perhaps some others might find some of the contents of this book shocking, I didn't. I knew for instance, that for the longest time, blacks were excluded from receiving mortgage loans. This meant that while whites were able to build equity through owning homes and thereby multiplying their net worths, blacks were stuck. Consequently,

"at the end of the twentieth century, as a major study reported, 'the net worth of the typical white family is $81,000 compared to $8,000 for black families...only 10 cents for every dollar of wealth held by white families."

Black families have still not caught up. And with what was lost, you can see how it is easy for a white person to go to college and a black person wouldn't be able to. You can understand where privilege comes in. Privilege is many, many things, that one blog post can't cover, but one of them is never having to worry about the color of your skin being a hinderance to your progress. Privilege is having a trust fund for your education created by your father's father's father, whereas another person's father's father was restricted in the kinds of schools he could go; or the kinds of water fountains he could use. There are also *still* tons of policies that exist in favor of white people, but work against black people. Even post Civil Rights Acts, truth is (and this is especially for all the people with the rallying cry against affirmative action because it favors black people yen yen yen) white women as group are the single greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action.

One thing that stands out is how, although the book is more than a decade old, it actually feels fresh, like it was written this year. My favorite part of this book is how it is able to bridge the divide between policy and academia; it fits very well into both worlds. Of course as a true academic, he concludes with policy recommendations for American policymakers in their dealings with the legacies of these policies by reexamining the original vision of  Lyndon Johnson and affirmative action itself.

I put some excerpts in form of pictures across this post to truly give you a better picture. I will warn that the book is a little bit dense, but that's to be expected in a book by an academic. I implore you to read it though, because I couldn't possibly adequately explain the importance of this book in this era, and indeed for posterity as we have conversations surrounding race.



Friday Reflections

1.) How to conquer negative thinking and give in to hope.

2.) How to sharpen your concentration for bible reading...or really, any reading. I read a lot of journal articles and book as part of work, and frankly this was helpful for that too.

3.) This excerpt from Lisa Brennan's (the eldest child of Steve Jobs) memoir makes me think he was an annoying or worse, horrible person.

4.) Okay this essay on motherhood was equal parts breathtaking and terrifying.

5.)  What happens to #Metoo when a feminist is accused?  I don't know where to begin with that story. Why do people have no sense of boundaries? Why are we so readily okay with allowing people into our personal spaces?

6.) Know that if some random person addresses an email to me with "my beautiful and astounding Ife", or "my sweet baby" a PROFESSIONAL SPACE? I too would report it as sexual harassment. Please people, keep work spaces distinct from personal spaces.

7.) If the emails in that story happened, then the accused is nothing but a BIG CREEP, who thinks she can hide under the guise of being a hippie or "queer". Get outta here with that.

8.) Also since when did it become okay to blame the victim, just because he is a man or because your creep of a colleague is a "global feminist star with keen wit"?

9.) Sandra Oh is one of the BEST actresses on TV. She also is a fave because she played my best character ever, Cristina Yang, MD. Read this article where she talks about her recent Emmy nomination and her love for self.

10.) I always wondered what it was about Beyoncé, and why everyone idolized and adored her. I kinda see it now after reading this. She truly is a force. And I love how she mentioned generational curses. Too many people are walking around with the sins of their ancestors and progenitors hanging over them.

11.) The world has finally caught up to Jane Fonda.

12.) "This is personal", Steph Curry says about feminism and the fight for equality.

13.) The role of faith and modern belief in Africa

14.) If these seem to be a combination of both old and recent events, it's because I sometimes have these post in draft for monthsss (without posting) haha and keep updating it.

15.) Also, I am posting "Friday" Reflections on Saturday because I haven't gone an entire week without traveling in quite a while and I am exhausted and sleep deprived, so I can basically do what I like.

16.) JK. I forgot to post it yesterday. No kidding about being tired though.

Of Dangerous Ponytails and Costly Hair

Let's talk about hair! I found this post on Refinery 29 about the perils of sourcing human hair. Traders scout women desperate enough to sell their hair for cheap to feed their family. Granted, some of these women are offered $100 per ponytail of hair on their head, and while that sounds like nothing, it's a lot in Vietnam and some of these women can even "retire" afterwards. The truth though is, it is seldom so straightforward with honest buyers empowering women. Apparently, what is more common is that this [unregulated] business (reportedly worth billions of dollars) opens up the opportunity for scammers and con artists who prey on desperate women, luring them to cut off their hair for a few dollars and then they sell the same hair to those of us in the Western world for exorbitant prices. What's worse? some of these hair brokers flood war-torn and conflict ridden countries to find these women. Women are attacked, rubbed at gunpoint, and violated for their hair. It's a problem and I implore you to read the entire article and maybe even go a little bit further to understand what exactly is happening.

It got me thinking too, and particularly something in that article stuck out:

"There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear someone else’s hair"

I wanted to puke. Like actually reading it out loud. Someone else's hair. On my head. See, I am a self-proclaimed germaphobic. I don't even like people touching me because I worry I don't know where their hands have been. I go over hand sanitizer like crazy. But I also wear hair extensions. I posted on Instagram stories, asking isn't it hypocritical of me? Why doesn't it gross you out that you have another person's hair on your head? Don't get me wrong, this is not about extensions in general. Because there are tons of hair extensions that aren't  actually human hair. Crochet hair, for instance is mostly synthetic; in fact some hair peddled as human hair, are not people's hair.  But...someone's actual hair?

What is more worrisome is that despite the injustice against the owners of this hair and proclivity for this business because its unregulated and opens up to violation, no one is boycotting it. But people (rightfully) boycott H&M and forever 21 because they expose factory workers to inhumane conditions. People boycott shea moisture and others. But not this industry. Now, I no longer boycott organizations and I explain why in another post.  However, the hair situation is one easy industry where we can say you know what, without a regulated system, we ain't buying jack. Because yes, it might be more expensive when it is regulated, but hell it's something we can do without..

But that's what fears me. What if we actually can't do without these weaves. What if we have been so conditioned to think out hair is just not good enough. What if we have finally accepted that European standards of beauty (longer, straighter the better) is indeed the hallmark of beauty? What is wrong with our own hair? Why do we need someone else's hair??

I know we always say we wear weaves because we can and not because we hate our own hair. But do we really?  I wear weaves too (I have drastically reduced it though) because truth is our hair is hard to manage and its always easy to put them in protective styles. But honestly, I am tired of conforming to the European/Western standards of beauty. So I am now turning to other means of protecting my hair like braids, crotchet locs (I see the actual, natural locs in my near future), and synthetic wigs. Of course again, when I wear the stupid wigs, they are mostly always straight. I am not judging or criticizing anyone here, I'm just really becoming uncomfortable with it.  I am increasingly becoming tired of human hair: the price, the ridiculous lengths UGH. And I wish we all were too. I wish it bothered us to have someone else's hair on our heads. At the very least, let's not contribute to a system that exploits disadvantaged women. If they willingly choose to sell their hair to empower themselves, then great. But how many are actually willing? And how many only do it because  conditions of hardships and systemic corruption have pushed them too. It truly is something to think about more and more. While embracing our natural hair is becoming more popular, it is not nearly mainstream enough. And yes, I know black women are not the only ones that wear extensions. I talked about that here. I also believe we can choose to wear our hair any which way and still be gorgeous. This is just something to think about.