GAINESVILLE, Florida – Affirmative action doesn’t help poor people, Washington Post columnist William Raspberry said at the University of Florida on October 4th.
Raspberry, who spoke as a part of UF’s People Awareness Week, said affirmative action helps people who already have jobs instead of the unemployed. “It’s people like me and my colleagues that affirmative action helps,” he said. “Not the people in the streets.”
Raspberry said everyone – not just U.S. Supreme Court Justice (then nominee) Clarence Thomas – has a problem with affirmative action on some level. “Nobody believes in giving extra points to those who are scorned,” Raspberry said. “We don’t like awarding prizes based on ethnicity.”
Creating opportunities and getting everyone to the same starting line is what is important, Raspberry said. “Then everyone’s got to run for themselves.”
Raspberry said it is difficult to explain long-term opportunities to inner-city black males, whose lives mirror “live for today” attitudes, which often involve drug use.
“You and I are afraid to do what they do. We’re afraid it will shorten our lives or hurt our reputations,” he said. “Those are long-term concerns. To those kids, long term is next weekend. Our social policy reflects this, since we try to directly supply needs instead of enabling others to help themselves. Positive feelings are the result of an individual’s efforts, not government action.”
“I think that’s why people hate welfare and public housing even when they depend on welfare and public housing,” Raspberry added. “The only qualification for them is to be a failure.”
Raspberry, whose urban affairs column is syndicated nationwide by the Washington Press Writers Group, joined the Washington Post in 1962. He received the Capital Press Club’s 1965 “Journalist of the Year” award for his coverage of the Watts riots in Los Angeles.
Washington Post columnist William Raspberry spoke to hundreds of University of Florida Students on October 4 during UF’s People Awareness Week.