Post election analysis: How to keep affirmative action

This post comes to you from the friendly skies en route to Baltimore, MD. It is good to be home and I really miss my Superspade family. I want to continue my post election analysis by providing some insights I learned while trying to keep affirmative action policies in the state of Michigan.

Ward Connerly is hopping around from state to state trying to ban affirmative action programs primarily in higher education, public employment and contracting. He did it in Washington via Prop 5, California with Prop 209, and most recently in Michigan with Prop 2.

Now for anyone from Michigan or elsewhere who didn’t lift a finger to help register people to vote or educate people on the effects of banning affirmative action but felt smug enough to say after the election, “I knew Prop 2 was going to fail,” shame on you. I have had it with so-called conscious folks who love to philosophize for hours on end about the plight of Black folks and how we need to raise up but when you ask them to do something that actually requires work, their calendar is suddenly filled to the brim.

Being conscious is a step in the right direction but it is not enough. When I ask you to help do phone banking, I don’t want to hear you talk about the nuances of institutional racism. There is a time and a place for that but right now, all I need is a yes or no. I already agree with you and I am only going to nod my head in agreement. And if you claim to be as conscious as you claim to be, let’s see to it that our actions have the same intensity.

I got a little side-tracked for a minute, but I do not apologize.

Anyways, Ward Connerly is putting ballot initiatives up that attempt to ban affirmative action which means that in order to beat this guy, we have to make sure people vote in favor to support affirmative action. But we forgot about a crucial lesson in Michigan that I hope you don’t make in your state as well. Before you start screaming, “Vote to Support Affirmative Action!” make sure the organizing coalition you are apart of actually implements a comprehensive voter registration drive.

Why do I say that? Well, once you actually do voter registration, you can then call these people and educate them on affirmative action. When this doesn’t happen, your get out the vote efforts are not strategic and all you end up doing is conducting a visibility campaign, which will inevitably result in mobilizing people to vote that are not registered to vote! It sounds so simple I know, but registering people to vote is taken for granted more often than you would care to realize.

Secondly, most research shows that in order to win a campaign to support affirmative action, you have to target white women because they will provide the necessary electoral support to tip the election in your favor. On its face, this thinking is logical and reasonable. However, not ALL of your efforts should be devoted to targeting white women. Why? Because you will more than likely develop a coalition that is largely comprised of men and women of color and then you will try to get this coalition to convince White women to vote to support affirmative action. This strategy is not only embarrassing but it is not sound. Most people tend to trust people that look like them, period. So what ended up happening in Michigan (in my opinion) is that largely people of color targeted white women while neglecting the very communities of color that need to educated on the effects of affirmative action. Now I am not saying that only Blacks can talk to Blacks, but what I am saying is that in terms of strategy, never forget to take care of your base.

In fact, I know a large number of White women that understand and can explain the benefits of affirmative action for all people. For example if you have a strategy to send me (tall Black dude) to do canvassing in a majority-White suburb versus a white girl, who would you send? I am not saying I wouldn’t be effective but let’s think strategically. If white women need to be targeted, then we need to recruit conscious white women that are willing to go out in their communities and tell people about the truth of affirmative action.

As for people of color, don’t assume that all people of color are automatically going to support affirmative action. Many families of color do not have the pleasure to check email, read the news/blogs etc. at work or at home for that matter. Do you even know how fortunate you are to be reading this post right now? Stop taking your access to information for granted and throwing a fit when you talk to a person of color that never heard of affirmative action.

Lastly, don’t wait until the question is on the ballot before you act. If you wait until then, the battle will be immensely difficult moving forward. Proposition 2 should never have even made it on the ballot and you should be making plans now so that it doesn’t make it on your ballot. One thing that liberal minded people haven’t quite mastered is the supreme importance of framing the debate before the debate. The way that Prop 2 was worded was so twisted that many people thought that they were supporting affirmative action when in fact they were voting against it. Here is how it worked in Michigan, voting no meant that you wanted to support affirmative action. And voting yes meant you wanted to ban affirmative action. In other words, no meant yes, and yes meant no. By not addressing this backwards logic will greatly hamper your organizing efforts so get in the game early.

I just realized this post is getting really long so I will just stop for now.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.



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4 responses to “Post election analysis: How to keep affirmative action”

  1. Christopher B. says :

    The problem is not one of confusion – in the post 209 (in Cali) and I-200 (in Washington) era, we learned it wasn’t confusion that led people to vote against what they believed – follow up polls confirmed that in the months following the votes. Most white people just dont support affirmative action (and think it only impacts black students over white students) and not as many people of color as we might think do either. Its simple: if racism no longer exists, why would we need affirmative action? Of course, racism exists. But most white folk dont believe it does (and some dont care).
    I think the deeper issue is that we need something that addresses the problem (racism in schools) and affirmative action only addressed the outcomes of the problem (limited access to elite higher ed due to racism). That’s why it failed to alter schools – it only altered some students of color. Affirmative action was useful, but only as an inadequate band-aid. We need to radically re-envision schools to center on affirming students of color (and white folk, but not white privilege) while also educating them well. But that’s not a solid political sound bite and few folks advocate for re-doing schools.

  2. Garlin II says :

    Thanks Christopher for the comment.

    I am not familiar with the wording of the petitions or ballot proposals in California during the Prop 209 battle, but in Michigan, the wording was intentionally confusing and misleading, and it had the goal of getting people to vote ‘yes’ to ban affirmative action. I must admit, it’s a smart move on their part; I just wish that our intellectual defenses would have been better prepared for it.

    Do you think that [white] people do not believe that racism exists, or is it rather that it is known of but disregarded (both intentionally and unintentionally)?

    Also, while I am a big proponent of public education as a human right in non-anarchies, I do also recognized the baked in inequalities of our flawed system (based on class, race, gender, and other pivot points). Could this radical re-envisioning that you suggest take place if people of color decided to reject public education as a whole? What if, instead, we focused on charter or home-schooling exclusively? If we created our own system from the bottom up, could we make up ground?

  3. Christopher B. says :

    I think most white people think racism exists, but its just the KKK variety. The fact that many white folk talk of “subtle” racism (its only subtle to people causing it, not those who live its effects) demonstrates to me that racism is consciously disregarded or at least thought of as “not as bad” as it really is.

    I appreciate the idea of building from the “bottom up” – the problem is that we (and I mean damn near everyone in the u.s.) dont value folks with such educational “pedigree.” Until black folk (and white folk and brown folk and all folk) discount elite pedigrees, building another separate (and unequally funded) system will not address the fundamental inequalities. It may, however, create a space to educate black (and brown and a handful of white and asian) students well. But I dont think a separate system can be designed without simultaneously dismantling the system that will limit funding to that newer system.

  4. Anonymous says :

    There a few points that I would like to highlight from this post that I personally agree with and that I think require some additional discussion. The first point that I would like to address is the description of the “complacent activist” who believes that great change will occur simply because one possesses grandeur knowledge related to this change. Although things would work much faster if all we had to do was mentally and verbally agree to social change, the reality is that quite honestly nothing is really going to happen unless we actually DO something. For some reason doing something has been translated into numerous meetings and discussions, and for clarification purposes, I understand how vital these components are to organization but, they are simply the initial steps to taking action.

    Since the election, I have received numerous phone calls, many people asking, “So what do we do now that Prop 2 has passed?”, “What is going to happen to higher education in Michigan?”, and although I would like to believe that there is a sense of hope, enthusiasm, and optimism when these questions are being asked, deep down I know that there is a great amount of uncertainty, fear, and helplessness. If nothing was being done before to address issues related to the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students on various campuses, I find it interesting that suddenly this is a concern for some. I am sure despair, “complacent activism”, and/or apathy is not going to make the situation any better, yet unfortunately this seems to have been the case before and after Prop 2. Ideally, in times of difficulty and during civic struggle, people should rise to the occasion and find strength and wisdom in their desire for survival, success and freedom. However, I am concerned that for so long a sense of silence, passive agreement, and lack of involvement has had a detrimental affect on the ability of people to mobilize and organize for any particular cause.

    A friend of mine once told me that “Silence=Affirmation”, but what we fail to recognize is that silence does not only mean not talking. True silence is the kind that takes place when people allow themselves to be oppressed by not taking action. This type of silence is a silence of the mind, heart, and body. This type of silence keeps people in ignorance and does allow new ideas to be discussed. This type of silence prevents people from truly expressing themselves as a dignified human being, and this type of silence eventually leads to actual restrictions on one’s life. We’ve become very good when it comes to being affirmative, there is a long way to go in regard to action.

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