Here is a two line summation of the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding a voter instigated ban on affirmative action in Michigan State University’s admissions criteria; a two line summation indicative of many of the courts’ rulings recently, including the one scaling back a huge portion of the voting rights act. Allowing republican spearheaded district gerrymandering to continue unchecked, put unnecessary hurdles to rural and black voters where voter registration facilities cause people to have to go miles from their homes, I.D. laws excluding elderly and disabled voters, also likely to be minorities, who do not have driving licenses, the most common form of picture I.D., discontinuing early voting, same day registration and reducing the number of polling places all in an effort to win elections. Actions by the highest court in the land causing analysts, activists, advocacy groups to worry about not only far reaching implications tied to disappearing protections for minorities, previously disenfranchised minorities still disadvantaged today due to attitudes and perceptions over lower grades, test scores, job performance, ability to pay expenses on an apartment, afford a mortgage, but simultaneously asking have these justices forgotten history? Pointing to the equal protection clause which was put into the constitution because of slavery, something affecting a group of people not an individual, as Justice Scalia said relating to affirmative action; the equal protection clause stating, in essence, the majority may rule but cannot place rules, laws into effect purposefully hurting the minority. Conversely proponents saying the ban is something the Supreme Court got right calling it everything from a throwback to the past, to a useless crutch to blacks, in particular, that hasn’t worked for 50 years needing to be discontinued, see this as a step toward fairness. Meaning college students will be admitted to higher education institutions based on their achievements in grades, standardized tests used across the board and what they have in personality, skill, hobbies, experiences to offer a campus, not their skin color, ethnicity, heritage, wondering why liberals are against true equality. Yet frankly looking around America today, seeing news headlines just days after the ruling became public, implying we no longer need affirmative action is the social equivalent of saying we no longer need traffic lights for safety.
This ruling almost irrefutable proof positive agreeing justices are living in a post-racial mythology daydream predicated on the notion, because we have a black president, a black man occupying the highest office, we have surpassed all our racial issues. They are crafting decisions based on the color blind world we wish we had rather than the more subtly racially charged one we actually live in. Thoughts echoed throughout JusticeSotomayor’s58 page dissenting opinion admonishing her fellow justices, American society at large to confront racism instead of ignoring it. Though, even the post-race mythology doesn’t track; if we truly were beyond race, where sitting members of the Supreme Court seem to think we are delving into the topic labeled race, there would not have been political posters in 2008 depicting candidate Obama as monkey, a terrorist, painting president Obama, 2009 to present, as Hitler. A member of the House of Representatives wouldn’t be able to say things were better in times of slavery, citing the numbers on two parent homes, and still hold a seat, reelected in 2012, there would not have been thousands signing, turned out to be, purely symbolic petitions to secede from the union, the United States upon this black man’s reelection by popular vote. Now there are those who will say the court came to the conclusion it did because this was a college, educational institutions using several other admission screening processes, so they can easily stop using race and still admit deserving minorities. College institutions plagued by cheating scandals surrounding black, minority athletes with astoundingly low reading levels, shuttled into African American studies to be able to pass and therefore, be/remain eligible to play, not required to show up for class just submit a term paper. On such exam went viral; its entirety a paragraph sans any grammatical structure, potentially plagiarized, raising huge questions about the value in college sports programs, leaning toward the concept they were presenting a backdoor referendum on that. A probable added factor, whatever thought process used, location; members are hearing a case from Michigan not Mississippi, an obviously northern state not known for its race issues outside urban blight, viewed as a separate problem, whether it really is or not. Nor is it necessarily accurate to claim racial dynamics, attitudes haven’t changed in Michigan, in northern regions nationwide securitizing voter suppression laws, who, and in what states, have gone ahead with tough new voter I.D. laws, voting restrictions since their voting rights determination just last year, Michigan among those states, Wisconsin. Who could forget the Maine RNC chairman for 2012 shocked at the number of black voters arriving on election day, implications of voter fraud because citizens came out to exercise their right to vote. Others dissecting Justice Anthony Kennedy’s written majority opinion were quick to use his quote emphasizing they made no declaration on affirmative action itself, rather who can make decisions about it, and who better than the voters to make that choice? Conveniently unmentioned, slavery, segregation, bans on same sex marriage, how far they are extrapolated, crimes against nature laws and who they actually arrest, target, proposals for businesses to be legally able to refuse service to customers on religious grounds were also a choice; all save one legal at strategic points in our history. But we no longer need affirmative action to ensure equality, fairness, the ability of any minority to walk into a business and receive service, apply for social services, apply to a school and receive adequate treatment and consideration, uh-huh.
Our court is using highly dangerous language experts argue, less in terms of just where voters might take it, but in undermining their own sovereignty as the highest court in the land, the final arbiter on profound litigation issues; showing unprecedented deference to states’ rights, states’ rights particularly over the minorities they are mandated to protect. Especially important when you, or better yet the court, understand states’ rights is an old code phrase for racism, whites against blacks, at minimum always pitting one side of an argument, namely the more powerful side against the other, blatantly weaker one. Where affirmative action and similar determinations might lead is no laughing matter, no situation to be taken lightly either; should we let voters decide everything absent remaining legislative, legal structures, it could yield disastrous results. Already Colorado is being nervously watched after legalizing recreational marijuana; Fox News, personalities like SeanHannity repeatedly run segments about how said legalization will affect society, new challenges for parents, educators there to get kids, young people to function their best without a drug, on top of handling feared increased driving under the influence cases, overdose instances tied to edible, other non-conventional marijuana products. Neither do we need to suddenly abolish the Supreme Court, call it a rouge court and delegitimize it a-la what Newt Gingrich said he would do if elected president, what he believes needs to happen to restore America to its constitutional roots. Views often shared by conservative ideologues who don’t hesitate to take their cases to the same court asking, what happens if voters up and decide to legalize prostitution, illicit drugs, what conservative, religious minded people fear collectively as one, isn’t it? What happens if voters choose to restore abortion rights, abortion clinic parameters to their former state; that is why we keep seeing entities like Hobby Lobby, religious founded businesses butting heads with Obamacare isn’t it, our national ruination veiled in providing women birth control, daring to see sexual assault victims get emergency contraceptives? Bigger question, more to the point on what we are talking about here, what happens if people, predominately in the south, decide according to popular, majority vote they want to return to segregation; a legitimate concern noting victorious oppositions to affirmative action in Seattle and Louisville k-12 schools respectively, referenced above by the MSNBC panel. Result translating into re-segregating schools in both cities, a domino effect sweeping nationwide, staring, no surprise here, in the south; as if income disparities, economic forces similarly across the nation hadn’t done enough to bring about said eventuality. What about affirmative action’s adjacent, sister legislation in the fair housing acts and initiatives; because, everyone knows where this is going. Yesterday they disallowed affirmative action in public schools, today they wanted and received its removal from higher education, tomorrow they will demand and potentially receive its extraction from housing and hiring practices; it will no longer be against the law to deny housing, a job, decent paying job to persons based on race, creed, ethnicity. Next it will be sex, age, gender identity and don’t leave out, for all the homophobes, sexual orientation. Why stop there, we stand a nation more divided than ever before, why not let states secede, establish their own mini countries, print their own money, make their own laws; suddenly rape is legal here, murder over there, don’t go to this territory unless you want to be subject to biblical law, jail sentences for lying about your age, fines for immodest clothing, mandatory church attendance. The last may seem a stretch now yet only time will truly tell. We need a court that is up to date, is watching the same news as the rest of us, seeing the same trends; obviously in judicial appointments age is synonymous with experience, expertise, wisdom, yet perhaps slightly younger justices who had to experience racial the negativity that still exists might not go amiss. Bottom line, we need a better supreme court that understands the ‘but affirmative action is from a bygone, antebellum era’ excuse isn’t going to cut it. Because, no matter your views on affirmative action, how it is used, everyone except a select few bad apples can see slavery was, is and always will be wrong. Segregation was, is and always will be wrong; excluding people from housing, jobs based on the color of their skin, their ethnicity their cultural origin is wrong. And going back to that is more than a step in the wrong direction; it is morally irreprehensible.
Another part of the problem, our definition/characterization describing affirmative action; people trying to understand it, how it is implemented are greeted with explanations that nearly always include the words preferential treatment, special preference given to minorities in several areas based on race, ethnicity. Usually we stop there applying it only to black people even though Latinos and Arabs/Muslims could be easily included today and Asians have been in the past. Regardless of gender, disability, age, being categories considered under affirmative action post the women’s movement, post campaigns to rid the workforce of its older workers, all are seen now as an unfair advantage, most commonly applied to it’s dealing with race alone. People perceiving it a type of reverse racism discriminating against whites, taking lesser capable, lesser qualified minorities over Caucasians with better test scores, grades, degrees, job experience. Feelings mirrored via one mother commenting on the affirmative action decision saying she was all for it until her son was not admitted to his state school over one or more minorities with lower grades worst test scores. Putting aside there are a whole host of seemingly arbitrary reasons, rationales for accepting one while denying someone else, no one has thought to seriously question college admissions formatting until very, very recently. Students refusing to participate in standardized testing, going farther than their public, private, charter school’s yearly, high school, achievement tests tied to government funding; reaching all the way to shunning traditional college entrance exams the ACT/SAT, choosing colleges, universities, trade schools that do not require those exams for admittance. One university following suit disbanding the use of both tests as admission criteria to some surprising outcomes, increased diversity, graduation rate, a marked decrease in drop outs. And maybe that, preferential treatment, was true to form, what legislators intended in the 1960’s, envisioned as a way to correct disparities in a more readily hostile environment to minority advancement than today. However, the reality is under current practical application affirmative action keeps colleges, employers, public schools where it still exists, looking at the diversity in their applicant pool, student body, paying attention. Instead of seeing a name like Sotomayor, Perez, Vasquez, the first name on an application, by virtue of its uniqueness presumed an African American, struggling to pronounce the name then tossing the application aside, providing an ever thinning layer of protection against discrimination. Phenomenon continuing in urban areas when people with corn rows, dreadlocks try to apply to basic jobs in minimum wage, who live “there” and apply for employment, attempt to be productive. It keeps landlords, housing managers, realtors, neighborhood associations from saying I don’t want Hispanics here and all their kids, I don’t want African American’s here, all their ghetto ways, I don’t want to rent to a potential terrorist, based less on news stories about sleeper cells, and more on discomfort looking at their head scarf, turban, refusing to rent to them. Retuning to Justice Kennedy’s remarks, the speculation he was hinting toward smarter, better ways to improve the social, economic, educational opportunities for minorities, certainly that is true, has to be true; still affirmative action is what we have implemented on a national scale. Despite the need for a better system giving opportunities, despite the potential and possibility associated with creating one, it can’t turn out like the Obamacare website rollout, it can’t serve only to confuse people, let more minorities slip through the cracks as we adjust to a new way; we have minority families, individuals who can’t wait that long. Let’s remember too, affirmative action in some form exists in every westernized nation to redress year’s long, systematic, systemic discrimination against native and minority populations; must be doing something right. Again if we were where we thought we were on race, affirmative action wouldn’t be an issue, no one would care, colleges, employers, housing developments, homeowner’s associations would do it voluntarily, automatically; more than to avoid being pegged as racist, rather recognizing the benefits of diversity, a varied talent pool, positives in being able to draw all kinds to your school, your business, your community.
Instead the court’s decision was announced on Monday; by Thursday we had Cliven Bundy, Nevada rancher held up as conservative folk hero for standing up to big government, fighting the seizure of his cattle grazed on government land despite his refusal to pay grazing fees and fines. Mr. Bundy taking his impromptu 15 minutes in the spotlight to for unknown reasons, unrelated to his battle with authorities, talk about his opinions, observations regarding African Americans. Jaw dropping inaccurate statements including, that young women abort their babies, they put their young men in jail, old women, grandmothers and young children by the dozen are sitting on stoops because they have nothing to do, in his mind owing to “they never learned how to pick cotton.” Him wondering if they were better off under slavery, having family lives and “doing things” or under government subsidy; forget people today do not pick cotton, it is not a learned skill because it was mechanized, even in the industrially backward south, circa WWII. Never mind the higher instances encompassing minorities and abortion are directly correlated to everything from genetic disorders to lacking quality healthcare, possessing low wage, no benefits jobs thanks to the proliferation of unsubstantiated claims from the likes of Mr. Bundy, horrifying most. Never mind we put so many black, male, youth in jails because they are the first to be born in urban blight areas every authority from city officials to police have forgotten about, disregarded, rife with gangs, drugs and criminal elements it’s almost impossible to avoid. Born to poor parents because it is still acceptable in some circles to pay minorities less, finding clever ways to do it, because their parents were socially conditioned to be the last given the benefit of the doubt, a chance as far as teachers taking their time, working with a student, trying to inspire them. They are the first ones told to aspire to less because of their race, their neighborhood address, as will their children be. Black youth are the first to be assumed a drug dealer, a thug, a gang member, first to be stopped by police, the first to be expediently charged with a crime whenlackadaisical cops are sure they have their man. First to be assumed a criminal, of low moral character while they simply go about their business directly due to attitudes expressed by Bundy. Confronting the reality surrounding those who are violent, have criminal pasts it is always tied to their racial inferiority, their detachment from the old institutions of slavery, segregation, not how we treat them now in 2014; making young men believe they aren’t supposed to live to 18 and 21 isn’t remotely an option, making the black male body something to fear, no matter what it does or doesn’t do to you. Unclear, specific activates Mr. Bundy thought old women and young children should be doing since the adults are likely retirement age or close to it, perhaps victims of another form of discrimination, age discrimination. And children 6-16 are required to attend some form of compulsory k-12 public, private or home schooling; god forbid we allow children during toddler, preschool years be raised by family members, kind neighbors rather than another government subsidy, conglomerate daycare. To say nothing of it’s cheaper on struggling, often single, mothers. Never mind minorities depend so heavily on government subsides, welfare owing to documented bias they face in the workforce, in obtaining housing, receiving childcare, healthcare, social services but we no longer need affirmative action; sure. By Saturday it was shocking recordings allegedly Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s appalling comments on race, on famous NBA players admonishing his girlfriend not to associate with black people. Subsequently exposing his long history of racism, even trouble with the justice department over possible housing discrimination in properties he also owned, an employment discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of a former players manager, a pattern going back roughly 30 years. But we don’t need affirmative action to contradict such destructive language as these two men use; as they say, have fun pretending the sky is green.
And these are only added to a laundry list of down home, ordinary people suddenly thrust into celebrity using it as a pulpit to throw us 50 years into the past discussing race; Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty was another sad example. Outside wealthy millionaires and billionaires essentially playing by their own rules, outside social outliers with fringe ideas either looking for their 15 minutes of fame, using that 15 minutes to spout their ascribed thoughts on everything from social ills to weather patterns, the negative reality on race, race relations, scaling back statutes like affirmative action, impact surrounding figures such as those above, effect everyday lives. Momentarily side stepping the double digit decline in minority admissions at Michigan State since 2006, when this affirmative action battle began, race neutrality would not produce a frenzy over a Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family, would not have created the incident transpiring at a Richmond VA Burger King. Where the name printed on a customer receipt was b**ch a** h*e; the women clearly African American and her biracial granddaughter. A racially equal environment, mentality would have no room for the infamous Florida Papa John’s pocket dialer caught on voicemail more than lying about his lack of a tip, denigrating African Americans and making up crude songs that repeated the word n***er, n***ers over and over. Shopping while black would be scenarios studied in history and sociology classes delving into the complexities of the recent past, not a catalyst pushing one New York City Macy’s into a public relations nightmare. Sicing police on, not one but two, black customers whose only crime appears to be the color of their skin and their legitimate credit/debit purchase, all stories within the last two years. A color blind society would mean we didn’t see things like Fruitvale Station, a transit cop shooting a black man purportedly reaching for his waistband during the breakup of a rowdy New Year’s Eve celebration in 2009, the litany of people, usually of color, usually African American gunned down by police in cases of mistaken identity, on suspicions of being violent, a drug dealer, gang banger, thug, criminal because of their baggy clothing, their hairstyle, speech pattern or their physical build. A cop in New Mexico wouldn’t have thought of shooting a minivan full of kids whose mother tried to flee the routine traffic stop due to his demeanor, behavior; certainly not because Latino, Mexican, Hispanic, mess of kids = probably an illegal immigrant, on welfare, no speak English. But affirmative action is passé; perhaps Justice Kennedy should try saying that to the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both gunned down by white persons “in fear for their lives” as the two black teens, on completely separate occasions, went about mundane activates, some might say a 21st century lynching.
How do you counteract the Cliven Bundy’s, the Donald Sterling’s, the Phil Robertson’s, more importantly the average American people who flock to their banner, believe what they are saying, ascribe to their views, actually think the socio-economic, cultural difficulties undisputedly facing minorities stem from a disconnection from slavery, segregation, the degrading and dehumanizing of minorities all, by a still white majority. A majority by privilege, influence, opportunity if not solely by the numbers; which is what is truly driving bans against affirmative action, obliterating the voting rights act. Fear, fear white people no longer constitute the majority, no longer independently make the lion’s share of the decisions in this country, that other people are having their voices heard. As a biracial African American I have been extraordinarily lucky not to have had many of the negative racially motivated, racially charged experiences people in their teens, 20’s and 30’s are known to still experience today, make up the experience of their short lifetimes. I was not born in an urban blight area, a large city with mean streets or gangs, rather raised in a lower middle class neighborhood, not a public housing system. I attended a public school where teachers, administrators cared about all their students, not just the white ones, the ones who were well off; teachers inspired me, mentored me, wanted to see me succeed as opposed to writing me off, demeaning me, stereotyping me as someone who is black, “lives there,” comes from a single parent home, why am I not surprised? I was also born female, escaping the male bias in schools, society accentuated by ethnicity; particularly African American ethnicity. I have been extremely fortunate in being told I could achieve instead of being discouraged away from my dreams and goals, let alone because of my race; in fact I have never been told I couldn’t do something because I was black, because I was a woman, nor because of my disability. I don’t want that to change; I want it to extend to everyone, every minority. After all the progress that has been made, breaking into every career field, having educations to aspire to, I don’t want us to go back to allowing white people to refer to grown black men as boy, grown women as girl, for us to regress back to signs reading “whites only.” Relegating women to housekeepers and men to nothing more than janitors, then it’s indentured servitude to pay off debts, a replacement for, expansion to community service, finally culminating in blacks, other minorities slowly becoming little more than pets, what farm animals used to be, kept around to do unpleasant work. No one regardless of race, ethnicity, culture should want to go back to that.