Neither Civil Nor Right

When I think about the misnamed Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the overwhelming feeling is one of frustration: frustration with the way it’s been presented by its supporters, frustration with the misconception so many Michiganders have about affirmative action, frustrated that it’s even on the ballot in the first place.
Let me begin by saying that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is neither civil nor right, and to name this proposal as such is a slap in the face of the Civil Rights Amendment and all the activists of the Civil Rights Movement. The MCRI will be Proposal 2 on the Michigan ballot this November. The proposal will “ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes.” In other words, this is a proposal to amend the Michigan State Constitution to ban affirmative action.
Supporters of Prop 2 have been found, by a federal judge, to have used fraudulent tactics to convince voters to sign the initial petition to get the proposal on the ballot. Despite this, the MCRI remains on the ballot—something I find absolutely ludicrous. Prop 2 supporters told voters that the proposal was actually a ballot to protect affirmative action. They knew that if they told voters the truth, many voters would not sign.
Many people think of affirmative action as a controversial topic, and supporters of Prop 2 have used twisted logic to distort the issue. For me, it’s actually quite simple. Institutionalized racism and sexism, though less overt than in the past, are still very much alive and engrained in American society. There are countless studies and statistics to support this fact. For example, people of color and white women are extremely underrepresented in upper-level management of corporate America, State and National legislatures, higher educational institutions, and the list goes on. There are two explanations for this: institutionalized sexism and racism still exist in society and historically oppressed peoples have not yet had ample opportunity to overcome hundreds of years of oppression to level the playing field in America. Affirmative action aims to curb this inequality, to make the playing field level. Furthermore, since the goal of affirmative action has yet to be achieved, as can be seen in the statistics, it should not be discontinued.
Is progress being made? Yes, affirmative action has been working. The playing field is becoming more level, and under-representation is declining overall. But if we outlaw affirmative action now, we will roll back all the progress made in the past 30 years, and Michigan—the most segregated state in the country—will undoubtedly find itself in a pre-Civil Rights era. If Prop 2 passes this November, institutionalized racism and sexism will reign.
If you don’t think that a white-washed MSU campus is good for the progress of the university, if you value the benefits and strength of diversity, if you believe in equality, if you believe that 30 years of progress is much less than 400 years of oppression, then you have a duty to uphold the values of the civil rights activists who have come before us by voting NO on Prop 2.
Spread the word and educate your peers. So many people are misinformed about affirmative action and its effects. Visit oneunitedmichigan.org if you want to help or learn more. At the very least, vote No on Prop 2 on November 7. However, I encourage you to do more. This proposal is undoubtedly one of the most influential of our generation to date. Get involved in what goes on in your state. DO something! And DON’T let Michigan roll back 30 years of progress!

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Join the Choir

The passing of Coretta Scott King hit me harder than I thought it would.
The news shocked me at first. It was one of those “wow” moments, but I was doing fairly well until I went to the commemoration event put on by Black Student Alliance at The Rock. As all the various faculty, staff, and students spoke, tears came to my eyes, and my emotions ran high. The overwhelming feeling was just plain sadness. This amazing woman is no longer a part of our world. I reflected on Rosa Parks, another great Civil Rights activist recently deceased, and I realized that I had not given myself the time nor the space to adequately grieve for her. A generation is dying, one by one, and they are MY people. They fought for MY rights.
Many of the speakers talked about how it’s “our turn” now, how the torch is being passed on to our generation. In light of Black History Month, I believe those comments are particularly relevant. Many people complain about the fact that Black History Month is not only in the shortest month of the year, but it is also shared with Chicano History Month. While these arguments are completely valid, it’s important that we do not let them get in the way of the heart of the matter — that is, celebrating our history, and looking towards our future.
The generation of youth today is in a particularly unique position. Our parents were alive for the Civil Rights Movement. They marched with King, Malcolm X, and Parks. They were physically present to hear the famous speeches. They directly experienced the blunt and outward racism. They were THERE, and we can only experience it through stories and textbooks. We do not experience racism as they did. The racism and discrimination we experience is much more subtle and internal. It’s more difficult to see, which leads some people to believe it’s not there. This, along with our generation’s detachment from the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, serves to produce a general tone of apathy and lack of concern among the youth of society. Unfortunately, this apathy comes at a very crucial time in our history.
Now, more than ever, it is absolutely imperative that our people come together to fight against the dangerous, subtle racism that plagues our government, business sector and communities. This is not to say that a new Civil Rights leader must emerge to lead us “to the Promised Land,” so to speak – but quite the contrary, in fact. I heard a great metaphor from a woman on CNN speaking about Coretta Scott King’s funeral. To paraphrase, she said, back in the day, the movement was more of a \”soloist\” effort. You had so-called soloists like Dr. King and Malcolm X who brought the blatant racism and prejudice to the forefront of politics. And now, it’s the “choir’s” turn to take over. We have to ALL work together to eradicate the internal, subtle racism in our society. One soloist is not going to do the job—the entire choir is needed.
You and I are both members of the choir, and now is our turn to take over for the soloists who have left us. We have to keep the song going — it’s not over.

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