A New Day for Affirmative Action?

by Seth Sandronsky

Dissident Voice

June 27, 2003


“Broadcast excellence” on talk radio dripped ill will after the Supreme Court gave a nod to affirmative action in public higher education.  Callers and host carped that the justices had thrown away equal opportunity in favor of diversity.


But one expects to hear only that view on a Clear Channel Communications radio station.  Sadly, another thing was expected, and delivered.


That is white animus towards government intervention for black, brown and red Americans.  It runs deep in 2003.


Against that backdrop, the Federal Communications Commission recently intervened to help corporations such as Clear Channel, which owns over 1,200 radio stations across America, grow even larger.  Michael Powell, FCC chair, led the charge to make big media live larger than it already does.


In the meantime on a Clear Channel station following the affirmative action ruling, one heard that “those people” should be forced to compete like everybody else.  Why can’t “they” play by the rules like others do?


One wonders if these rules include the affirmative action program for locking up black Americans.  They number half of the nation’s incarcerated population of two million.


Yet about every eighth person is black nationwide.  Do the math.


Political circles of power have in the past tapped into white resentment towards affirmative action and nonwhite people generally.  In contrast, President George W. Bush took a decidedly new tack, avoiding race-baiting entirely.


He backed the justices’ ruling.  Presumably, Bush’s stance will help to pave the way for more nonwhite university graduates such as Michael Powell and his father Colin, U.S. secretary of state, to eventually hold leadership positions in the GOP.


High-level blacks such as the Powell can legitimize the Republicans’ policies to critics at home and abroad.  This is a race strategy policy to boost the class power of those who run the U.S., the lone super power now.


Speaking of political policy, U.S. big business lobbied the court to back affirmative action, the Financial Times reported.  Corporate America wanted what one of the paper’s reporters called “positive discrimination.”


As, in turn, did the Supreme Court.  “Student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions,” wrote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for the majority.


Yet the court ruling is significant in part for what it doesn’t address.  I mean the racist structure of the U.S. social system, as author and historian Manning Marable has noted.


Thus the barrio/ghetto/reservation poor will remain excluded from white 

society, the mainstream ebb and flow of commerce.  Regrettably, many white Americans don’t act as if their countrymen with darker skin tones mired in poverty are worthy of much more.


Sidestepping the big roles of racism and white supremacy in the U.S. encourages each to continue festering.  Affirmative action is a key policy that can mend but not end this tendency.


Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento/Yolo Peace Action, and an editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive newspaper. Email: ssandron@hotmail.com



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