With the Super Bowl complete, I have been impressed with the lack of conversations regarding Mike Tomlin’s race. In many ways, I am not surprised now that black American head coaches have represented a total of five teams in the Super Bowl over the past four years. Of course, Tomlin coached two of those teams. As an ardent defender and supporter of affirmative action, I am amazed at how many people fail to realize that Tomlin is a product of such a system. Tomlin, though clearly qualified, was granted a “chance” to be a coach thanks to the Rooney Rule — a policy similar to that of affirmative action.
It was President Lydon B. Johnson that instituted affirmative action legislation via an Executive Order to cut back on discrimination. Much of this policy was aimed to provide opportunities for both women and minority populations. It should not come as a surprise that those who oppose affirmative action the most…are those that will power. And hence, seek to protect such power. Liberal defenders of affirmative action have long noted that white heterosexual males are the greatest critics of affirmative action programs. Many, who are self-described conservative Republicans, find that any type of programs engineered by the federal government, works against the will of the people. That will, of course, notes that state and local governments should make such decisions; yet, it was in part implemented to limit the degree of discrimination at the state level. Conservative Christians operate off a notion of color-blindness. Some will tell you that Jesus Christ does not see race, thus nor should American society. But in the end, it seems almost racist to deny that different races exist, and that one’s race can and does depict his/her plight. Christ, of course, often noted the plight of both Jews and Gentiles.
While various different groups argue that affirmative action is reverse discrimination, liberal advocates believe that it promotes a more egalitarian society. Tomlin is a great example. The National Football League, for a long period of time, had been the target of racists arguments (i.e., being accused). Organizations such as the NAACP pointed to the fact that black players were a dominant reason for the success of the NFL, but blacks could not be found in key front office positions or as head coaches. Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chair of the NFL’s diversity committee, enacted the Rooney Rule. This rule states that all NLF teams must interview at least one minority candidate when a vacancy is available. Unfortunately, many teams do not adhere to this policy. Dan Rooney clearly made a great call with Tomlin. Maybe other institutions will follow the Steelers in actively seeking to promote diversity.It would be nice to see all institutions operate this way. In the end, maybe many institutions would reflect what the world looks like.
But, diversity is not simple. As noted before by Pearl Kane and Alfonso Orsini’s work, The Colors of Excellence:
People of color, be they African-American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.