Standing Up For Affirmative Action

Krishna Lalbiharie umlalbi0 at SPAMcc.UManitoba.CA
Sat Aug 28 22:36:55 MDT 1999

Standing Up For Affirmative Action By Ron Daniels
>Newspapers across the country recently ran a photograph of the Mayor of
>Atlanta, Bill Campbell, addressing a huge crowd of supporters in the
>council chamber of city hall. It was an amazing image of an African
>American mayor standing up to racist rightwing forces, defiantly vowing
>that he would never end Atlanta's affirmative action program for minority
>businesses. A conservative legal organization intent on ending affirmative
>action in Atlanta filed a lawsuit challenging the highly successful
>minority business set aside program initiated by former Mayor Maynard
>Jackson during his first term.
>At a time when far too many Black mayors have adopted a "race neutral" or
>"crossover" political strategies to attract White voters and White
>capital, it was heartwarming to see a Black mayor unequivocally stand up
>for the interests of Black people for a change! Mayor Campbell's stance in
>Atlanta may well breathe new life into the struggle to maintain or revive
>affirmative action programs around the country.
>In the face of massive attempts by rightwing forces to roll back the gains
>of the civil rights movement, African Americans must collectively take a
>stand in favor of preserving a concept that was/is designed to redress
>past and present discrimination against Black people. The results of the
>onslaught against affirmative action have already begun to take a toll on
>Black progress. In those states like California, where the passage of
>Proposition 209 ended affirmative action in higher education, university
>enrollment of Blacks and minorities is down significantly. And, because of
>Supreme Court decisions that have seriously curtailed race based set aside
>programs, an avenue once open to success and profitability for minority
>businesses has virtually been closed.
>Under the guise of "fairness" to all Americans (which really means White
>Americans), the forces of reaction in this country, aided and abetted by
>Black conservatives like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and
>California businessman Ward Connerly, have been increasingly successful in
>destroying affirmative action programs designed to level the playing field
>between Blacks and Whites in this nation. In the face of this assault,
>Black America has been amazingly silent.
>Some Blacks have expressed the view that affirmative action has only
>helped the Black middle class. Others have complained that they feel
>"stigmatized" by special programs that give preference to Blacks and
>minorities. And some Blacks simply feel that its time for Black people to
>stop relying on the government. While it is true that affirmative action
>may have disproportionately aided the middle class, it is also the case
>that countless thousands of poor and working class Black people benefited
>from consent decrees that opened up police and fire departments across the
>country and major sectors of the economy like the steel industry that was
>forced to redress discriminatory policies in the hiring and promotion of
>minorities. In addition, many sons and daughters from Black poor and
>working class families secured a passport to the middle class because of
>affirmative action policies adopted at colleges and universities.
>As for those Blacks who now claim they feel stigmatized, prior to
>affirmative action many of them would have been standing proudly in the
>unemployment line! As for relying on the government, Black people should
>never be ashamed of hard fought for programs which promote Black progress.
>As a matter of fact government at all levels has been dispensing
>affirmative action programs for White people for generations.
>As Dr. Claud Anderson recounts in his book Black Labor, White Wealth, the
>Homestead Act of 1862 provided land for White settlers who moved West when
>most Africans in America could not move off the plantation. The government
>also gave huge tracts of land to the railroad interests, a giant welfare
>program that enabled White men to reap huge fortunes. They were not
>ashamed of accepting a "hand out" from the government. By the mere fact of
>our enslavement these programs were in effect "set asides" for White
>people. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) "set aside" loans for White
>people after World War 11 so that they could escape to suburbia. Black
>folks were confined by custom and secret covenants to the inner-cities.
>For decades certain categories of jobs in industry, the best jobs with the
>highest wages, were "set aside" for White people. Hence "White skin" has
>been a badge of privilege that opened doors of opportunity that were
>closed to the sons and daughters of Africa whose free labor helped create
>the very opportunities to which we were denied access. The point is that
>throughout the history of this nation, preferential policies in the public
>and private sectors have constituted a massive and incredibly beneficial
>affirmative action program for White people!
>As we look to the 21st century, Black people must not be ashamed to demand
>that the government of the United States adopt and maintain policies
>designed to compensate Black people for the long history of discriminatory
>policies and practices which consigned the Black America to a position of
>competitive disadvantage to White America. And, its not over. Racism is
>alive and well and still depriving Black people of opportunities in this
>country today. With no apologies Black people have a duty to take a
>militant stand for affirmative action.Copyright (c) 1999 The Black World
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