When Barack Obama was elected to the presidency in 2008 many Americans hoped he would usher in a new era of race relations in this country. Specifically that Martin Luther King’s famed quote that we should all strive to judge men by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin would finally ring true.
But the politics of 2012 have shown that the country is no more free of racial politics than it was before Obama was elected. From claims that black people should vote for Obama because he is black to the controversial Trayvon Martin case to the so-called discriminatory Voter ID laws to racial attacks on conservative African Americans, this election year has shown that many Americans are still willing to play the race card in American politics.
For young Americans, this issue came front and center this week as the Supreme Court began hearing arguments on affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas. Abigail Fisher, who is white, did not receive automatic entry into the University of Texas in 2008 because she was not in the top 10 percent of her graduating class. She was ultimately rejected from the University in the general admissions process in which race is used as a factor despite having a higher SAT score than at least 25 percent of the students accepted to UT that year. She believes race was a factor in her rejection.
A mere look at the a few of the publications for college students show exactly where young conservatives and young liberals stand on the issue.
Until this afternoon, every story from this week on left-leaning blog and activist organization Campus Progress‘ home page was about race relations, ranging from disenfranchisement on basis of race, importance of diversity in colleges and the workplace and the terrible future black students will face if affirmative action policies are disallowed in admissions processes.
In the blog’s “10 Reasons Why We Need Diversity on College Campuses” it listed as its #8 argument that the implications of race-neutral policies in educational opportunities will be detrimental to the next generation of minorities.
“Admission polices that do not consider race are predicted to decrease representation of students of color at the most selective four-year institutions by 10 percent,” it said. “Given that our future workforce is projected to be nearly half people of color, it is necessary that universities create a fair process for expanding opportunities to all students.”
On the first day of arguments in the case, Wednesday, activists affiliated with Campus Progress held a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court to support affirmative action policies.
Conservative student blog and activist organization Campus Reform has covered the issue, though it is playing a much quieter role. Unlike Campus Progress it has only written two pieces dealing with race this week, both of which were strictly news pieces. Likewise, The College Conservative has only one piece up on race and The College Fixhas not covered the issue at all.
Instead, young conservatives were talking about democracy, capitalism, the Constitution and issues of morality.
To say that race is a non-issue in this election would be ignoring the giant elephant in the room. Just today Esquire magazine and Yahoo! News released a poll showing that 26 percent of respondents – the majority of which said they were voting for Obama – said they know someone who is refusing to vote for Obama based on his race. Is it true that many Americans are opting not to reelect Obama because he is black? Probably not. What is important is that many Americans think that’s why their more conservative peers are not voting to reelect Obama.
“As a nation we have come a long way in terms of inclusiveness—in 2008 we elected our first African American president—but our work is far from done,” reads a Campus Progress blog.
No matter how much effort is put in place to establish a color-blind society, the race issue is always a sure way to fire up Americans young and old and encourage them to spring to the attack against anything that can be construed as racist or discriminatory. The question, is which side is adding fuel to the fire by playing the race card at every turn?
The answer seems clear.
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