Big Government isn’t so bad: How The Federal Government and the democratic party has served to help minorities in higher education

By Guest Blogger Jamel Love, currently a McNair Scholar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) who will be attending Rutgers University for a PhD in Political Science

Often you will hear the members of the political right argue against Big Government. Our rights will be in danger, our civil liberties, and the very core values for which our nation was founded on are in jeopardy as we increase the scope and power of the federal government. Those on the political right will call for smaller government, for a government of the people. Big government isn’t so bad however, and in fact, it’s largely been responsible for the progression and advancement of minorities in the social realm, particularly with respect to education. As we prepare to elect a new President in the upcoming election once again we cast our votes for the proverbial leader of the free world. And if you favor the immense support the federal government has provided for minority groups, then the Democratic ticket may be your best choice. Yes, we have big government to thank for special purpose social programs that have helped minority groups to slowly break free from the clutches of systemic and generational oppression. Emanating out of the war on poverty came the Economic Opportunity act of 1964, and The Higher Education act of 1965, created by the ever so assertive Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, the HEA of 1965 is arguably the most instrumental and transformative policy created by the federal government with respect to education policy, period. The act created several key programs, most prominently, Federal Financial Aid and Federal Trio Programs such as Upward Bound Program, and the Ronald E. McNair Baccalaureate program. Policies like these that arose out of the Civil Rights movement are the bread and butter of conservative banter and rhetoric because they provide support for minorities who often belong to low income, non-nuclear families. They argue that these programs are reverse racist, they are handouts that minority groups don’t need, and that without them, minority groups would actually learn to get up off of their lazy butts and work hard for the American dream. Go figure.

The republican ideology places the utmost importance on limited government. But do we really want a true limited government?  Such a government would likely mean that the HEA act of 1965 doesn’t happen and it also means Financial Aid is likely never created. Millions of middle-class and low-income minorities would never be able to attend college and break barriers of racism and discrimination. What’s wrong with this idea of limited government is that it means the role of protecting societies most vulnerable groups become responsibilities of the individual states. And if Arkansas and the entire Brown v. Board fiasco is any indication of how reliable states are in protecting minority groups, then we might have very likely faced more intense racism than we deal with currently. Federal programs help those who don’t have a fair shot and, generational wealth is a ridiculously accurate predictor of future success. The more wealth one is born into, the more likely they are to succeed at life. As New York Times columnist Matt’ O Brien puts it, “Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong”. The odds are stacked against minority children before they ever come out the womb. Being born into wealth means more than just greater access to higher quality schools, it also means that the child’s formative developmental potential is maximized. Affluent parents speak to their children three times as often as non-affluent parents do, an activity, which is crucial to the cognitive development of a child. Because minority kids simply don’t have a fair shot, it’s paramount that the Federal Government step in and even if modestly, augment the negative effects that years of discrimination and marginalization has had on our nations economic and social conditions.

While we have seen progressive success in getting minority children to graduate from high school and enter into college, continued technological and professional advancements of society have made it increasingly necessary that we earn higher degrees in order to be competitive in a global market. As such, it’s particularly important that we see to it that minorities are not only graduating with Bachelor’s degrees, but also more advanced degrees. Programs like the Ronald E. McNair Baccalaureate program; with the goal of increasing attainment of PhD degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society have been invaluable in helping to accomplish this very goal. Since 1989, the McNair program has contributed to over 1,500 recipients of Ph.D’s or other Professional Degrees. The Ronald E. McNair Program serves as a catalyst for success for so many minority students, who would be ill prepared otherwise for success without the guidance of such programs. As a participant in the program myself, I can personally attest to the incalculable level of support and mentorship I’ve received, all of which have contributed to not only my own success but so many of my peers as well. Yes, I have been a recipient of social program created by a liberal administration. Opponents of big government are opponents of diversity, they are opponents of justice, and they are opponents of rectifying the ills created in a nation with a volatile and rather infamous history. If we are to truly become the nation who shall be the guiding light for other countries to follow, we must make the dissolution of inequality our primary solution

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One thought on “Big Government isn’t so bad: How The Federal Government and the democratic party has served to help minorities in higher education”

  1. Thanks for the good read. Indeed a lot has been/is being done – despite challenges – to create more opportunities for racialized minorities. However, I don’t think you’ve not made a persuasive connection between this and the size of the government. Was Lyndon B. Johnson’s, for example, a ‘big government?’ or can his legacy be attributed to the same (I’m not in the ‘get government out of our business’ camp).
    Twitter: @JamesAlanOLOO

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