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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts

Affirmative [Distr]Action

Long version: mp3, 3:74 MBs, 4:38
Short version: mp3, 2.80 MBs, 2:80


[Col. Writ. 7/1/03]

"The 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 generation.

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.

For liberals, 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 Blacks),
but the institutional beneficiaries. The Army. The Navy. The Coast Guard. The Marines. These are hardly 'liberal' institutions.

Perhaps just 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.

Most simply 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
incidental.


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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.