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Where does President Obama stand on Affirmative Action?

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

Where does President Obama stand on Affirmative Action?

By Roger Caldwell

     In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson said, “We seek not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” The sixties was a time when Blacks were discriminated because of the color of their skin, and white folks considered themselves superior. Blacks were not allowed to register and vote, live in certain communities, apply for certain jobs, and refused admission to college.

President Kennedy issued the first Executive Order in 1961 with Affirmative Action verbiage, and in 1965 President Johnson issued a more comprehensive Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination based on race color, religion, and national origin. This was the beginning of Affirmative Action, and the goal was to correct societal discrimination.

But in 2013, conservatives, Republicans, tea party supporters, white folks and some Black folks, believe that discrimination has run its course with the election of the first African American president. The U.S. Supreme Court is gearing up in June 2013 to rule on a case, Fisher v. University of Texas that could end Affirmative Action programs in all colleges and Universities. Many Americans believe that Affirmative Action programs are reverse-discrimination, and negatively impact the country.

The Fisher lawsuit, filed by a white applicant argued that the school has no need to give extra consideration to applicants based on race. If the Supreme Court rules in her favor, the court could overturn 2003 Gritter v. Bollinger, which allowed Affirmative Action as long as it is not a quota system. For the past 20 years there have been campaigns to end Affirmative Action, because there is “diversity fatigue,” and people are tired of that discussion.

During an interview President Obama said, “He is hoping that Affirmative Action can soon be an afterthought where race is rarely taken into account.” I don’t want to take this out of context, because he was talking about the future, but in June 2013, it appears that our President is refusing to express his position on Affirmative Action.

On the other hand, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has spent thousands of hours and over a half million dollars worth of staff time to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve diversity and opportunity in American’s colleges and universities. This is the first lawsuit since 2003, in which Affirmative Action is being challenged, and the NAACP is playing a key role in supporting the University of Texas.

“President Obama has said that, while he opposes quotas, and thinks an emphasis on universal and not race-specific programs is good policy, considering race along with other factors can be appropriate in certain circumstances. But again, I want to make sure that’s viewed as a broad statement of where he has been and where his position is broadly, not a reference to this specific case,” said the president’s chief spokesman Jay Carney.

In this specific case it seems that our President is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Since the president is not taking a side, Blacks and people of color must mobilize and put pressure on the Supreme Court to maintain Affirmative Action.

The struggles for civil and human rights have not ended with the election of a Black President. Disparities still exist in every industry, and in education there is still not a level playing field, because the quality of inner city schools is inferior. Blacks must continue to wage a struggle for equality, because Affirmative Action is still needed. Many of the successful Blacks who are leaders in many different fields today are a result of Affirmative Action programs.


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