An Untold History of Racial Inequality in
Twentieth-Century America. Ira Katznelson
Which is why we still need affirmative action.
Don’t think we are now living in some type of post-racial wonderland simply because we now have a black president, and will for the next four years—voters willing. We know that economic inequity has deepened the divide between the rich and the rest of us, and we have blinders on if we fail to see the relationship between social class and race/ethnicity in our society. Key to the development of a middle class is education beyond high school, yet when we live in a country which still has de-facto segregation in much of K through 12 education, we cannot make the old segregationist argument that “separate, is equal.”
Schools Are More Segregated Today Than During the Late 1960s was the headline of an article in The Atlantic over the summer.
Ironically, Mitt Romney’s father George attempted to address this, pointing to housing discrimination as a root cause.
Forty years ago, George Romney, Mitt’s father, resigned as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development after unsuccessfully attempting to force homogenous white middle-class suburbs to integrate by race. Secretary Romney withheld federal funds from suburbs that did not accept scatter-site public and subsidized low and moderate income housing and that did not repeal exclusionary zoning laws that prohibited multi-unit dwellings or modest single family homes—laws adopted with the barely disguised purpose of ensuring that suburbs would remain white and middle class.
Confronted at a press conference about his cabinet secretary’s actions, President Nixon undercut Romney, responding, “I believe that forced integration of the suburbs is not in the national interest.” This has since been unstated national policy and as a result, low-income African Americans remain concentrated in distressed urban neighborhoods and their children remain in what we mistakenly think are “failing schools.” Nationwide, African Americans remain residentially as isolated from whites as they were in 1950, and more isolated than in 1940.
Crickets from Romney on the Fisher v. University of Texas case.
NBC’s Martin Bashir talks about Mitt Romney gutting affirmative action in Massachusetts, as did an article in the Huffington Post.
The looming decision we are faced with from the Supreme Court as they sit to decide the fate of affirmative action in our nations colleges and universities is not simply a matter of higher education, nor is this discussion one that should be examined as solely the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.
All of the seething resentment about “entitlements” and “reverse discrimination” (a Bakke era term I abhor) that you hear presented as a rationale to dump the programs, are rooted in history, one that we often fail to acknowledge. The playing field is not only not level, it was rigged, and still is.
(Continue reading below the fold.)