Minorities increasingly are going to have to push harder for their own advancement without affirmative action, says the cofounder of a law school purposefully dedicated to the education of minority, immigrant, and low-income students.
“The corollary is that unfair disadvantage which bars their (minority) advancement must ruthlessly be stomped upon---we must ensure that minority status is not a factor that harms,” writes Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. “It will be essential that ability and willingness to perform, to get the job done, are all that counts."
Velvel said minorities have to drop any requests for special aid “simply as a matter of the practical realities of life.” He explained, “There is a point in time at which, and a level beyond which, people will no longer assist others. This is true in nuclear families, in extended families, among social groups, and among nations” and exists today concerning “the plight of minorities.”
Rightly or wrongly, dean Velvel writes in an article in his law school publication, The Long Term View, a very large number of Americans feel that minorities must do more to help themselves and that, in the course of this process, minorities will find it empowering. “They learn that they can do much more for themselves” and it will create “a wonderful sense of independence.”
Velvel challenged the idea that racial integration is always and everywhere necessary for progress and leads to progress. “The idea seems wrong. Integration of the public school systems, for example, does not seem to have led to better education, for minority groups or anyone else. On the other side, one often reads of defacto segregated schools in the inner city which are accomplishing wonderful things.”
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The goal in education, said Velvel, who founded his law school in 1988, should not be “integration for the sake of integration” but “high quality education” that “depends on hard work, persistence and discipline at any level of the educational system, not on the color of skin.”
“To require mixed skins on the ground that otherwise people with darker skins will not learn is, at this stage of the game, to perpetuate a racial canard, and to place focus on and devote energy to what is not important instead of what is important---hard work, persistence and discipline.”
Velvel said one example of standards that need to be changed to open doors to opportunity for minorities is the selection by law schools of applicants based on their undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. “Ignored have been motivation, persistence, ethical sense, ability to work with people, creativity, honesty, ability to write fluently, ability to speak persuasively, desire to work for the middle and lower economic classes instead of just the wealthy, and so on.” The result, he said, has been to graduate lawyers that have “brought the profession into ever increased disrepute.”
“Another result, achieved by enforcing bad criteria on law schools through the American Bar Association’s accreditation process, has been the elimination of schools who do not hold with the elitist views that have pervaded the law school world,” Velvel wrote. He noted that these restrictions that have barred so many blacks from law school “have also barred capable lower middle-class and lower economic-class whites.”
Velvel concluded his essay by writing that it does not matter so much that all racism be expunged from the hearts of white Americans as it matters that people do the right thing. “I suspect that, even when the heart is initially to the contrary, if a person or a society does what they know to be right, then the heart will eventually follow suit. For the heart ultimately tends to adapt to what is all around. A society that acts the right way is likely to ultimately feel the right way.”
(Sherwood Ross is a media consultant to Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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