Affirmative Action Part I: The Courts by Jaylon Williams

Jaylon, who teaches at a northern university has contributed the first of three pieces on the topic of affirmative action; I will voice my support for AA more in my next piece on the state of Texas 10% rule and the demise of AA. Jaylon has drafted or sent pieces to The Proletarian in the past.

I cannot help but express my frustration with the Court’s ability to draw a moral equivalence between historic and contemporary discrimination against blacks, and the so-called “discrimination” against whites in order to secure racial balance in schools or to promote the inclusion of minorities in the name of diversity.

In its recent decision in Seattle and Louisville case, the Court suggests that efforts to achieve racial balance in primary and secondary schools is tantamount to efforts undertaken in the 1950s to exclude blacks from attending white schools.

I’m sick and tired of having to respond to this silly argument. Given the prevailing disparities in health, wealth and society between blacks and whites, you have to be an idiot or a sophisticated bigot not to appreciate the difference between state action that excludes minorities and subordinates people on the basis or race, and state action designed to bring together people of all races. The voluntary – yes, voluntary – efforts by the local school boards in Seattle and Louisville fall into the latter category, and ought not be confused with the former. Whatever you may think about the virtues of diversity, it is abundantly clear that the motivation behind such a policy is light-years removed from the motivations of segregationists of years past.

The plurality of the Court – despite reserving its opinion on affirmative action in higher education – nevertheless views race based decision-making designed to benefit minorities as presumptively unconstitutional in much the same way as it would view de jure segregation laws against blacks as presumptively unconstitutional. This is the 21st century, for god’s sake. Most Americans acknowledge the difference. Why can’t the highest court in the land? Shame of Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Scalia, and Alito for trying to pull a fast one on the American public.

The Court also relied upon the falsely nostalgic interpretation of the Constitution as color-blind. As I’ve often argued in the past, a colorblind constitution has never existed for either whites or blacks – the Constitution has always been color conscious – conscious in favor of white privilege. And isn’t it curious that the rhetoric of colorblindness always seems to strike against progressive efforts to improve the lives of everyday people of color?

This group of judges, in a single opinion, has done the most – at least in recent memory – to set back the progress of American race relations than any cohort I can think of. I suspect I’ll return to this topic in the future. In the meantime, what to you think of the Court’s decision to equate efforts to promote diversity with crass racists practices of the past?

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28 thoughts on “Affirmative Action Part I: The Courts by Jaylon Williams

  1. Jaylon,

    Great piece. I completely agree with you. I do not understand how affirmative action can be compared to segregative practices of the past.

    I always find it funny when people claim that affirmative action is obsolete and/or no longer needed. Many whites get on self-righteous trips and claim that we have achieved racial equality – that we live in a colorblind world. Last week, when I was in Las Vegas, I saw a sign for a nightclub that was in my hotel. The sign had the dress code printed on it, and said something along the lines of “no dew rags, baggy jeans, excessive amounts of jewelry, or baseball caps.” I am pretty sure you can image what my thoughts were after reading that sign…

  2. You teach at Northeastern? That’s on my perspective college list. What do you teach? I would love to hear a prof’s perspective.

  3. Diversity needs to be promoted in the workplace and in schooling. Affirmative action does just this. However, the objection I have with affirmative action is that it can deny more qualified candidates employment or college acceptance for less qualified candidates. In terms of college applicants, some advocates of affirmative action justify it by saying that such minorities are unable to receive a quality education like a wealthy Caucasian. Although affirmative action helps to account for this problem, it does not solve it. The root of the problem is the poor quality of many public schools, and I believe that many reforms need to be made in the public school system to improve it. In doing this, it creates more equal opportunity among various races and classes to receive a good education and prepare them for the future.

    If two candidates are equally qualified and one has a more diverse background, then I am not totally in objection to selecting the more diverse candidate.

    Although we have made great strides in achieving racial equality, we surely do not live in a colorblind world. Like I said, I believe a better education (achieved through reforms in the schooling system) for the less fortunate is key in promoting equal opportunities and chances. Better opportunities will help to allow for better chances of receiving collegiate educations and employment. Upper-level educations and better jobs will consequently help to promote more diversity in society and more racial equality.

  4. I have nothing against AA; in fact, I am in complete advocacy of it.

    HOWEVER… the top 10% rule is utter crap. I believe that it deters good students from applying to schools such as Texas. It is what will may keep a well-rounded, top quartile student like myself who missed the top 10% by about two people because of taking 8 AP classes from being accepted into UT.
    I have a feeling it will prove detrimental to my admission; if so, I will have a personal vendetta against the silly law.
    A top 5% law, on the other hand, would be much more reasonable and fair.

  5. Jonathan-I agree with you on the top 10% rule. I have friends who were in the top 11% of their class, didn’t even apply to UT because they thought they didn’t have the chance, and ended up being accepted at the best colleges in the country.

  6. I’m so sick of utter failures of intelligent response to things.

    Today we were discussing how to take the chapel yesterday during a2, and someone piped up, “i don’t believe that. i can’t believe that. planets don’t just go backwards!” when 65,700 results for “retrograde motion of planets” are only a google search away.

    Then i got home and read a fascinating rant about Twilight by K.C. Crowe, and someone posted, “people like it- why can’t you just let it be.” people like a lot of things, like getting drunk and throwing up on their friends, and i will not stand this pop culture “vampire” “love” (failure of depictions of both vampires and love) being indulged and regurgitated on my nice new intellectual shirt.

    so i came here. sanctuary. thank you carson. (sorry for hijacking this post)

  7. Andy — You are always welcome here, brother. You just made me laugh.

    Chris & Jon: 10% rule is crap; it has worked against blacks and students who take real courses in high school. AA is not a gift to those who cannot achieve, it just allows them to thrive in systems established by those protecting the interest of a few elites.

  8. Yes, the top 10% rule is stupid. A relative of mine went to UT – she was in the top 10% of her class in a town of several thousand called Cuero, TX. She couldn’t keep up and dropped out. it happens all the time – kids in the top 50% from a college prep school (a real one) wouldn’t have a problem.

    Biar – The Twilight thing is pretty stupid. But most high school students would probably fall asleep if they read the books I read, so I can’t really judge. Different strokes for different folks.

  9. as a student at the University of Texas, i agree the top 10% rule is crap. the university is DESPERATELY trying to get rid of it for the very reasons you have stated, but from what i have heard the legislature has already voted on it for now and we have to wait to bring it up again.

  10. Dillon-No offense, but the story about your relative is one of the reasons I object to the top 10% rule. I have never really understood the rationale behind this rule.

  11. Dillon-I know why you were using it. I was just saying that I agree with you on your point. I completely understood what you meant.

  12. Chris — the idea of course is that it will promote a fair system in a tight admissions race. It also will allow those who worked hard in HS to be rewarded. But it fails in that many students who are gifted and very bright cannot be in the top 10%. Plus, it is a system to replace AA and wile bringing in minorities; it has not worked. Been to Texas A&M of late?

  13. Mr. Carson-Their attempts at a fair system haven’t really turned out that fair have they? That’s why the top 10% rule is just ridiculous. You’re right; it hasn’t helped bringing in minorities.

  14. Interesting post. I don’t disagree that what AA was ‘designed to’ accomplish is worthwhile, and I don’t disagree that the ‘motivation behind’ it is valid. Jaylon is flabbergasted that the SC would compare AA to 50’s racism, and rightly so. But I am equally perplexed at AA supporters’ unwillingness to acknowledge the concurrent harm it has done.

    I guess what I’m getting at is this: how can an institution which is so divisive be the same one you’re counting on to ‘bring together people of all races?’ I think it’s extremely backwards to think creating equality in America is about forcing employers or educators to have a minimum percentage of colored employees/students. It should be about changing people’s attitudes and addressing the source of inequality.

    I’m not saying there is no problem. Far from it. I’m saying we need to take another look at the solution.

  15. theNimrod –

    You make an interesting point. I think it’s sad that we have to force employers to hire African-Americans. But, we have yet to achieve racial equality. And until we do, we have to do our best to ensure that African-Americans have the same opportunities as their white counterparts. I would venture to guess that we have even MORE unemployed blacks if it weren’t for affirmative action. Some people will always be racist…and some of those people run fortune 500 companies.

  16. Dillon:

    The way you worded this sentence is very important:

    “…we have to do our best to ensure that African-Americans have the same opportunities as their white counterparts.”

    Without reservation I agree with this statement. However, AA is not about giving people EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. It is about employers using race as a credential.

    Unfortunately there is no good way to monitor whether or not minorities are being given equal opportunity. I’m not going to be that guy who says “their resumes were considered, they got on opportunity” and pretend that racism isn’t a problem in hiring and admissions. But I’m also not going to support a system that gives preference to someone based on their race.

  17. Pingback: Obama and Affirmative Action by Jaylon Williams « The Professor

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