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As I listened to President
Bush's remarks on national television regarding the use of racial preferences at
the University of Michigan, I couldn't help but shake with excitement.
There are few issues as divisive in this country as race, and there are few
issues that touch me as personally.
Throughout my life, I have seen firsthand what racial preferences can do and how
they affect individuals and families. No, I haven't been oppressed or
"kept down" by "the man," but as someone who is half
Hispanic, I have nonetheless seen and felt the emotional and literal effects of
judging people by race.
Even early in my childhood, my sisters and I were taught that in order to
achieve, you had to work. Hard work, drive, and determination (along with
a little bit of smarts) were the keys to success. Never in a million years
would race be considered part of that equation. If we kept our noses to
the grindstone, we would succeed.
Of course, one of my first introductions to the fact that race matters was the
endless forms we had to fill out in high school, college, and graduate school.
There was that box that always popped up: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian,
Pacific Islander. Pacific Islander??? Anyway, being half Hispanic
means that I'm also half White, so whenever it came to choosing a race, I chose
I chose White, not because I'm anti-Hispanic -- which I'm not. If that
were the case, I'd hate half my family -- which I don't. In fact, I
greatly admire the work ethic and sense of family that are demonstrated by many
Hispanic families and individuals. No, I chose White, because I knew in
doing so, I'd be judged on merit. No one gives bonus points to a White
In the last semester of high school, I remember gathering for our Awards
Assembly. All the students in the school met in the gym, and the principal
announced honors such as valedictorian, salutatorian, scholarship winners, and
so on. As a special recognition, the high-ranking students were seated in
chairs on the gym floor right in front of the stage. I doubt they'd group
kids by class rank anymore, but they did for this assembly.
For a while, it was an enjoyable gathering as my peers (fellow "smart
kids") collected awards and scholarships. Then, the principal
announced the next scholarship. It was a $10,000 scholarship to the
University of Texas. Wow! Ten thousand bucks. That sure beats
the $500 scholarships we were getting. When the name of the recipient was
called, the collective jaws of the "smart kids" hit the floor.
The winner didn't come from our group at the front. No... the winner came
from the middle of the pack, and he received the scholarship for one reason:
he was Hispanic.
During the summer following my freshman year of college, I went with my mom to
visit my grandmother. At the time, my grandmother, Isabel Perez, was a
housekeeper for a rancher and his wife in a small Texas town. I was
standing next to my grandmother as she told her employer how proud she was that
I was going to college and was going to be an engineer. The woman's
response was, "That's nice, but I'm sure he got in because he's
I couldn't believe it! I could feel my face start to tighten and my fists
clench as her words soaked in. Did I just hear what I thought I heard?
Doesn't she know that I'm one of the "smart kids?" Doesn't she
know that I checked the "White" box??? Rather than say anything,
I just stood there quietly, but the impact was felt. I'll never forget
Why someone would want to get rewarded for being of a particular race, I'll
never know. What I do know is that the practice of racial preferences must
come to an end.
America cannot end discrimination by discriminating; we cannot yearn for a
colorblind society and then base contracts, admissions, and employment on race;
America cannot be true to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he hoped
his children would "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the
content of their character" until we actually look past skin color and take
a good look at character.
There is hope for America to get beyond the racial issue, but it will take some
time. The clock won't start running, however, until we see race for what
it is: a birthright, not a government grant.
is President and CEO of GOPUSA, a news,
information, and commentary company based in Houston, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in
mechanical engineering from Rice University.
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