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Affirmative Action and the Not-So-Color- Blind Society
by Sherri Jackson

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'Mommy, when I grow up I want to be like those people we read about in those books.' — Little Sharon.

'Honey, when you grow up you can be anything with an education, diligence, and perseverance. Your dad and I had different circumstances coming up in the South.' — Mom

Jackson Affirmative Action seems to be a hot topic these days in the media and in talk. Some would like the topic to go away and never resurface. It appears the work of our ancestors may be crumbling with the help and destruction of the Bush Administration.

As a child, every summer I was dragged off to spend time in the South like other African Americans. It was for us to learn history and keep us grounded to the endeavors we would have to face growing up. I am so appreciative of those visits because I have a better understanding of my history as a people—the trials and battles, so we could have a brighter future. I am always in 'auh' when family, friends,and colleagues say they don't see color.

I respect their take that we truly desire everyone in this society to be treated equally and fairly. But, the truth of the matter is, we are not. Affirmative action surfaced in the heat of battle in the 1960s amongst those fighting for racial equality.

'Given the history of this country, it is a virtual certainty that without affirmative action, racial and sexual discrimination would return with a vengeance. ... Thus an enforceable race-based and later gender-based affirmative action policy was the best possible compromise ... .' — Cornel West, Race Matters.

Affirmative action is not the most important issue for African-American progress in America. But, it is one that must not be forgotten if we are to continue in progress for future generations of color. And women. The Bush Administration weighed in on the cases, taking the position that the Michigan programs are unconstitutional because there is no showing that diversity could not be achieved through a 'race neutral alternative.' The same selected shrub, who, if some did not know, got into the those elitist universities based on 'legacy points' thanks to his dad. This is a form of affirmative action, but one for the wealthy and privileged.

Diversity used to be a key word of practice and discussion. Now we are seeing more signs of nepotism take place in corporate, LBGT communities, and society. It's sad that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the critical issue of weather 'race' should be considered a factor in the admissions process. If we look at what happened in California and Texas universities, changing policies in regards to race did not balance or help those given special treatment or so-called set asides prior. It closed the doors more. Universities across the U.S. have lower enrollment for folks of color. We must ask ourselves, why is this? Do we blame ourselves as African-Americans for some getting too comfortable? Do we blame all Europeans? On April 25, 2003, 1,000 demonstrated at the U.S. Supreme Court—for many it was an echo of the '60s.

In the midst of the fight on terrorism, our young people are out in numbers fighting for the causes that may send us back 40 years— some say 400 years! In the '60s it was college students, activists, and the youth. History always seems to repeat itself. Some stated 'Racial preferences should be replaced with the preferences for anyone disadvantaged, Black or white.' But for those of us watching the media closely and pausing to the silent undertones, the Supreme Court ignored the University of Michigan's racism! The University of Michigan has not always been progressive—it has a long history of racial discrimination that continues to this day. But, I am proud to say, yes, I know African-Americans who are graduates of the University of Michigan. I would like to think it was not just their race that got them in, but what is in their heads—the knowledge and skills they possess!

Kweisi Mfume, President & CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, 'The Supreme Court has ruled that race, among other factors in college admissions is constitutional. Academic research has proven that race-conscious admissions are the most effective method identified to increase racial diversity in higher education. We all know African Americans have achieved in housing, education, and jobs. But, unfortunately, the faces in corporate still remain very European at the top! This does not take the heat off of my African-American Conservative sisters and brothers. We call them Head Negroes In Charge (H.N I.C.).'

Yes, they exist in the LBGT communities as well. Some of those H.N.I.C. would like to see affirmative action go away also. Affirmative action got the H.N.I.C. in the corporate door and at the board room tables. Most African-Americans are conservative by nature. But, to what do degree will we yell 'High-tech lynching' if the issue of race is dismantled by the Supreme Court? We all know Clarence Thomas yelled that when he too wanted to keep his good government job. The rise of new Black conservatives also has to do with the rise of the economy. Yet the new Black conservatives are unable to convince Black Americans that conservative ideology and the policies of the Reagan and Bush Administration are morally acceptable and politically advantageous.

We shall see how the new Black conservatives feel when the issue of race is no longer part of their make up to get inside the corporate institutions. Why should we care if race is no longer a part of affirmative action? Affirmative action means taking steps to end discrimination, to prevent its recurrence, and to create new opportunities that were previously. The debate over affirmative action will have a great impact on folks of color, women and sexual orientation. Even after these legal obstacles were removed in the 1960s Congress has repeatedly recognized systemic illegal discrimination towards women, people of color and LBGTs. Depending on what the Supreme Court says, they warn the ruling could affect everything from the percentage of minorities in high-level jobs across America, to the future of corporate diversity programs, to the odds that workers will file more lawsuits charging bosses of discrimination.

Sounds like we may be going backwards people! I would suggest for my Hip-Hop folks read Race Matters by Cornel West, Race Rules by Michael Eric Dyson, Up From Slavery: The Autobiography of Booker T. Washington, and go to www.civil .

As long as I am African-American, female, and an out lesbian, we will need affirmative action. As long as we are familiar with folks of color who are graduates of institutions who would not let us in prior to affirmative action, we will need it! As long as we the LBGT communities are divided, we will need affirmative action. As long as institutions remain predominantly European at the top we will need affirmative action. Most of all we need to continue our letters and marches on Washington. One day I truly hope we are judged not on the color of our skin but by our character and gifts we bring to a land that states justice for all.

Stay strong always in the midst of adversity.

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