The Time is Now!

The Time is Now!

When Proposition 187 passed in California in 1994, many people of color — there and around the country — were stunned. The initiative was the first in a string of referenda to come out of that state in this decade which were designed primarily to reign in the growing presence and influence of people of color. Or, as the more militant of analysts prefer to characterize these initiatives, to bolster White supremacy.
Prop. 187 sought to keep undocumented immigrants from accessing any form of public assistance or services. Among the more chilling of its mandates was the enlistment of the state’s educators as annexed agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). If the initiative had gone into effect, teachers at all levels of the state’s education system would have been required by law to alert INS officials about any students they suspected to be undocumented, or to be the children of undocumented parents.
After years of being hung up in the courts, California’s new Gov. Gray Davis announced recently that he would not appeal a U.S. district court judge’s ruling that declared much of the “Save Our State” initiative unconstitutional.
Technically, Prop. 187 is dead. But, as this edition’s cover story points out, its spirit continues to haunt us. Draconian referenda of similar venom are being proffered on state ballots around the country. Each with its own schizophrenic mix of reason and wrath.
Yet, this modest victory in California marks an important development in the ongoing struggle to define and actualize a Democracy that is genuinely tolerant and accepting of diversity.  It is important because it illustrates that —  with tenacity, creativity, and dedication — regressively fascist public policies can be repealed.
In Michigan last month, the perseverence of a group of students who sought to intervene in two anti-affirmative action cases against the University of Michigan was rewarded with a nod from  a U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel. While the students have been pressing their case, the University has marshaled together the intellectual resources of an impressive stable of legal, social science, and public relations practitioners. Their goal is to reshape the public’s and the court’s understanding of what affirmative action is, how it works, and what it has done for the university and the country.
In this edition, we also introduce a new column conceived in tribute to our 15th Anniversary. For the next several months, the column (see pg. 36) will feature glimpses from the past and prognostications about the future. The content is not comprehensive, but rather representative of the types of issues our readers have indicated matter most to them.
Black Issues brings you coverage on all of these issues because we believe they are essential determinants of the future well-being of higher education. Next year, the country will begin a new millennium with the election of a new president. How that election is decided will set the tone for what is to come in the way of early  21st century public policy — particularly around matters of racial, class, and gender equity. As the next chapter in our collective American experience unfolds, it is important for everyone who cares about these issues to determine how they will contribute. The clock is ticking. What will you do?

Cheryl D. Fields,
Executive Editor



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