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`Getting In' Is No Gain for Blacks

By Jonathan E. Morgan

IN a very stupid, but honest public statement, Hal Thompson, owner and founder of the Shoal Creek Country Club, recently told a reporter, "This country club is our home and we pick and choose who we want."

Thompson soon learned the economic consequences of his statement. Within days, Fortune 500 sponsors started pulling out of the ABC broadcast of the Professional Golfers' Association tournament scheduled to be held at Shoal Creek. Assuming that this was a legitimate gripe, the corporate response was encouragingly quick, and straight from the wallet--as it should have been.

But why assume that it was legitimate? It's difficult for me to be angry with Thompson when I consider the simple truth involved in what he said: Because the club is like his home, he is allowed to pick and choose who he wants to visit.

In light of the recent controversy, Thompson now says he was misquoted. But what if he was not? The corporate response can be deemed appropriate only if Thompson is truly a bigot.

What's disappointing is the response of the non-coporate world. Electronic mind-candy moderators like Ted Koppel started reporting PGA's "dark secret" of playing golf games in all-white clubs. They interviewed self-appointed spokespeople for Blacks who acted as if there were scores of Black golf players waiting to pay for membership to these clubs.

Many of those interviewed were talking about the old days, claiming "nothing has changed" since the days before the Civil Rights movement. Among the things they demanded was a new commitment to affirmative action.

Shoal Creek's management knew they would have to do something to settle this controversy. And what was the easy answer? They would have to find a Black millionaire, of course. But one that would spend $35,000 of his hard-earned money to be in the company of alleged bigots? That, I thought, would be impossible.

Birmingham's mayor said a businessperson named Louis Willie was named as an honorary member. Louis Willie has said he hasn't played golf in 20 years. The club even waived the fee and promised that other Blacks could become regular members if they met Shoal Creek's "normal membership requirements."

The response was typical. After Willie was chosen by the color of his skin, all was apparently forgiven. "We've got our Black," they seemed to say. Self-appointed Black leaders called for all to be forgotten. You may argue that color was a factor in the admission of white members too. But this is a very exclusive club. It is not open to all whites. Not even all whites with $35,000.

MANY minorities have become hypersensitive to statements that may or may not have been rooted in racism, and have consequently become dependent upon the acceptance of others. As such, many tend to judge their own worth by the opinons of people like the folks at Shoal Creek.

Affirmative action usually serves only as an additional boost to America's already upwardly-mobile, and doesn't really help the poor. Most who are familiar with welfare-state politics or inner city ghettoes will agree with this assessment.

Affirmative action substitutes merit for mercy and assumes that equal individual opportunity will produce equal group results. It is a paternalistic, insulting, omnipresent policy that makes any achievement by a minority questionable, at times laughable.

Proponents of affirmative action probably mean well. They are convinced that affirmative action is meant to benefit the poor. But the very same people who are proponents of affirmative action have lead Blacks full circle, back to the beginning, when color is all too often the deciding factor.

If minorities are going to get ahead they will have to be willing to do it alone, and without searching for approval from organizations such as the Shoal Creek Country Club.

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