random questions

Donna Murch dmurch at violet.berkeley.edu
Thu Aug 10 17:10:10 MDT 1995

Doug Henwood wrote:

I still must ask, though, where do we go with these insights? What, for
example, do they tell us about how we should approach affirmative action?

As a discontent recently transplanted Californian,  affirmative action is a
very sore subject. But I will try to address it anyway.  The affirmative
action debate held in the UC Regents meeting several weeks ago is a prime
example of the ways that race and class are pitted against each other to
disastrous end for progressives.  In the Public Commentary session there
was a continual badgering by fat cat Wilson supporters about the need to
eliminate discriminaotry practices which ignore "socioeconomic status" in
favor of racial preference.  This is a significant bit of rhetorical
hypocrisy, given that there were of course no pro-active measures being
proposed by Pete Wilson to recruit and support students from low income
families,  that Black and Latino students are disproportionately from lower
income families, and that the abolition of affirmative action was announced
simultaneously within an increase in fees.  The rhetoric of class was used
quite effectively to galvanize racial resentiments which in turn masked an
agenda which was actually destructive to the interests of all low and
middle income people.  What was also fascinating was to witness the
complete absence of an explicit mention of class.  In Ward Connerly's
proposal  "dysfunctional families" and "unwholesome neighborhoods" are used
as stand-ins for class, which can only be articulated through the twisted
and racist logic of deviant family values.  Ironically, socio-economic
disadvantage can only be referenced by "family dysfunction", the primary
weapon in the racist arsenal of the New Right. What better example of the
absolute symbiosis or race and class in Am. politics.

I think that the tendency of the Left to define class against race feeds
into and creates numerous points of vulnerability.  I think there is a need
for an interrogation on the trope of race on the Left and Right.  Often, I
note uncanny parrallels...Bye the way this not meant as an attack but
rather is said out of a sense of frustration...

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