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Stating the Affirmative

September 22, 2010

After a discussion on Dr. Martin Luther King’s A Letter from the Birmingham Jail, I thought it quite interesting how many people thought Martin Luther King would not support affirmative action. They argued that he was for just laws which did not discriminate against individuals based on race and therefore would be against the “reverse discrimination” and tension that affirmative causes. In actuality, Martin Luther King Jr. has never feared tension,

“…Create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestc heights of understanding and brotherhood…”

and instead encourages civil disobedience when laws or in the case of affirmative action, education is unjust. MLK stood for equality, both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. In the case of affirmative action it is generally seen only under the scope of equality of outcome but it really represents opportunity. Even more than fifty years after the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education and the overturning of Plessy v. Ferguson, public schools in Americaare still separate and unequal. The majority of underfunded public schools are made up of students of color. Those students are educationally oppressed and then given the “opportunity” to compete with students who have never been educationally oppressed. This is a false opportunity for those students. Yes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would want us to be able to get to the point where we can only base admissions on merit but until public education is equal, affirmative action must be the equalizer.

3 Comments
  1. Derek Mohr permalink
    September 22, 2010 11:06 PM

    I generally agree with this but you could also make the argument that it is the ineptitude of the government that prevents the progression of public schools and not the school board and the school district itself. The city of Detroit has traditionally been considered an underdeveloped school district but the city does next to nothing to improve conditions. The general public hears more about the corruption and scandals within the city’s political epicenter then they do about problems with the school board. I think that Dr. King would fight against government as a whole before he fought solely for the improvement of public education. If a government is established that is able to catalyze progression, then the improvement of the public education will soon follow.

  2. adamarcher permalink
    September 23, 2010 11:14 AM

    As unfortunate as it is that many students of color attend public school in urban areas which are underfunded, there is no simple way to fix this problem. It is also incorrect to label these schools as “separate.” It may appear that students of color are separated from other students geographically – and they are, but only because they cannot fiscally afford to move or commute to another school, not because thaey are obligated by law to attend a separate school. They are separate by location, just as neighboring cities, but one must have caution when using the word “separate” in a political sence, as it uasually entails a mandated separation within a preset location.

    Both the problem of underfunding and the individual’s inability to move to another school are unfortunate, but cannot be solved by the government (local, state, or national) without stealing funds from other citizens.

  3. Kyle Bartrem permalink
    September 27, 2010 12:01 PM

    I believe that MLK would support affirmative action, as in his eyes, it was entirely a ‘just’ law. By MLK’s definition, a just law “is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself.” Affirmative action was compelled by the majority, and it was obviously accepted by the minority. Although I do not personally condone affirmative action, I think that by all of MLK’s elaborations on justice, he would not only accept the law, but praise it.

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