Q: Will discrimination ever disappear?
A: I'm not one who believes that it will.
Q: I suppose Asian-Americans would tend to feel discriminated against. But they have successfully defeated the effects of the discrimination. Economically, it doesn't show up. Will colorblindness ever bring us to that point?
A: That's a good question. But I think we're dealing with apples and oranges. I'm sure individual Asians can show you where they've been kicked out of jobs. But this affirmative-action approach doesn't really include the Asians. Particularly when you start talking about fields like engineering. Because they don't have those socioeconomic problems. It's a totally different ball game. If blacks had the same level of jobs -- a few blacks the head of major corporations -- then you wouldn't have this whole push for affirmative action.
You've got a real problem. Once you get to the employment level the (civil rights) statute assumes that people are equally qualified. That's the underlying assumption. That people have been barred from certain jobs, promotions -- even though they are equally qualified -- based on sex, race, national origin, etc. What it does not deal with is ages 1 through 18. What happens to the kid in that time? That's part of the whole discrimination package, cultural package. You've got 12 years of mandatory education. You've got the acculturation process. You've got the family training, the work habits, the work ethics, the whole bit. Suddenly you've got that individual looking for a job. And you can't compensate for all those deficiencies. (The civil rights law) can not correct all those years. Nor can it correct all the inequities that existed at the employment level for 400 years. We're kidding ourselves if we think it can correct for all years.
We (at the EEOC) have to look at the wrongs when an individual walks into a job and is discriminated against. We remedy that. We try to make that system fair. But then you've got this broader picture. You've got this conglomeration of factors that make it impossible for people from different groups to compete against each other fairly. Some people inherit a lot of money. You can't compete against that. Some people have six generations of educated people in their family. It's difficult to compete against that if you come from Anacostia. I don't think that there's much that we can do to make it fair in that sense.
Q: You're saying that if by some miracle you totally eliminated discrimination, that blacks would never, never reach equity?
A: Well, maybe not never. But I don't see how they can. How can you compete now? You're not equal to these people. If you have the same sort of cultural approach the Asians did -- the Koreans or somebody -- maybe. But looking at the numbers that I have now, I don't see how. That's the dilemma.
Q: Do you suppose that that pool we were talking about in despair shouldn't be getting bigger? Except, for instance, for the fact that 55 percent of our babies are born out of wedlock? The morality of that aside, it sends the kid to school not only with a single mother -- the lowest socioeconomic group in America -- but in many cases an adolescent mother. The kid comes with academic problems. Behavior problems in the playground. Socializing problems. Which really have very little to do with whether anybody discriminates against him on the basis of his color.
A: That's right. You're using a statute at the employment level to try to deal that, okay?
Q: I'm betting that if you took the total American income and divided it by 225 million or whatever the hell the population is and distributed on a per capita basis -- everybody had an equal share of the nn's wealth -- that by Christmas you'd have rich people and poor people and they would look an awful like they do now.
A: I wouldn't touch h a 10-foot pole. I knew where you were leading. I undertand that. I agree with you.
Q: I mean some of us wouldn't be poor anymore. We've got enough experience now tha take the money and we'd impoverish somebody else. Because we have escaped from some of that baggage of that hking about. Some of us have. But those who have not would be disadvantaged not only with a fair distribution of opportunity but even if you distributed results. If you did outcome, the quality would be temporary. Now I don't know what the hell you do with that one.
A: See? We're trying to remedy l that with this one little enfeebled statute! It simply isn't going to happen.
Q: One of the things we've been doing to justify affirmative-actionse aggregate statistics. We use the statistics furnished by the drop-out offspring of welfare mothers to justia black into the University of California medical school at Davis.
A: The problem is the socioeconomic problem. Religion is included -- yothis law across the board to Jewish individuals. But you don't see the socioeconomic problems. So you don't have these broad affirmative-actdressing Jewish individuals. You know that there are firms that have discriminated against Jews. But they're not included in the pYou're using the statute to address the fact that blacks are not in these types of jobs, Hispanics are not in these types of jobs, women are not in these types of jobs.
Q: How does the agency now treat Japanese-Americ As white?
A: No. they're Asian- and specific-island- Americans.
Q: Because the Puerto Ricans and the blacks share those situations ashe Filipinos. The Japanese, at the time we were working in the post office, were tending white people's gardens on the West Coast. The point being made is (consive black economist and social theorist) Tom Sowell's. I mean, regardless of how impolitic he tends to be at times, he's got a point. These people -- and he talks about the West Indians too -- sure they may have a little bultural underpinning, closer families or something. But I came across some disturbing statistics the other day. It said like over half the bge girls had babies. Said 237 whites (out of a thousand) had babies. And 17 Japanese-Americans out of a thousand. That tells you sthing, even if the numbers are skewed a little.
A: We are taking this statute that says don't discriminate at the employment level based on race to solve all those problems. I won't deny that the problems may have hadsis in discrimination. I don't deny that. But if you run over somebody, you don't just back off of 'em and expect that they are cured. There's something else that has to be done to approach that problem.
Q: Yes, but what are you saying?
A: I'm afraid to say what I'm saying. I'll be honest with you. I have to look at my own life and say, what is it that ma me different from my sister? We come from the same place, the same genes, same mother and father, same circumere raised by different relatives. She was raised by my mother's aunt; my brother and I were raised by my grandfather. When I said this before, I got burnt. But my brothe graduated from college, and my grandfather was functionally illiterate. He could barely read and write -- read enough to read the Bible. But he was a tough old man.
Q:out your sister?
A: My sister? AFDC (welfare). Four kids. She's a good person, a super person. But she's di. She isn't educated. She works in the crab factory, picking crabs, just like my mother did. My brother is a craton Hotel in Chicago. He's got an accounting degree. And my grandfather is responsible for that. I have to gad to get up, had to go to work.
Q: That's an incredible thing to say, and it rings true for everybody who we have difficult with the "Therefore --."
A: You can't replicate my grandfather. A sociologist at the University of Alabama, when he studied blacks who wereuccessful, found that there was a strong father figure, a strong person someplace in that individual's life, that broke him out of that circoverty -- a coach, a minister, grandparent, mother, father. Somebody who said, "Boy, you are going to school tomebody. You gon' do better'n I'm doin'." That was my granddaddy's whole philosophy. "I'm doin this for y'all, so y'all don't have to work for the white man, so y'all don' take what I had to take." My granddaddy used to say this world is tough, always tough on a poor man. My granddaddy told me, when went off to college, "Just remember that no matter how many degrees you get and how high you go, the lowest wh can call you a nigger." The attitude that kept me going came from him. He used to always say that there was nbow grease can't solve. Then he'd say things like, "Old Man Can't is dead. I helped bury him." It was that kin You clearly see that sort of thing as important. It clearly affects your sense of justice, technique, everytht, not only intellectually but emotionally. But how does all that translate into what you feel you ought to do A: Well, it leaves you frustrated.
Q: What you really seem to be telling me, when you personalize it, is tbt the ability of the law to address this problem. What I hear you saying is that we have to find some techniqto crack this nut.
A: I'll put the bottom line on you: I don't think we caused our problem, but we're damn sure going to have to solve it.
Q: Would you be unhappy with a process that in effect parceled up the rightby sex, race and so on? Said the makeup will reflect this breakdown and each group will compete among its own 's pretty much where we're getting.
Q: Would that bother you?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: It's done in a couple of places that come to my mind. In Qu,ebec they have something similar to that. In Zimbabwe's constitution now there is a reserve orliamentary seats, and only whites may hold those seats. Blacks may not run for them although they are numerichem. This is a specific set-aside. A reserve. Suppose we in our national legislature said that we're going to seats and five Senate seats that only blacks may hold?
A: My feeling always has to go toward a system thatex should never be considered. I have a dilemma, okay? The only way that we have really seriously begun to address the socioeconomic problems of minorities in this country seems to beb through civil rights legislation, okay? At the same time, I've got a situation here where I know what the statute says. I read the statute and it says in there about 27 times "ints." Talks about the individual. Doesn't say anything about groups, doesn't say anything about women, doesn't t blacks or Hispanics or anything like that. It talks about the individual.
Now I've got this problem. What am I going to do? I can stick my head ithe sand and I can say, look, no matter what that problem is out there, this is what the statute says and I'm going to stick with the statute. I'd like to do that sometimse I really believe that from the standpoint of minorities it's safer for us to preserve that kind of system athe risk of having a system where race has suddenly become something acceptable that you can use. Because I firmly believe that just as we cit for us it's going to be used against us again.
There's that line in "A Man for All Seasons" where Thomas More is talking to Roper. He ould you cut down all the laws in England to get after the devil?" And Roper says "Yeah, I'd break all the lawil." And then Thomas More says "And what will you do when the devil turns around after you? What will you use being no laws, okay?" Thomas More at the end of that says, "I would let the laws protect the devil for my own"
So yeah, we've got a problem. What are we really doing? This has been the safety net that we've been trying to get. This color blindness that we fought fors race neutrality meant moving forward. It's perceived today that race neutrality means moving backwards, because we're not addressing the sconomic problems.
How do you know we're going to get five seats? How do you know they're not going to outvothe five seats to three seats next year? The voters' principle of individual rights has a bad connotation today because it seems lre losing something. It still seems to me to be the only safety zone that we have.
But you asked me about bo do something about the socioeconomic problems. We agonize over that. I don't think that any black person in this country should not be agog over the fact that half of our race is born out of wedlock, or that half of our kids graduate from high school functional illiterates.
y are torn on this issue. If in 1954 the court and the Congress had said you guys are right -- from here on we are going to assign ents to schools not based on their race. When it comes to the other protections of the law, employment and evee going to be colorblind. We'd have shouted hallelujah hooray, and said the milennium is at hand! Now somebody proposes to do that and we see it as a setback. Either the thing we wd didn't make sense or it made sense and it makes sense and we don't like the results. One or the other.
A:ttle more than that. It made sense then because that was a step forward. It was easy to market it. All we had nd, and you know it meant no more of those water fountains. You know exactly what color conscious meant to us then. Today it's perved that color conscious means something favorable to us. We have set asides, we have affirmative action -- . nother way of saying we only dislike discrimination when we're the victims of it. Discrimination is fine as lo ox is being gored. I understand that.
Q: But philosophically you're troubled about it.
A: I am troubled. Back to your 1954 What do you do for the kids to take advantage of it? The kids to be educated, etc.
Q: Why is that the government's problem?
A: If the nt is going to provide public education then it is certainly the parents' problem. Certainly the school boards' problem. I don't know whether it's the federal government's problem.
Q: Why should the government at any level go beyond assuring that the opportunity exists across the board? 't think the government can be passive. You're talking about taking your population and preparing them to be u But I want to get back to your point. Once that door was open I don't think a lot of people knew what to do wly I think there was a feeling of euphoria. A feeling that if those doors opened we would suddenly move into the ranks of the employed and tks of those who had the better jobs in the society. Well, that was not to be true. There were a lot of other po be remedied. There were systems in place that had to be torn down. What I am torn about is that on the one hand I still believe in objective exams, because I believe that way they can't discriminate against me. I may nhe first time or the second time, but I know they can't discriminate against me. It could also be the thing that wipes me out. But I want th But you realize over here that something aggressive, something active has to be done about the socioeconomic problem. It would make me very popular -- maybe not popular, I'll be inback to join my race -- to run out here and say that we need to demand from the federal government to solve this problem. Okay? Surthat'll be a nice way to go. But I haven't seen that work. This problem is growing more and more and more. It's got to be addressed.