Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Opportunity Knocks.

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...
Pastor Lance


Eric said...


I am just seeing this. I think we need to talk about the million dollar slaves from this perspective -- at least to generate discussion. I will try to remember later today to link to your post.

Good thinking as usual.


AndyHigg said...

Three points:

1) The issue of affirmative action, in my opinion, revolves around the issue of trying to reset the effects of discrimination in the public school system (be it unequal distribution of wealth, good teachers, whatever)...but does one form of discrimination (or selectivity) really balance out another?

2) I'd like to also endorse Eric's statement: have we culturally indoctrinated the races to certain professions (asians make good engineers or scientists, whites good businessmen, etc.) (By the way, are you Eric Redmond, newly elected SBC second vice president...if so, hello from a fellow Southern Baptist!)

3) The role of the church, is my opinion, needs to be that of watchman, standing in the gap, and second-tier (behind the family) educator. Too long we have allowed the government to take on responsibilities to the community that are our burden to bear!

Pastor Lance said...

hey brothers thanks for chiming in.

i brought up this story to highlight the inconsistencies re: how our society grants opportunity. what's interesting to me is that no matter what one's position on affirmative action is, few if any even wonder why 'student' athletes who would never qualify for certain schools on academic merit get a free ride even when the school knows they have little or no intention of completing their education.

I suppose I just want to know why are all bets off when it comes to basketball and football? Why is it fair for Greg Odem to be admitted to Ohio State even though he probably didn't have the academic qualifications nor any intention of staying but unfair for a less athletically talented black student to attend?


AndyHigg said...

The idealist in me says the university, out of the goodness of their academic heart, thinks that some education is better than none...but the realist is me thinks they don't care about the academics as long as they win or get alumni dollars! One look at the athletic vs. educational budget of any Div I school will show where the allegiances and preferences really lie...sometimes I wonder if it is the smart kids with no co-ordination that are given the allowances!