Hundreds Rally in Support of Affirmative Action
The weather outside was freezing, but the crowd was on fire. Despite temperatures around 30 degrees, a couple hundred people, many waving signs and wearing University of Michigan colors maize and blue, filled a city street earlier this month to rally in support of affirmative action.
The crowd clapped and cheered as civil rights leaders, members of the clergy, college students and others spoke about their support for the cause and the University of Michigan’s legal battle to preserve its race-conscious admissions policies.
After the rally outside Tiger Stadium, the former home of the city’s baseball team, the group marched several blocks to the federal courthouse.
The Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, said the U.S. Supreme Court and President Bush need to realize that affirmative action is still needed. Anthony said if people can get consideration for being athletes or for legacy — having relatives who attended a school — there should be consideration for race.
“Race should be discovered and developed as a character,” Anthony said. “Our legacy isn’t going to a university, it was building the university for everyone to enjoy.”
Lt. Gov. John Cherry said it is imperative that the University of Michigan and other schools be able to create diverse campuses for the benefit of everyone.
“This is about more than a Supreme Court case,” he said. “It’s about equal opportunity for all kinds of people.”
A similar rally is scheduled to take place in Washington on April 1, the day the justices hear arguments on how much weight, if any, colleges can give in their admissions process to a student’s color.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., urged all of those in attendance to make the trip to Washington — and to bring their friends.
“Change comes from the bottom, from the people to the leaders,” she said. “You have to force leaders to act.”
Critics argue that affirmative action programs unconstitutionally discriminate against White students. Supporters contend they ensure diversity on campus and help everyone.
Justices will rule before July. The decision will have broad ramifications for the national debate on affirmative action in other areas such as hiring.
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