A friend of mine recently expressed shock at the fact that nearly half of the electorate still approves of the job performance of President Barack Obama. In his view, the poll numbers defy common sense. Obama's foreign policy has exuded Carter-like weakness. Obama's lone domestic policy "achievement" has been crumbling since its inception. Why would so many people still approve of his performance? The answer, of course, is simple. People are applying a lower standard to Obama. And it isn't because of his personal charm and charisma. It's because of his race.
In academia, the tendency to hold blacks to a lower standard is deeply ingrained even though it isn't universally acknowledged. Several years ago, I wrote about the issue in a column on Town Hall. After I wrote the column, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor publicly attacked me for stating the obvious. The attack, which occurred during a Q&A following one of my speeches on affirmative action, illustrates one of two distinct but inter-related problems with affirmative action:
1. When whites publicly deny the existence of racial double standards, they are motivated by self-interest. This selfish motive often translates into behavior that is harmful to blacks generally.
2. When blacks privately accept the existence of racial double standards, they are motivated by self-interest. This selfish motive also translates into behavior that is harmful to blacks generally.
Regarding the first problem, whites in denial (like the UNC professor who attacked me) do such things to curry favor with minorities. They are also trying to boost their own self esteem. The problem is that those who are willing to lie in order to win the favor of blacks are also willing to treat blacks differently in order to retain others' approval (and their own sense of moral superiority).
I began to see this trend when I was in graduate school in sociology. Instructors were sometimes afraid to fail black undergraduate students even if they were functionally illiterate. In one particularly egregious case, a professor assigned someone to write a black graduate student's master’s thesis for her. She simply wasn't able to do it herself.
It wasn't that these educators were merely afraid of accusations of racism. They were also afraid of admitting they were wrong. To do so would expose the lie that affirmative action is "just a tie breaker," rather than a deeply racist policy that assumes black inferiority and then uses the assumption to justify admitting unqualified students on the basis of race.
But what about the functionally illiterate black man who has a college degree? And what about the semi-literate black woman who has a master’s degree? Are they served by the intellectual fraud perpetrated by white liberals? Of course, they are not. They are set up for failure. And they are often forgotten in the affirmative action debate. This has never been about protecting their interests. It has always been about protecting a vision.
Regarding the second problem, blacks who privately accept double standards are able to rationalize them by referring to past injustices against blacks. The real problem is that those willing to rationalize the double standards are also willing to act upon them by seizing an unearned opportunity.
I began to notice this trend when I became a college professor. For example, black students with 3.0 GPAs and LSAT scores in the 150s would ask me to write recommendation letters to law schools that usually required 3.5 GPAs and LSAT scores in the 160s. They simply knew they could get admitted despite being clearly unqualified.
It wasn't that these students thought they didn't deserve to be admitted. They thought they did deserve it as a payoff for someone else's sacrifice. The idea that Martin Luther King Jr. died so they could be judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their cranium is deeply ingrained in the minds of many young blacks.
But who really benefits when blacks privately accept blatant double standards. It isn't whites who are displaced from a seat in the classroom or in the workforce. But neither do blacks benefit. Each man eventually rises to his level of incompetence. When blacks accept affirmative action handouts, they just get there a little faster than the rest of us.
All this has relevance to the current standing of our 44th president. His forty-something percent approval rating is simply a function of the fact that forty-something percent of the population supports affirmative action absent specific quotas. That means forty-something percent of the population has a political philosophy largely based on emotion, not reason. It also means that Obama's approval rating will never drop down into the thirties - or into the twenties the way Bush 43s rating did before he left office.
Of course, the larger problem is that Obama's private acceptance of affirmative action ultimately got him elected. He never took the approach of Reverend Jackson who presumed that whites were too racist to elect him president. (Jackson was vying for the VP selection all along). Instead, Obama recognized that if he gave whites the benefit of the doubt, they would ignore the fact that he was clearly unprepared for the job. That is how an unqualified man became president and rose so rapidly to his level of incompetence. Of course, public opinions polls will measure the rationalization, not the reality. That is how history is distorted and how visions are preserved.
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.