Diversity, equity and Lee Greenwood

Published April 4, 2024

By Cash Michaels

I’m old enough to remember the infamous Bakke case of June 1978, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark 5-4 decision,  severely limited the use of race-conscious affirmative action college admissions policies that greatly helped so many worthy black student applicants. 

Many colleges had adopted such policies as a remedy for past racial discrimination in response to a push from Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, and in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., three years later.

However, the Bakke argument maintained that using racial quotas violated the civil rights of white student applicants, along with their Fourteenth Amendment protections.

Lord knows whatever we do in this country, we’ve got to uphold those constitutional protections, don’t we? Pardon me for being glib, but where the hell was the Constitution when poor but qualified African-American students, like young Marion Hood of Georgia, were beating their brains out making application to predominately-white universities and medical schools, only to be told…

(Editor's note: Our program editor will not allow a copy of the below letter to be displayed. Below is the text from the letter)

                                                                                                 Emory University

                                                                                                    Emory University, Georgia                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

August 5, 1959

Mr. Marion Gerald Hood                                                                                                                                                                                                       607 Pool Road, Apt. #1                                                                                                                                                                                                        Griffin, Georgia

Dear Mr. Hood: 

Acknowledgement is made of your letter of July 30, enclosing your application for admission to our school of medicine.

I am sorry I must write you that we are not authorized to consider for admission a member of the Negro race.

I regret that we cannot help you.

                                                                                                                                                                          Yours very truly,

                                                                                                                                                                           L.L. Clegg (signature)

                                                                                                                                                                          Director of Admissions                                    

It is stunning in this day and age, to see admission rejection letters from the era before Bakke from prominent schools like Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. that blatantly informed worthy black student applicants that “…we are not authorized to consider for admission a member of the Negro race.”

Imagine having Lee Greenwood sing “GOD Bless the U.S.A.” - the right-wing national anthem -  to you while you’re reading this rejection letter from Emory in 1959, not because your grades were bad, not because of some crime you’re accused of allegedly committing,… but because of your racial membership.

According to a June 2021 story by my colleague Ernie Suggs in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Emory University/Medical School finally apologized to now DOCTOR Marion Hood, 83, recently, over six decades later.

Over six decades after Dr. Hood was rejected, forcing him to attend medical school in the midwest at Loyola University in Chicago, later graduating in 1966. Hood then returned to Atlanta in 1974 to become a respected gynecologist and obstetrician, successfully delivering more than 7,000 babies, until he retired in 2008. 

Dr. Marion Hood wasn’t just a credit to “the Negro race,” but the human race. 

 Current Emory University Pres. Gregory L. Fenves said Dr. Hood, “…was rejected for no other reason than the fact that he was black,” and that the letter, “vividly shows the systematic injustice of that time and the legacy that Emory is still reckoning with.”

“Throughout American history and Emory history, Dr. Hood and so many other talented students, were denied access to achieve their dreams to realize their potential,” Fenves added.”

Allow me to add my tremendous regard and respect for Dr. Hood, who would not allow the undeniably shameful racism at Emory to rob him of  his dream of a meaningful career in medicine. But other African-Americans, in the words of Dr. King, were not as fortunate to “overcome.”

During those difficult years before Bakke, there were black employees at various jobs in the private and public sectors who were not allowed to rise to management level positions, even though they had more than the requisite years of service and experience to run their respective departments with their eyes closed if necessary.

But when the boss hired some new white guy, usually a relative, and directed the veteran black employee to “show him the ropes,” only to later give that new white guy the management job never offered to the veteran black employee…well, gee, where’s Lee Greenwood when you need him?

In the many years since Bakke, the High Court has revisited whatever race-consciousness was allowed to remain a factor in college admissions policies as a driver toward desired societal diversity, until June 2023, when affirmative action was virtually gutted by a conservative Supreme Court, and any semblance of race in college admissions was, for all intent and purposes, eliminated.

We were warned after that ruling by our handy-dandy righty-flighty friends that anything that even smacks of perceived racial or gender “special treatment” would be next on the chopping block.

That means any special government/private recruitment policy or program that seeks to ensure that qualified applicants of all colors and ethnicities are fairly considered for employment, grant assistance or scholarships based on their proven skills, achievements or educational backgrounds, were now definitely in danger.

In today’s lingo, we call this endangered public/private policy “DEI,” or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Why does DEI scare conservatives so much that they tightly clutch on to their new Trump “bibles”?

To hear Republicans tell it, DEI is “reverse racism,” which is kind of funny since you have to first admit to being responsible for tolerating any original racism for that to make sense.

“DEI is just another word for racism. Shame on anyone who uses it,” bellows the rich man with the world’s deepest pockets, Elon Musk. “DEI, because it discriminates on the basis of race, gender and many other factors, is not merely immoral, it is also illegal.”

Mind you, here’s a guy who has made millions selling electric cars to anyone with the money to buy one, but doesn’t want to support a policy that gives qualified people of color the opportunity to work for him to even afford such a thing.

Recently, a “billionaire activist investor” seeking to join the Disney Company Board of Directors, criticized the mouse house for making “Black Panther” and “The Marvels” because those films featured predominately black and female casts, and were directed by a black man and a black woman respectively. Apparently, people of color and women have no business being either showcased or employed in major studio productions.

Hey, nutjob, “Black Panther” is the sixth highest grossing movie of all time, and “The Marvels” did over $300 million dollars worldwide for Disney last year.

I assure you, Einstein, that a fair amount of people who looked just like you got over it, and went to see both films.

It was after the tragic police murder of George Floyd in 2020 when corporate America began embracing DEI in reaction, as sort of a way to say, “We feel your pain (because we believe it’s good for our image).” Diversity hirings rose by 29%, according to CNN.

But now, given our rough political climate, those DEI job postings have declined by at least 23 percent since November 2023.

Now, rabid Republicans are on the warpath to completely eradicate DEI, along with “wokeness” and critical race theory. They’re more afraid of those frightful three than they were of COVID. 

So hated is DEI by right-wingers, a Utah Republican gubernatorial candidate, among others, even had the shameful tenacity to blame the tragic Maryland Key Bridge collapse accident on the Black mayor of Baltimore, and the Black commissioner for the Port of Baltimore. 

Apparently the fact that six hardworking Hispanic construction laborers tragically lost their lives as they endeavored in freezing temperatures to earn enough to feed their families under dangerous conditions somehow escaped these conservative hate-mongers.

As of last year, Republican lawmakers in 21 states were attempting to dismantle DEI in whatever form that it existed. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a law dismantling DEI offices on university campuses there. The US House Office of Diversity and Inclusion in Congress is now burnt toast, thanks to the recent spending deal made to stem a federal government shutdown.

 Just this week it was reported that Trump, if he’s frightfully re-elected, is reportedly planning “to retool parts of the executive branch dedicated to fighting racism to instead benefit white Americans and gut programs devoted to addressing centuries of discrimination against Black and brown Americans,” according to Axios.

And here in North Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Board member Jim Blaine went on record saying that eliminating DEI in the UNC System would be on the agenda for the upcoming legislative short session.

Look, the reason why these folks are working so hard to eliminate DEI is simple - they’re afraid of it, for the same reasons why they’re afraid to have America’s true racial history taught in our public schools.

They see acceptance of a policy that implies “you should be practicing the kind of fairness now that you’ve historically refused to practice before” as some sort of indictment for past societal sins.

 I get it.

But just keep your beloved Lee Greenwood records away from me if you’re not smart enough to realize that this country is getting browner every day. There are super-sharp men and women of color who have already earned their way to important positions of leadership in our military, politics, sciences and corporate culture, and more are coming. They’re constantly breaking barriers, and they’re not just African-Americans.

As the proud father of a successful Yale University student who has been a top achiever no matter what school she’s ever attended, I want…no, no, strike that…I DEMAND that this nation cut the culture wars crap, and get itself together to welcome talented, intelligent graduates of color, who truly hold the future of this nation in their hands, hearts and minds.

You can’t stop them. And it’s not 1959, so you can’t send out anymore disgraceful racist rejection letters either. You’ve held the true potential of our nation’s greatness back long enough by looking for more despicable ways to outlaw diversity, equity and inclusion. You’re treating American citizens of color like the enemy, when all they want to do is make good on this country’s yet-to-be-realized promise of prosperity for all who work hard.

It is because of this democracy’s past shameful treatment of those who are different, that we’re in the mess we’re in today. Trust me.

The sooner we fix this, the sooner Lee Greenwood can come sing for me anytime,… instead of for Donald “Buy My Bible” Trump.