Bruce Dixon: The Supreme Court decision furthers institutional advantages of whites under the guise of colorblindness.
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The Supreme Court has upheld a ban on affirmative action in admission policies at the University of Michigan. The decision was made on space six-to-two vote and adds Michigan to seven other states who ban race as a factor in college admissions.
Here to discuss this is Bruce Dixon. Bruce is the managing editor of the Black Agenda Report.
Thanks for joining us, Bruce.
BRUCE DIXON, MANAGING EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thanks for inviting me.
WORONCZUK: So, Bruce, let’s put this in the history of recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action policies and racial inequality.
DIXON: Well, what the Supreme Court has done here is a couple of things. On the one hand, they’ve done a sort of 21st-century Plessy v. Ferguson on this. Plessy v. Ferguson, of course, was the decision more than 100 years ago now that ratified and made legal segregation in all kinds of public places and conveyances.
And as a result of these decisions that we’ve got here, the military and corporations are going to be free to retain their affirmative action programs, because, of course, the military needs black admirals and black generals. They’re all over Africa and they’re all over the Third World, invading things and subverting things. Corporations have to sell their goods and steal the resources of oil and timber and whatnot around the world, so they too need black and brown and women’s faces. But in all the institutions that are directly accountable to white American voters, the Supreme Court has enabled those institutions to set aside affirmative action programs and to continue to give whites preferential treatment as long as they can do it under the guise of color blindness. And in that way they’ve made this a political football. And so they can pretend that they’re just succumbing to the will of the people. But, of course, when we’re talking about social forces that are already in motion, already in play, neutrality is choosing a side too.
WORONCZUK: Now, let me read you a quotation from Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent. She wrote, quote, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”
So how has this history of discrimination in the U.S. prevented students of color and minorities from having access to things like higher education?
DIXON: Our ruling class and our nativeborn [racists] here have proved very genius at devising ways to privilege white people and to punish minorities in the realm of education. We’ve got standardized tests, which purport to measure student achievement or IQ or whatever but almost invariably favor students from families with higher incomes. We’ve got the tests that firemen and policemen are given around the country, and especially with fire departments around the country. Fire stations have been a haven for working-class white men to get privileged jobs and to maintain these preferences generation after generation, even after the cities around them have turned a majority black and Latino. So there are just endless numbers of ways to subvert any attempts at equality.
And the Supreme Court and the rest of the U.S. establishment has embraced the hypocritical notion that race-conscious remedies to racism are racism themselves or something that they call reverse racism. So the Supreme Court has just embraced that entire corrupt piece of reasoning and made this a political football and made anything that’s accessible to white voters immune from claims of racial justice and claims that it ought to be dealt out equally.
WORONCZUK: Now, I’ve read in response to the decision that some have argued that we need to move away from race-based policies and, affirmative action and more towards class and income-based forms of affirmative action, basically arguing that it’s class and not race that’s the determining factor here. What would you say in response to that argument?
DIXON: That would have a lot of merit if race were not so awfully and totally intertwined with class, as it is in the United States. Race is often a stand-in for class, and sometimes class is a stand-in for race. And the people who say that, the forces who say that, are definitely not advocates of the right of lower-class black people to get people public educations. You know. So this is just totally hypocritical and a way to avoid accountability for racial discrimination. It’s also a totally hypocritical construct to suppose that race-based memories to discrimination are racism themselves, but it is a hypocritical construct that a large portion of the white American polity has embraced. So be it.
WORONCZUK: Bruce Dixon, managing editor of Black Agenda Report. Thank you so much for joining us.
DIXON: Thank you for having me.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.