Tuesday, July 10, 2007
At 13 Michael Gilchrist is fairly assured that for the most part he will have his pick of colleges. In about four years the University of Michigan, Stanford, USC, the University of North Carolina, Duke, Villanova, Syracuse and others will be vying for his services. Mr. Gilchrist enters his freshman year of as one the top 4 or 5 high school basketball players in the country. Some are already projecting him as a top NBA pick and except for the new rules barring high school students from jumping straight to the pros he might be one of the few who could actually go straight from high school to the big time. Thankfully for Michael his parents appear to have him well grounded and if all goes as hoped he will have a sparkling high school career, spend a year or even two at a top college before going to the NBA and signing a multi-million dollar contract.
Unlike most African-American high school freshman Michael Gilchrist won’t have to worry about whether top schools will be interested in him, how he’ll pay for college or if he’ll be accepted with sub-par grades and SAT scores. In fact, if history is any judge Michael will be accepted by the school of his choice even though that institution of higher learning is fully aware that he may have every intention of leaving after a year or two. Many of you know that the top two draft picks of this year’s NBA draft spent just one year in college. (in fact of the top 12 American raised players only 1 completed a four year college career) Now I don’t begrudge the young man. He’s been blessed with exceptional athletic talent at a time when the NCAA generates millions of dollars from the skills of young black men like himself.
Though we often speak of the issues of diversity, integration and affirmative action I wonder if the real matter is one of opportunity. In other words who gets access to opportunity and how do they get it? Those who support affirmative action believe it will grant opportunities to those who would ordinarily not have access to them. Those who oppose it believe that affirmative action is a form of racial discrimination and is therefore morally wrong. For my part I struggle with the issue. I know that the vast, vast majority of black high school freshmen won’t receive the attention or opportunities that Michael Gilchrist will. At the same time I don’t think anyone should be denied an opportunity on the basis of ethnicity. And yet absent of superior athletic talent it seems that most black high school freshmen will have a difficult pathway toward college.
Once more I have to ask the question: where does the church fit in? Is the end of affirmative action a time for evangelicals to notch a victory in the culture wars or an opportunity to demonstrate God’s compassion for His creation? What could happen if the black expression of God’s church worked along with the white, Asian and Hispanic expressions of the church to show the same kind of interest in minority high school freshmen as the Big East, SEC and Big Ten will show in Michael Gilchrist? What might happen if we went beyond holding joint worship services and actually began to work toward maximizing the opportunity for every minority high school freshmen who had a desire to attend college? What if the church demonstrated that we were as much or even more interested in seeing minority youth get opportunity as we are seeing the end of affirmative action?
To Him Who Loves Us...