By Rosetta Miller Perry
It has been clear from his first day in office that Donald Trump’s primary agenda was to undo all the progress that was made during Barack Obama’s two presidential terms. The latest example of that occurred at the end of July with the announcement that the Trump administration’s latest move would be rescinding the affirmative action policies that were among the cornerstones of President Obama’s tenure.
These policies encouraged colleges and universities to consider race during their admissions decisions. They were NOT quotas or set-asides, no matter how much right-wing commentators claimed they were. Instead, they were a recognition that in order to attain even a reasonable degree of diversity within higher education it was going to be necessary for race to be among the factors in evaluating admission possibilities.
It should be noted that the Obama administration never tried to tell colleges and universities who to admit, or in what percentage. But it did push for them to recognize both the historical barriers that had previously denied so many Blacks and people of color access to higher education, and also to try and do something tangible about it without negatively affecting others.
That subtlety was evidently lost on Trump, whose actions continue to show at best hostility toward Black advancement, and at worse straight racist attitudes. Now he’s planning to roll back all those polices, announcing that his administration won’t encourage colleges and universities to consider race. While President Obama’s prior mandate carried no legal stipulation, the weight of a Presidential request is always influential.
Now colleges and universities can feel free to return to discriminatory policies, though they obviously won’t publicize this action. But just as it was apparent over the past eight years that more efforts were being made to recruit Blacks at top universities, you can pretty much be assured now you’ll see fewer attempts made in that area, and likewise the numbers will drop in every area except sports. Top-caliber Black athletes are still needed to keep pumping millions into the handful of colleges who participate in bigtime football and basketball.
No area will be more critically affected than medical care, something one of the nation’s top medical educators has already noted. Meharry Medical College’s president Dr. James Hildreth addressed this on August 30. “The bottom line will be that there will be fewer minorities enrolling in medical school,” Hildreth said. “The overall impact for the nation is, well, the data is very clear – a diverse workforce in healthcare results in better outcomes, especially for disadvantaged persons.”
This will only make a bad situation worse. Statistics in almost every major area show disproportionate numbers of Blacks with higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, various types of cancer, and in just worse overall medical condition than their white counterparts. Dr. Hildreth added there’s already been a national shortage of both Black doctors and med students for decades. The few Black doctors who are in practice tend to open clinics in Black neighborhoods that otherwise would be lacking facilities and treatment options. This Trump policy shift will do nothing except add to the problems, with even fewer med students, less Black doctors, and continuing scarcities of clinics and medical treatment in neighborhoods that sorely need it,
Contrary to the nonsense uttered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who called the previous Affirmative Action policies “unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper,” they were very much in keeping with a desire for a more just and equitable society. Fortunately, a number of Ivy League schools, most notably Harvard and Yale, have already made public their decision to retain their current Affirmative Action policies.
Still, that doesn’t mean other schools won’t return to the bad old days. According to a 2015 Association of American Medical Colleges study. Black applicants were not only being accepted to med schools at a lower rate that whites, Latinos or Asians, they constituted just six percent of the graduates. A National Public Radio analysis of this study showed that the number of Black male applicants and those subsequently enrolling in med school was at a lower rate now than in 1978.
The number of Black medical students nationwide totaled 6,100 last school year, according to the Association. Three schools were responsible for more than 15 percent of that group: Meharry, Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Morehouse’s School of Medicine in Atlanta.
That remaining 85 percent was scattered across the country, but usually restricted to only a few dozen Black students at a host of universities and colleges. Other academic studies revealed that in many cases minority doctors also opened clinics in either rural or low-income areas. Most importantly. Black patients preferred to seek out doctors of their own race for treatment.
Given the historically documented pattern of medical abuses like the infamous Tuskegee study and the general reluctance in Black communities to get necessary treatment until things reach emergency status, nothing is worse for these neighborhoods than to have the number of Black doctors being reduced. These communities will be the first and worse affected by this action.
“We are starting at a place where the numbers could already be vastly improved,” Dr. Hildreth concluded. “So any rollback that results in limiting the number of minorities that can be trained in a pre-med curriculum is just going to further exacerbate a situation that is already critical.”
Of course the callous Trump administration and his equally disgusting attorney general don’t care about that reality. Once again the necessity for Black voters to turn out in full force and support candidates opposed to this mean spirited, racist administration has been vividly demonstrated. Here’s a man who doesn’t even care that people already suffering the impact of less access to high level medical care will be hurt even more by his policies.
But then that’s what should be expected from someone who equates Neo-Nazis and Civil Rights demonstrators, and claims Aretha Franklin was “working for him.”