October 14, 2012. . . In today’s New York Times there is a lead article about Affirmative Action. The Supreme is about to make a major decision on this issue. Here is a direct quote from the Times piece, “Outright racism certainly exists, and colleges would have a hard time taking it into account if race-based affirmative action became illegal. But simple discrimination seems to have become a relatively smaller obstacle over the last few decades, while socioeconomic disadvantage has become a larger one.” Is that right? If that is the case then why are there well over 2,000,000 Black and Brown individuals sitting in prison, when just a generation ago there was not one-tenth that number and most of them were white? Why is it that last year in New York City 700,000 people were stopped and frisked based simply on the color of their skin?
What all discussion of Affirmative Action in the media and the courts always fails to note is that Affirmative Action was not instituted out of benevolence, but out of fear that if something was not done to stem racial inequality, the Black riots and rebellions of the 1960s would become a Revolution. Once the fear began to recede as early as the late 1970s, they began cutting back on Affirmative Action. Yes, Affirmative Action laws were on the books as early as 1961, but they were not enforced until after the US Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) report and Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.
Something else that no one seems to mention is that whereas in the past Affirmative Action was mandated by the goverenment, that is no longer the case, and has not been for quite some time. What they are arguing about now in the Supreme Court is whether or not colleges can voluntarily use Affirmative Action. Yes, Affirmative Action was never meant to last forever. As to when it would end, those who made the law did not include that, but it was understood that it would end presumably when equality was achieved. Certainly equality has not been achieved, but since the fear is no longer there, they will end it. They ended it being a government mandate and they are poised to end it as a voluntary program.
What will happen in the future? No one knows for sure, but I can hazard a guess. To a large extent Affirmative Action succeeded in co-opting leading elements of the Black Power movement of the 1960s and those following in their footsteps into the mainstream economy. But once that pathway is almost completely constricted expect Black discontent and rebellion to simmer once more. Meanwhile, the general hollowing out of the American middle class which produced the Occupy Wall Street movement will also continue. Will the two conflate into one movement? Perhaps. And doubtless steps will be taken like Affirmative Action which blunted the Black Revolution of the 1960s and The New Deal which blunted the Worker’s Revolution of the 1930s. Will they be successful? Time will tell. . .