Virginia NAACP condemns Webb op-ed on diversity programs
Virginia senior Senator Jim Webb is still feeling the impact from a controversial column that he penned in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. The Op-ed discussed an issue that Webb has long had strong feelings about, the role of federally backed diversity programs like Affirmative Action.
The piece titled: “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege” outlined Webb’s belief that programs like Affirmative Action have done more to hold back unprivileged whites than they have helped minorities.
In the wake of the article, the Democrat has received a smattering of criticism and some applause for his willingness to take on a such a sensitive topic.
For the most part the reaction to the piece remains mixed and unclear. That is one of the reasons the leader of one of the Commonwealth’s key minority organizations has decided to weigh in. King Salim Khalfani, the outspoken executive director of the Virginia Conference of the NAACP made it clear, he feels the Senator is wrong.
“We vehemently disagree with your analysis and wonder if serving in the elite, rich United States Senate has skewed your vision of the world in which we live,” wrote Khalfani on behalf of his organization. “Your opponent then and coming George Allen would not have had the gall to write about the “myth of white privilege”.”
In the letter, Khalfani requests a meeting with Webb to discuss his views on the issue. We have a request into the Senator’s office to see how he will respond.
UPDATE: Senator Webb’s Spokesman Will Jenkins responded to the Khalfani letter. Jenkins said that their office has not formally received the letter, but when they do it will receive a “careful response”.
Here is his entire statement:
Senator Webb has dedicated his time in the Senate to bringing fairness to America’s economic system and to our work force. He has been particularly attuned to the concerns of African-Americans, including the advancement of education, workforce development, and criminal justice reform. Our office has not yet officially received Mr. Khalfani’s letter. When we do, it will receive a careful response. With respect to the issues raised about African-Americans, it is useful to quote from the article itself:
“Lyndon Johnson’s initial program for affirmative action was based on the 13th Amendment and on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which authorized the federal government to take actions in order to eliminate “the badges of slavery.” Affirmative action was designed to recognize the uniquely difficult journey of African-Americans. This policy was justifiable and understandable, even to those who came from white cultural groups that had also suffered in socio-economic terms from the Civil War and its aftermath…
“The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. But the extrapolation of this logic to all “people of color”—especially since 1965, when new immigration laws dramatically altered the demographic makeup of the U.S.—moved affirmative action away from remediation and toward discrimination, this time against whites. It has also lessened the focus on assisting African-Americans, who despite a veneer of successful people at the very top still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration and family breakup…
“Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end. Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes…”
You can see the entire letter from the NAACP after the jump.
July 26, 2010
The Honorable Jim Webb, Senator
United States Senate
225 Russell Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: Op-Ed Piece in the WSJ on the Myth of White Privilege!
Dear Senator Webb:
On behalf of the Virginia State Conference NAACP, its’ over 100-Adult Branches, College Chapters & Youth Councils we greet you as a fellow Life Member of our Association as we commemorate our 75th Anniversary the Diamond Jubilee at our State Convention, October 29-31, 2010 in the place of our founding Roanoke, Virginia. Senator Webb, we have read your piece entitled, “Diversity & the Myth of White Privilege.” We vehemently disagree with your analysis and wonder if serving in the elite, rich United States Senate has skewed your vision of the world in which we live. Your opponent then and coming George Allen would not have had the gall to write about the “myth of white privilege” even though I am sure he feels that way. In African culture, it is said, when people show & tell you who they are. Believe them!” Your written word has spoken volumes for your belief system.
It appears that you and U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul are kith and kin. Do you really believe that affirmative action has hurt white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants or are you pandering to the divisive, conservative, Tea Bagger types whose votes you will need in 2012? The true beneficiaries of affirmative action programs are white, Anglo-Saxon women…overwhelmingly. If a white, republican, ultra-right winger, or Rush, Beck or O’Reilly had written or spoken it, the world would have known about it. But, you have written it and it did not go unnoticed but it did not garner the attention that it should have. After the race baiting of the past week concerning the U.S.D.A. and the right-wing blogger who doctored the tape and the statistics that show the African (Black) community’s suffering disproportionately during this economic depression, one would think that you would have more sensitivity than to pen that science fiction. Have you advocated for the funding for the long overdue settlement for the Black farmers? John Boyd and the farmers need some help.
You have given cover & solace to those “who want to take their country back (from whom?), who want to reload not regroup, who think it is ok to spit on and use racial epithets against African members of the House of Representatives. Senator Webb, we need to meet to discuss your philosophy and other relevant issues like: bailouts for the rich and sellouts for taxpayers, the unethical profits of the oil companies at the expense of citizens, the Iraq & Afghanistan wars that are killing our soldiers and the economy, the outsourcing of jobs to India, China & Brazil at the expense of U.S. workers and a plethora of other life and death issues that you could have championed in the Wall Street Journal. Oh, did I forget…JOBS, JOBS, and more JOBS for the citizens of this country!
Does your colleague, Junior Senator Mark Warner concur with your belief? We will ask him as well. Well, fellow member of the NAACP, we look forward to your timely response and we can’t wait to meet you!
King Salim Khalfani
CC: Senator Mark Warner