Should the Republicans in the U.S. Senate sack Majority Leader Trent Lott for saying the country would have been better off if Strom Thurmond, who was a segregationist, had been elected president in 1948?
Well, yes, if they believe his presence in a leadership role would hinder their ongoing campaign to move the country to the right. And it most certainly would.
Should Lott step down voluntarily?
No, not if he believes he's a viable legislative leader and he's willing to risk being humiliated by members of his own party.
Does it matter if he falls on his own sword or not?
No-his political career is toast, and he has no one to blame but himself. Truth is, if Lott is dumb enough to say something-in the presence of reporters-that can so easily be construed as racist that even Republicans are calling for his head, it casts considerable doubt on whether or not he's smart enough to be a leader of his party.
By removing Lott from his position, have we struck a mighty blow against racism in America? Probably not, but it certainly sends a message to closet racists that this country, however slowly, is moving in the right direction by becoming less tolerant of overt racism.
Do we have a hell of a long way to go?
Oh yeah-big time.
Lott's supremely idiotic comment, whether the sentiment behind it was racist or not, shows how hot the race issue is these days. Every once in awhile, some high-profile person will blurt something out and offer a glimpse-for white people-into an ugly reality where racism still lurks. Of course, black people-and Latinos-still see it all the time.
We at CityBeat, quite frankly, are glad he said it, because it just might provide badly needed context as we begin to debate, again, the merits of affirmative action.
We recently learned that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the affirmative action issue sometime in the first half of next year when it considers a lawsuit against the University of Michigan Law School that seeks to end the practice of using race as a factor in the public higher education admissions process.
The plaintiffs in the case argue that the admissions process is unconstitutional because it's discriminatory, and their backers, ardent foes of affirmative action, charge reverse racism. They say it's time for society to be totally colorblind.
University of Michigan officials defend the practice because it helps ensure a diverse student population, which makes for a healthier society. In the past, the Supreme Court has upheld that such a practice is constitutional as long as race isn't the deciding factor in whether or not a student is admitted. We hope the current justices maintain that stance.
Supporters of affirmative action can continue to say politely that diversity is really warm and fuzzy, because it's true-we become better citizens when we have the benefit of knowing diverse experiences. But the nut of the matter is equal opportunity-people of color in America still do not have it, and to suggest that they do means living in a serious state of denial.
It really isn't that difficult to figure out: Poor, urban areas are populated by blacks and Latinos. Their schools generally suck. They have a slimmer chance of getting a good education, and they're not going to be as prepared as their white and Asian counterparts when they apply for college. But time and time again, people of all races show that given an equal opportunity, they can excel. And when they do, we enjoy a diverse society, and, as we've said, that's a really good thing.
Racism, whether it's overt, covert, institutional, subconscious or otherwise, exists. One need only look at U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to see that.