Mobilizing for Affirmative Action
"Though many people of color have been critical of affirmative action because in many cases it has not benefited the poor as much as it has helped the middle class, affirmative action must be defended. To date, affirmative action constitutes the most meaningful and effective means devised by government for delivering the promise of equal opportunity. Without a policy that holds universities and employers accountable for who they admit the pledge to not discriminate is meaningless, and there is little doubt that most organizations would drift back to being mostly white. As a consequence of affirmative action, white women and people of color have gained access to higher education and professional jobs in such significant numbers that over the last twenty years there has been a dramatic rise in income for a growing number of individuals from these groups. Unfortunately, too many of those who have benefited most from affirmative action fail to recognize its connection to the struggle against racism in the United States."
"Clearly, a mass movement will be necessary to counter not only the attacks on affirmative action, but the broader offensive directed at poor and working class people generally. Since the 1994 elections, right-wing Republicans have been moving with great speed to enact their reactionary contract on America. The shut down of the federal government is just an indication of how determined they are to see their vision for this country realized. So far, Clinton and his allies in the Democratic party have proven to be no match for Newt Gingrich and his gang, both because they agree with parts of that agenda (as demonstrated by Clinton's support for NAFTA and his administration's unwillingness to raise the minimum wage) and because they lack the conviction to meet the challenge forcefully." -- Dr. Pedro Noguera (Published in In Motion Magazine February 10, 1996)
Dr. Pedro Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. In 1996 while he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley he published an article named "Defending Affirmative Action, A Popular Movement for Social Justice". While reading this article I couldn't believe I was reading something that was 16 years old. The points made by Dr. Noguera are exactly what we need to hear and do today.
The debate about Affirmation Action is gaining momentum again. On October 10th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. in Oklahoma, voters decided to ban any form of affirmative action in college admissions, public hiring or awarding of government contracts by 59 percent to 41 percent margin. On Thursday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled, 8 to 7, that Michigan’s voter-approved 2006 ban on affirmative action was unconstitutional. We need to follow Dr. Noguera's guidance and support a mass movement to counter the attacks on affirmative action.
One organization holding the banner high is BAMN (http://www.bamn.com). On their website they state:
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) is building the new civil rights movement. We are a primarily student- and youth-based organization of leaders in our schools and communities, committed to making real the promises of American democracy and equality.
I encourage you to visit their website and support them in whatever manner you can.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.