Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
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[Col. Writ. 7/1/03]
life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. The
felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political
theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious,
*even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men*,
have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining
the rules by which men should be governed."
-- Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,(later, U.S. Supreme Court,
Associate Justice);*The Common Law* (1881).
With a pair
of cases announced days before their summer retirement (*Gratz v.
Bollinger* and *Grutter v. Bollinger*) the U.S. Supreme Court decided
the constitutionality of affirmative action, at least for the next
The issue had
been long-awaited by conservatives, and dreaded by those of a more
liberal persuasion, who feared that the notoriously right-wing jurists
would sound the death knell to the practice. Affirmative action
in higher educational admissions
survived, if just barely, because of one vote: that of associate
justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who provided the fifth vote to uphold
the admissions program of the University of Michigan Law School.
Her 5-4 majority
in *Grutter* was offset by the separate 6-3 vote garnered by the
companion *Gratz* case, which struck down theuniversity's undergraduate
affirmative action policies.
the decision was hailed as a "huge victory", in the words
of one of the litigators, Maureen Mahoney, a former Supreme Court
law clerk. Conservatives saw it as a betrayal of sorts, especially
as it came from the pens of several Republican appointees (like
O'Connor & David Souter).
But what moved
Justice O'Connor to merge with, and create a bare majority, was
hardly the lure of liberalism. As she explained both in her oral
remarks and in her written text, the arguments raised by the U.S.
military, top Pentagon officials, and military training academies
made all the difference. What 'made' the case, in other words, were
not the individual beneficiaries of affirmative action (meaning
but the institutional beneficiaries. The Army. The Navy. The Coast
Guard. The Marines. These are hardly 'liberal' institutions.
as important, were the amicus curiae briefs filed on behalf of American
businesses. For them all, *Gratz* and *Grutter* represented good
business, and good military sense.
For it is in
the interests of both corporate America and the imperial military
to have Black faces projecting their messages to a predominantly
multi-colored world. Look at the recent Iraq Adventure, and the
faces of Black soldiers and generals formed an important element
in selling the PR side of the debacle.
It's like putting
a rap song on a car commercial; blackness is but another commodity
to sell the system.
Lost in the
sauce around the hoopla raised by *Gratz/Grutter* is the simple,
inescapable reality that a relatively small percentage of Americans
ever go to college; something like a fourth. In other words, 25
out of 100 Americans make it to college! What happened to the vast
majority -- 75% -- who don't go? They don't go, not because they're
"unqualified", or stupid.
can't afford the increasing costs of college.
That is an indictment
of the American educational system- certainly nothing to celebrate.
Because education, so vital to job opportunities, is just another
commodity, one that millions of Americans cannot afford.
The real scandal
about all the hoopla surrounding the affirmativeaction cases is
the dire state of secondary (elementary, junior high, middle school,
high school) education in America. Social critic Jonathan Kozol
has written movingly about the dreadful state of such institutions
for years, but conditions continue to deteriorate. Nor is a Supreme
Court case the be-all/end-all of a problem. It has been almost 50
years since the historic *Brown v. Bd. of Education* case that outlawed
school desegregation in U.S. schools, yet a generation after *Brown*,
this writer went to schools that were as Black as anything in Dixie.
Such schools still stand, generations later, in Black, Puerto
Rican, or Mexican ghettoes and barrios across the land, where millions
of American kids get just as miseducated as their parents before
them. They are just as segregated; but under the rubric of class,
which hides the same racist character of the system. Indeed, *Brown*
became 'law', in part, because a U.S. anti-communist campaign would've
been harmed in the Third World if U.S. courts upheld racial discrimination.
Similarly, *Grutter* serves other interests. Blacks are merely
Check out Mumia's
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life
of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.