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,