Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bakke, University of Michigan, Tim Wise

            The 14th Amendment has done more for individual American citizens than disenfranchised minority groups, and it is unfortunate because it was in the interests of displaced Africans by which granted them citizenship. The essence of the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is so comprehensive that it has universalized basic rights while ameliorating the horrific American pastime of slavery.

The University of California Davis Medical school in the Bakke Case demonstrated how, in efforts to rectify past racial discrimination, no one wants to take responsibility. Justice Matthew O. Tobriner states: “ The Fourteenth Amendment that served as the basis for the requirement that elementary and secondary schools be ‘compelled’ to integrate should now be turned around to forbid graduate schools from voluntary seeking that very objective.” (Ball p. 61) Tobriner seems to be harping on the efforts of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to integrate schools. Interestingly enough many of the cases preceding Brown v. Board of Education (1954) dealt with higher education admissions (law and medical schools). With the periodic triumph of these cases, momentum of resistance developed and Plessy v. Ferguson separate but equal clause was finally overturned. What Tobriner believes to be a shame is that the spirit of the Brown v. Board of Education is going down the drain, all because a few individuals believe they are entitled to a higher-education. Unfortunately, college in this country is a privilege not a right. And for a long time blacks were denied access into these honorable institutions we call the University. This literal white privilege has been part of college admissions, private and public, for a long time. And it seems that the rights of an individual (of a majority group), is becoming more important than the rights to a historically disenfranchised  minority group.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 comes from a long history of racial justice. And surprisingly the roots of its language stems from the semantics of the Bill of Rights. While slavery was still well in place, Americans fought the tyrannical power of British Colonists and after declaring independence drew up the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, was created in order to protect citizens from such Intolerable Acts as the Quartering Act, and no Taxation without representation. These first ten amendments addressed the needs of Americans.

The Civil War was a war to end slavery. And legislation which would follow was created to protect the rights of black people against the hegemony of the southern Confederacy. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments gave black people citizenship, the vote, and total abolishment of America’s peculiar institution. Similar to the way in which the Bill of Rights protected Americans from a tyrannical federal government, the 13th, 14th, and 15th protected black people from racist state power, especially in the south, where Jim Crow Laws ran rampant. And then finally Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Brown v. Board of Education 1954, would protect individuals from local, state, and federal policies denying citizens “regardless of race, color, or national origin” their basic human rights. What seemed like a series of laws that had black people in mind, at its center, would transform and become the grounds by which disgruntled white folks would illustrate their custody over the few and far in between college seats across the nation. Lawyers for Bakke, “sued on the grounds that both the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause ‘Nor shall any state…. Deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.’ And the title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the very same Title VI used by university administrators to justify preferential admissions prohibited such race- based preferential admissions procedures.” (Ball p. 7)

This use of the Fourteenth Amendment did not end in the Bakke case, it would also apply to what we now know as the Michigan Affirmative Action Cases. Things would not look good for black folks wanting to attend law school at the University of Michigan “The law school’s inability to meet the standards of constitutional statutory review for its affirmative action program led the district court, via Judge Freidman’s opinion, to conclude that the affirmative action policy violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.” (Perry 75)

There were however Judges who did believe that the fruits of affirmative action was priceless. “O’ Connor responded for the majority that the Fourteenth Amendment’s ‘Equal protection clause does not prohibit the law school’s narrowly tailored use of race is admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” (Perry 146)

Much of what created such a permanence among white students was the notion of white privilege, Time Wise illustrates this interesting phenomenon that occurs amid white students. “Although not every white person’s story is the same as mine, the simple truth is that any white person of color, and as such received directly the privileges, the head start, the advantages of whiteness as a matter of course. This goes for all whites not merely some, but all.” (Wise 13)

“Whiteness, as these stories in part demonstrate, is about never being really out of place, about having access and, more to the point, the sense that wherever you are, you belong, and won’t be likely to encounter much resistance to your presence. Despite my lousy test scores and mediocre grades, no one ever thought to suggest, for example, that I had somehow gotten into Tulane because of some form of ‘preferential treatment’ or as a result of standards being lowered. Students of color though, with similar grades and scores regularly had to content with this sort of thing, prescribed to be the less qualified beneficiaries of affirmative action.” (Wise 44)

“People of color can’t really avoid white spaces, and if they do it’s probably because they live in the poorest areas, and are the most destitute persons of color around: after all, having much the opportunity in the job market or in education typically requires a fairly high level of interaction with white folks, since so much of the power within either setting resides in white hands. (Wise 47)

            Wise emphasizes the point that the reason why many white students file law suits is because they feel privileged. And that years of discrimination is mutually exclusive of the law. Everyone attending college should start on a clean slate, and should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Unfortunately the law historically has not been mutually exclusive of social constructs such as race. And that race has played a part in such pieces of legislation as the 3/5 compromise. The spirit of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was to make sure that everyone was treated fairly. And in order to do so, white students must make room for their colleagues who, may have been qualified generations ago, but was denied entrance due to Jim Crow Laws. Sure, white students may not get into the college of their first choice, but this doesn’t mean that they are not going to college. These students in fact get accepted in greater numbers than blacks, and go on to have an easier time landing a job. Call it whatever you want: achievement gap, white privilege, reverse discrimination, whichever way you slice it there is social divide along lines of race, one in which becomes difficult to resolve. This dilemma however, as difficult as it may seem, often times is remedied on the college campus, where the magic word diversity becomes the byproduct of affirmative action. Students get to meet other students who may not be of the same gender, race, religion, or economic class, and forge bonds that may seem incredible. It is the conversation and actions of these young people, harmonizing with one another that will determine if affirmative action is worthwhile. And sometimes moral authority trumps legality. 


Ball, Howard The Bakke Case published by University of Kansas 2000

Perry, Barbara A. Michigan Affirmative Action Cases published by the University of Kansas 2007

Wise, Tim White Like Me: Reflections From a Privileged Son published by Soft Skull Press
                  New York 2005


Saturday, September 7, 2013

14th Amendment


This is my first blog, so bear with me. In light of the current affirmative action case involving the University of Texas and being interested in the subject I thought it would be a good idea to express some of my thoughts and invite others to join the conversation. Things are really heating up, as with the Supreme Court's decision to send the case back to the state courts, which allows room for more debate and dialogue on the subject. Instead of framing the issue as affirmative action versus legacies like the cartoon below illustrates I thought it would be a better idea to frame the conversation in a broader context of white privilege and reverse discrimination. By doing this I hope to illustrate how affirmative action, like all pieces of federal legislation, protect the rights of all people, black or white against state tyranny and individual bigots.

In addition to the cartoon, I have also posted a video.

I also have posted the lyrics and sounds of Kanye West's New Slaves off of his Yeezus album.

but let me first begin with an essay:

 “The original Bill [of rights] also focused centrally on empowering the people collectively against government agents following their own agenda. The Fourteenth Amendment, by contrast, focused on protecting minorities against even responsive, representative, majoritarian government.” (Reed 215)

            This essay will disprove the aforementioned statement written by Akhil Reed Amar, and assert that the Fourteenth Amendment functions today similarly to the way in which the Bill of Rights did in the wake of the American Revolution. Even though Thomas Jefferson and many other Anti-Federalist believed that the Bill of Rights was an infringement on State and Local Rights, it did succeed in securing all people with basic rights and autonomy, moving away from such tyrannical policies such as Taxation Without Representation and Intolerable Acts, upheld by the British Colonial Monarchy. Independence from Britain along with the Constitution and its first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, secured individual rights that would safeguard any future acts of injustice and discrimination. The fourteenth Amendment did the same thing for all people at the conclusion of the Civil War, and even though it was created within the context of post-bellum American policy and the political direction toward enfranchisement of the American Negro, which may meet the criteria of what Reed calls a minority, The Fourteenth Amendment, after its ratification would be used by those who would be classified as part of the majority.  Thus disproving Reed’s assessment of a narrow analysis of the amendment. This essay will illustrate the 14th Amendment as a progenitor of the Bill of Rights, as well as a policy used by members of the majority, and finally how the 14th Amendment ameliorated the relationship between state and federal government, and elucidate how state governments curbed the rights of people of color in very much the same way the British did to America.

            Part of the Bill of Rights, or the first ten Amendments to the constitution describes a policy which may seem what may seem invasive, the third Amendment. It states: “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” This policy, without a doubt, was manifested by the arbitrary lodging of British Troops in the American colonies during the Revolution, and was written in order to safeguard American citizens from the abuse of power by the armed forces, whether they be from Colonial or National (Federalist) powers. As an aside, many middle Eastern countries are illuminating how important such a law can be, in terms of national security and individual freedoms. Many people have to succumb to the demands of the government whether official or non-official, which displaces people and glorifies armed force. Many countries seek a system such as the one we have here in the states, not only for material wealth but also for personal safety.

            Similar to the “No Soldier shall”, the 14th Amendment states “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Again, the 14th Amendment extends the spirit of the first 10 Amendments or the Bill of Rights from tyranny and discrimination. Much like the 3rd Amendment curbs the power of armed forces, the 14th Amendment stops racist, bigoted, unjust state government officials from denying negroes citizenship. In addition to explicitly stating the limits of state power, the Amendment also sums up the spirit of the Bill of Rights with the clause: “life, liberty, or property, without due process”. This clause, like how the 3rd Amendment protects homeowners, protects all human beings living in America from unlawful destruction of basic human rights. Thus the 14th Amendment puts limits, like the Bill Of Rights, against tyrannical entities, like Colonial Britain or racist southern states.

            In addition to the 14th Amendment being an extension of the Bill Of Rights, the 14th is also an Amendment that is surprisingly used by members of the majority, specifically white people. Take for instance the court case Cantwell v. Connecticut 1939

"Jesse Cantwell and his son were Jehovah's Witnesses, they were proselytizing a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in Connecticut. The Cantwells distributed religious materials by traveling door- to- door and by approaching people on the street. After voluntarily hearing an anti- Roman Catholic message on the Cantwells' portable phonograph, two pedestrians reacted angrily. The Cantwells were subsequently arrested for violating a local ordinance requiring a permit for solicitation and for inciting a breach of the peace.

Yes. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that while general regulations on solicitation were legitimate, restrictions based on religious grounds were not. Because the statute allowed local officials to determine which causes were religious and which ones were not, it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court also held that while the maintenance of public order was a valid state interest, it could not be used to justify the suppression of "free communication of views." The Cantwell's message, while offensive to many, did not entail any threat of "bodily harm" and was protected religious speech.

Like the way in which Anti- Federalist such as Thomas Jefferson despised tyrannical federal power, leaving the states little sovereignty, blacks feared the abuse of state powers on individuals. This would not only be a common thread in the 20th century, but also among whites who sought refuge in the wake of state hegemony.

Hale v. Kentucky, was a United States Supreme Court case relating to racial discrimination in the selection of juries for criminal trials. The case overturned the conviction of an African American man accused of murder because the lower court of Kentucky had systematically excluded African Americans from serving on the jury in the case. NAACP counsel, including Charles H. Houston, Leon A. Ransom and Thurgood Marshall, represented Hale. This case dealt with not only the ramifications of the 14th Amendment in the denial of due process, but also a clarification of the 6th Amendment.

In conclusion, the Fourteenth Amendment was an enhancement and extension of the Bill of Rights, those reaping the benefits of the legislation vary across race, religion, political philosophy. And yes it is possible, that a policy designed to protect what Reed calls the minority, in fact, has the power to protect the majority, thus serving as universal rights transcending ethnicity, class, gender, and aptitude. 


Amar, Akhil Reed The Bill of Rights published by Yale University Press, Connecticut 1998

Cortner, Richard C. The Supreme Court and the Second Bill of Rights published by University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisonsin 1981 

Rawn, James Jr. The Root and The Branch published by Blooms Bury Press, New York, NY 2010

......I will be checking back on this subject with a new essay regarding the following court cases: Bakke, Bollinger, with an analysis of Tim Wise's White Privilege 

Enjoy the media! 

"New Slaves"
[Verse 1:]
My momma was raised in an era when,
Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doing clothes you would have thought I had help
But they wasn't satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself.
You see it's broke nigga racism
That's that "Don't touch anything in the store"
And there's rich nigga racism
That's that "Come here, please buy more"
What you want a Bentley, fur coat and diamond chain?
All you blacks want all the same things
Used to only be niggas now everybody play me
Spending everything on Alexander Wang
New Slaves

You see it's leaders and there's followers
But I'd rather be a dick than a swallower

You see it's leaders and there's followers
But I'd rather be a dick than a swallower

[Verse 2:]
I throw these Maybach keys
I wear my heart on the sleeve
I know that we the new slaves
I see the blood on the leaves
I see the blood on the leaves
I see the blood on the leaves
I know that we the new slaves
I see the blood on the leaves
They throwing hate at me
Want me to stay at ease
Fuck you and your corporation
Y'all niggas can't control me
I know that we the new slaves
I know that we the new slaves
I'm about to wild the fuck out
I'm going Bobby Boucher
I know that pussy ain't free
You niggas pussy, ain't me
Y'all throwing contracts at me
You know that niggas can't read
Throw on some Maybach keys
Fuck it, c'est la vie
I know that we the new slaves
Y'all niggas can't fuck with me
Y'all niggas can't fuck with Ye
Y'all niggas can't fuck with Ye
I'll move my family out the country
So you can't see where I stay
So go and grab the reporters
So I can smash their recorders
See they'll confuse us with some bullshit like the New World Order
Meanwhile the DEA
Teamed up with the CCA
They tryna lock niggas up
They tryna make new slaves
See that's that private owned prison
Get your piece today
They Probably all in the Hamptons
Braggin' 'bout their maid
Fuck you and your Hampton house
I'll fuck your Hampton spouse
Came on her Hampton blouse
And in her Hampton mouth
Y'all 'bout to turn shit up
I'm 'bout to tear shit down
I'm 'bout to air shit out
Now what the fuck they gon' say now?