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We Need THIS, Not Affirmative Action

by John Spritzler

Septermber 13, 2005

There are two ways, short of an egalitarian revolution, to redress the decades of racial discrimination in hiring and school admissions. The first way produces great resentment of whites against blacks and Hispanics and undermines solidarity. The second way produces great solidarity between whites and blacks and Hispanics. Our ruling elite made their choice shortly after the Civil Rights Movement had garnered tremendous support from white working class people on the basis of opposing racial discrimination; the Movement gained so much widespread support for this goal that it was able to abolish Jim Crow's racial discrimination in law. Which way do you suppose was chosen by our ruling plutocracy (in particular by its chief agent at the time, President Richard Nixon)? If you guessed the first way you would be right.

The ruling class chose what came to be known as Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action sets lower criteria for minorities than for whites to be hired or accepted into a college or university. Instead of being against racial discrimination, Affirmative Action is for it. What has been the result? Terrible! For decades now whites have been hearing employers or schools tell them, "We're sorry. We couldn't give you the position you applied for because we had to give it to a less qualified minority person." Could a better method of creating racial resentment ever be invented? * (Furthermore, Affirmative Action has not come close to delivering the goods or even moving things substantially closer to the goal of racial equality. What we have now is the "New Jim Crow" of racist prison incarceration.)

The second method, the one the plutocracy avoided like the plague, is this: Make the criterion for being hired to a job or admitted to a school be the same regardless of race: that the applicant has what is really required to do the job or benefit from the school. Stop requiring applicants to get some arbitrary score on a test (like the SAT) that correlates far more with race and economic status than with actual ability to succeed as an employee or student. In addition, bring back on-the-job training (something only older people remember) so that the criterion for getting hired is what really matters--simply the ability to learn the relevant new skills. This alone would dramatically increase the numbers of minorities hired for jobs or admitted to schools.

In addition, however, the second method would include guaranteeing anybody, regardless of race, this: If you're willing to work reasonably doing something socially useful (that's different from making a profit for a capitalist!) then you'll have the opportunity to do so and to receive in return the same standard of living as anybody else.** And furthermore the second method would include this: Create schools sufficient in number and appropriate in type of instruction to enable any person who wants to further their education to do so.

The second method of redressing past racial discrimination would result in ZERO unemployment among minorities as well as whites and would enable EVERY minority person and every white person who wanted to further their education to do so. If THIS were the solution to making up for past racial discrimination in hiring and school admissions (even just the first part of the method alone) then white working people would be in agreement with it. They'd LOVE it. But no, the plutocracy didn't choose the second solution because it would not have furthered divide-and-rule. Still, the second solution is the kind of solution that we should fight for as a way of ending racial discrimination and making a better world for all of us. It's an egalitarian solution.

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* Here is some evidence that, before Affirmative Action was implemented, it was well-known that its effect would be to destroy the solidarity between white and black working class people that had developed in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that had opposed racial discrimination. As recounted here, Bayard Rustin (who, "in the 1950s became one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s key advisers...[and who] played a major role in devising the tactics that were responsible for the civil rights movement’s early victories in the Deep South...[and who in] 1963 ... was named as the chief organizer of the March on Washington ") in the 1970s "was thus uncomfortable with racial preferences that he believed would alienate the white working class."

** Martin Luther King, Jr., always advocated "race-neutral" improvements that would benefit all working class people; he never advocated racial preferences that came to be known, after his death, as "Affirmative Action." In King's address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967 he thus said:

"The problem indicates that our emphasis must be twofold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available."

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NO RICH AND NO POOR: The Populist Goal We CAN and Must Win

DIVIDE AND RULE:The "Left vs. Right" Trap