Just yesterday the Supreme Court sent the case Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345 back to the lower courts to be decided once again. In a way, this can be seen as a half-victory for everyone in favor of affirmative action, because it means we haven’t lost. But on the flip side, it can also be seen as an inevitable failure, because the court seemed to be somewhat ambivalent towards racial matters in education.
Justice Kennedy stated that institutions of higher learning need to show that “available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice” if race conscious ones are to be used. He continues to say that schools must create “a careful judicial inquiry into whether a university could achieve sufficient diversity without using racial classifications.”
In a post I wrote last month on Obama’s speech to Morehouse, I wrote:
“It’s the walking contradiction we’ve too often acknowledged and ignored all at the same time. Too often do people realize that the conditions of much of black America are unequal. We realize the schools are inferior, the neighborhoods are crime infested, and that the odds are disproportionately against black youth to succeed. Yet, despite all of these blatant facts, we expect it to be blacks’ responsibility to move around these barriers, the same barriers that were installed to keep them in a hole of oppression–because they were black. When government-funded institutions have functioned with a racial agenda that perpetuated inequality, the solution shouldn’t be individual responsibility by the victims, the solution should be the State making a new racial agenda. An agenda that works on behalf of African-Americans in order to compensate for working against them for so long.”
This is what were up against: ignorance towards what is around us. If we want to talk about equal opportunities, if we want to talk about race not being a factor in the decision-making processes for schools, if we want to talk about bettering the lives of African-Americans, then lets first talk about reality. Lets talk about the wealth this country was built off through racially defining slavery. Lets talk about the convict lease system which replaced slavery, kept blacks in chains, and corporations profitable. Lets talk about Jim Crow and the unequal institutions it perpetuated. Lets talk about the housing discrimination and the conscious effort by the state to racially segregate major cities that would place blacks in the poorest, most crime infested areas–aka Ghettos (look up “redlining” and “racially restrictive covenants”).
Lets talk about a country that has a history filled with benefiting from creating new ways of keeping people of color in a hole of oppression.
We want to talk about equal policies and opportunities, well then lets also talk about where most blacks are coming from: a life of inequality, of marginalization, discrimination, and neglect. The schools are blatantly inferior, just ask Chicago, they’ve made it clear black lives are not valued.
We want to talk about race-neutral policies, but only when it’s convenient. This country was founded on a racial agenda where blacks were made third-class citizens. You don’t right past wrongs by just forgetting about it–anyone with functional family dynamics knows that putting problems under the rug and ignoring them never ends well–we right past wrongs by being proactive against them. That means creating a new racial agenda that openly acknowledges this country’s past in its entirety while actively attempting to eliminate all the negative outcomes it produced.
If we want to really talk about equality, then lets talk about equality across the board. That means fixing inner city schools so black youth actually have an equal opportunity to begin with.
If we want to have a meaningful discourse over race-neutral policies, well we can’t do that just yet because that would mean eliminating the racial disparities that have been on the stove cooking for nearly 400 years. Problems don’t get fixed by ignoring them, they are fixed through acknowledgement.
So the debate will continue, but when the future of affirmative action is even being questioned while it’s still so obvious inequalities exist and persist, it makes me feel the case has already been lost, because it’s in the hands of people who choose to ignore what’s right in front of them.