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Jackson broke racial barriers

Dead or alive, Michael Jackson will always be haunted by detail-oriented media.

From the intrusive tours of his Neverland Ranch and persistent rehashing of drug-abuse allegations to the over-analysis of his last rehearsal and will, the media have degraded Jackson’s life by depicting it as a sorry string of unfortunate events.

Claiming to lament a tragic loss has done little to commemorate Jackson for what is perhaps his greatest accomplishment: blurring racial lines.

Jackson’s death is both untimely and timely, occurring at a time when it seems that race has never been less of a barrier to success in America. President Barack Obama made it to office as the first president of mixed race, making equality seem more of a reality than a dream and suggesting that most Americans thought race was an unimportant factor in his election.

Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey is listed as the 47th most powerful person in the world in Newsweek.

And only Jackson himself can be credited as the creator of the single most successful album ever made. Thriller sold more than 109 million copies, twice as many as the next most popular album.

Undoubtedly, part of the universality of Jackson’s appeal may come from his dimorphic physical appearance. His transition from a person of color to someone colorless, though probably not something to emulate literally, serves as a reminder that greatness doesn’t depend on how you look but what you do.

Given this reminder, I think Jackson would approve of the recent Supreme Court ruling that put a stop to reverse discrimination.

The court determined that New Haven, Conn., was wrong in dismissing the test results of firefighters seeking promotion because no African American had passed the test and city officials said they feared a lawsuit, according to The Washington Post.

The court made it clear that people should be given promotions based on merit, not race. Ironically, reverse racism often occurs from a deep fear of perpetuating racism against minorities.

But is it really fair to discriminate against qualified individuals in the hope that minorities will be more successful as a result?

Dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that oral and written tests are unfair in comparison to those that actually assess firefighters in workplace situations.

Written exams may indeed be vestigial remains of a system that worked years ago, and perhaps these occupations should use more practical methods of assessment.

However, in some ways this type of exam would be even more liable to litigation because it would naturally be more subjective.

UCLA itself has been accused of discriminating in favor of minorities.

In 1996, California passed Proposition 209, barring all UCs from using race as a factor in admissions.

But last year, political science professor Tim Groseclose resigned because he thought UCLA was using race as a factor in admissions in the new holistic approach adopted
in 2006.

Affirmative action and quotas are the wrong way to go about erasing an ugly history, particularly given the fact that there are many minority students who have more privileges than their non-minority counterparts. For them, affirmative action may not just be unnecessary but downright insulting.

Economic status can and should still be used in the admissions process, which makes sense because of the obvious circumstantial disparity between a wealthy 4.0 student and a poverty-stricken 3.5 one.

The race of the 4.0 student doesn’t matter.

So for how long will we try to eliminate racism with reverse racism?

You can never make everyone happy, but at least we can try to move toward a more united society that looks less at race and more at personal merit.

As Jackson once sang, “If you’re thinking of being my brother, it don’t matter if you’re black or white.”

Avni Nijhawan is a student at UCLA.