‘Educate, Don’t Segregate’
April 1st started out as a rainy, dreary day but that didn’t dampen the spirits of all of the people — young and old — who descended on the U.S. Supreme Court, carrying signs and banners, in support of affirmative action. Student and alumni associations representing a variety of colleges and universities showed up, as did groups such as the NAACP, the Detroit Teachers Federation, and I can’t leave out the
“Angry White Guys for Affirmation Action,” as printed on their T-shirts.
When we decided to do an article on student activism, the war with Iraq was just a possibility and the date for oral arguments in the University of Michigan cases had not yet been set. We were prompted to do the article following a conversation with a university administrator who said he wasn’t quite sure what Black students’ feelings were about various current events. We know Black students are often visible and vocal when a racial incident occurs on campus, but what else do they care about? We at Black Issues have wondered over the past few months whether the Black community was even concerned about this affirmative action case. Do they realize their access to higher education is being threatened? Well, if we had any doubts about their thoughts on affirmative action and their awareness of this case, those were quickly removed as April 1st approached and the community began to mobilize.
We anticipated large crowds outside of the Supreme Court, but the number of students who actually traveled to Washington, D.C., surprised even us, which is why this edition focusing on student activism, though timely, is probably long overdue. Students do care and about a lot more than we give them credit for. As you will read in Kendra Hamilton’s article, as well as Ronald Roach’s, the student protesters were quite passionate and thoughtful about not only their own access to higher education, but ensuring that same access exists for future generations.
In late March, I attended the town hall meeting on affirmative action held at the Howard University School of Law. Before I reached the room, someone said, “You better hurry, it’s already standing-room only.” Impressed with the turnout, I did manage to finagle a seat. Broadcast live nationally on C-Span and the Pacifica Radio Network, a distinguished panel of leading African-American civil rights advocates, scholars and journalists discussed affirmative action and the state of race relations.
“The young people today are really looking to say, ‘It’s 2003. It’s pretty sad that we are going back and forth on an issue that was decided 25 years ago,’ ” said Mishonda Baldwin, president of the National Black Law Students Association and a member of the panel.
Panel member Robin Lenhardt, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, former member of University of Michigan litigation team in Grutter and Gratz, and former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said: “If there is an adverse decision in the Michigan cases, what we will see is the resegregation of institutions of higher education. I don’t mean one or two. I don’t mean only Michigan or Harvard.”
Lenhardt’s comment is an appropriate segue to our interview with Dr. John Ogbu of the University of California-Berkeley. Pamela Burdman speaks with the anthropologist about his extensive research on the performance gaps between Black and White students, and Ronald Roach rounds out the piece with a review of Ogbu’s recently released book Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement. As Ronald writes of Ogbu’s book, “by focusing on children from educated, middle-class, native-born Black families, Ogbu’s subjects represent the very students whose academic performance and standardized test scores are being closely scrutinized in comparison to the White and Asian American students seeking admission to elite institutions.”
These issues are all connected — they all boil down to access to higher education for students of color.
Hilary Hurd Anyaso
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