Where Is This Post Racial Paradise I’ve Been Promised?

Recently the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to Michigan’s public universities. Seven other states already have similar bans and you know others are just itching to get in on the action. We’re told “race-neutral alternatives” will ensure diversity at public institutions so there is absolutely, positively no need to worry.

According to The New York Times, states that forbid affirmative action in higher education have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.

Not for nothing but I think that’s pretty darned worrisome right there.

In her epic dissent in the Michigan case, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote:

Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”

Race matters.

I was very blond until the age of four and born with such pale skin that it earned me the sobriquets “jincho” and “gringuito” in the South Bronx neighborhood where my family settled—the same neighborhood a certain Supreme Court Justice hails from.  Legend has it that while I was dancing to plena in a school play as a six-year old an exuberant member of the audience stood up and loudly exclaimed, “Ese yanqui baila muy bien! Wepa!”

The color of my skin has continually factored into how I’m treated by other racial and ethnic groups. I’m “an uppity spic who isn’t really white” to certain drunk Wall Street types I once met and a “wannabe gringo who only plays at being Puerto Rican” to a Boricua artist I know who believes her caramel-colored skin and curly mane of dark brown hair instantly validates her Hispanidad.

Race matters.

It matters to Cliven Bundy. It matters to Donald Sterling and to Frazier Glenn Cross. Hell, it matters to me.

Affirmative action allowed me to get an education. It evened the playing field and gave me an opportunity I would not have had a decade earlier.  Anyone who thinks we need no longer concern ourselves with protecting efforts toward achieving racial equality is dangerously naïve.

Or just plain dangerous.