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November 02, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-02

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 2, 2005


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Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


'' This is an affront
to our leadership. It is
an affront to the
United States of
America, and it is
- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.),
commenting on a Democratic decision to invoke
Rule 21 and seal the Senate to pursue an
investigation offaulty pre-war intelligence,
as reported yesterday by CNN.com.


The gags have got to go

The gags seemed
like a good idea
at first. During
Thursday's Take Back
Affirmative Action Day,
a number of well-mean-
ing student groups orga-
nized a "day of silence"
in which minorities
wore black gags around
their mouths and did
not speak until 5 p.m.
that evening. The gags were supposed to sym-
bolize the silencing of the black community that
would very likely ensue were Ward Connerly's
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to pass next
November, making affirmative action unconsti-
tutional in the state of Michigan.
But then, at the noon BAMN rally, the Diag
became a locus of chaos and embarrassment.
Out-of-control school children raced back and
forth across the Diag, waving around militant
pro-affirmative action picket signs and scream-
ing unintelligibly into microphones they never
should have been given. News reporters caught
footage of angry encounters between individu-
als on both sides of the issue. And the ultimate
folly of the gags became clear: The little black
pieces of cloth had done exactly what they were
intended to do - silence those who most des-
perately needed to be heard.
BAMN, also known by its extraordinarily
long and not-so-catchy official title: The Coali-
tion to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration,
and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality
By Any Means Necessary, was the proud spon-
sor of last Thursday's midday mayhem.
Though the rally did not drum up support
for affirmative action per se, the event was not
a complete failure. It did, for example, success-
fully alienate the militant-wary majority of the
student body, whose support is needed most
ardently. It did succeed in thoroughly embar-

rassing significant segments of the campus's
black community, who must fight daily to over-
come the very stereotypes BAMN helped to
perpetuate at the rally. And it very much made
Connerly's day, perhaps prompting him to send
BAMN a fruit basket, or at the least a thank-you
card of sorts.
It is not BAMN's goals that are so polar-
izing and controversial, but its methods. The
organization's militant ideology - "By Any
Means Necessary" - is not the most effective
way to build broad-based coalitions and grass-
roots support for the cause. Its's decision to bus
in middle- and high-school school students to
Ann Arbor to participate in Thursday's rally
was a mistake - one that severely undermined
BAMN's worthy and ambitious agenda and
worse, wounded the legitimacy of the affirma-
tive-action movement at the University.
Make no mistake - after the Thursday's
pandemonium, the NAACP had no choice
but to publicly denounce BAMN's actions and
distance itself from the organization. For the
many black students who feel as though their
right to attend the University is under constant
attack, there is no greater nightmare than the
sight of black, largely inarticulate elemen-
tary-aged children screaming on behalf of
affirmative action. Nor is there any greater
Still, the NAACP made a profound statement:
Those who believe most deeply in a better soci-
ety - a society where equality, opportunity and
merit matter - will not allow the fight for affir-
mative action to be compromised by organiza-
tions that threaten to undermine its legitimacy.
But while BAMN may not be the most elo-
quent or effective proponent of affirmative
action on campus, it is by far the loudest, a sta-
tus reinforced by last Thursday's gagging of the
very individuals who have something important
to say. Those who support affirmative action,
oppose it vehemently or in any way give a damn

about the quality of educational experience at
the University must stand up and be heard, and
with next year's election just around the corner,
they had better do it now.
The group Students Supporting Affirmative
Action helped to sponsor the "day of silence,"
as well as the early evening rally on the Diag
- one that proved to be more inclusive and ulti-
mately more effective than the midday disaster.
But while SSAA uses far less polarizing meth-
ods to convey the necessity of affirmative action
than BAMN and has the potential to create a
broad, grassroots coalition that can effectively
advocate for affirmative action, it is - to be
frank - not loud enough.
BAMN will not succeed in defeating the
professionally run MCRI campaign on its own.
SSAA, along with other student groups such as
the Michigan Student Assembly and the Col-
lege Democrats, must be far more outspoken,
organized and visible advocates for affirmative
action at the University than they are today.
BAMN's Thursday display might have been
embarrassing, but it was made possible by the
shameful failure of other student groups to
make it known that the fight to save affirmative
action is not synonymous with "By Any Means
The chaos and embarrassment that took
place in the Diag last Thursday are what hap-
pens when legitimate organizations fail to act
and students fail to care. They are the ugly
face of what is proving to be an insidious and
destructive apathy at the University, an apathy
that couldn't make Connerly any happier. The
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is a dastardly
named assault on the values of equality and
diversity our community has worked so hard to
achieve. We cannot remain gagged in silence.
Now is the time to speak.


Gay can be reached at

Affirmative action and the shadow of slavery
.. he University writers to the Daily have suggested, is to ignore they get - a maxim opponents of affirmative
chapter of the the legacy of slavery in this country. There are action seem to agree with. These critics assume
NAACP and many groups affected by affirmative action and there is equal opportunity among groups, a level
the Daily editorial board the MCRI, but slavery makes the treatment of playing field, but this simply does not exist.
have criticized BAMN's black Americans especially salient. One might compare standardized tests and
rowdy tactics at the Slaves literally built this country - the rich- race-neutral college admissions policies to the
group's rally last Thurs- est and most powerful beacon of freedom in the black codes in the South. The correlation is not
day. Both parties disap- world - upon their backs. When slaves were perfect, but they both include rules, intentional
proved of the busing in emancipated, which didn't come about from or not, that keep or kept blacks out of the ruling
of black students from quiet protest, Southern whites found ways to class. The black codes included arbitrary tests
Detroit, some of whom subjugate them. Ex-slaves were arrested for petty to prevent ex-slaves from voting, gaining land
resorted to spitting and offenses and leased back to their previous own- and receiving fair compensation for work. Stan-
yelling. Before we rush to condemn BAMN's ers in the convict-lease system. Later, this system dardized tests deepen the drain on funding to
actions, we have to ask if the students came of was replaced by chain gangs. In the first instance, schools with large minority concentrations like
their own will or as pawns of BAMN's leaders private individuals profited from the forced labor; those in Detroit. Race-neutral admissions poli-
and if they were informed about the topics of the in the second, the government did. The relics of cies and tests allow prominent schools to deny
rally - affirmative action and the Michigan Civil this thinly veiled slavery can be seen in the exist- admission to qualified minority students who
Rights Initiative. ing chain gangs in some states and the prolif- never received proper educational resources and
According to the University chapter of the eration of prison industrial complexes, in which test preparation. Such schools, like our beloved
NAACP, the answer is no, but had the answer inmates often bank less than a dollar an hour, University, are for many students stepping
been yes, could we criticize BAMN's rambunc- working increasingly for private corporations stones into the ruling class. By keeping large
tious behavior? Why shouldn't Detroit's black like Starbucks. The populations in these prisons numbers of black Americans and other minori-
students, whose futures may depend on affirma- are disproportionately black. According to the ties from getting in, current University students
tive action and the MCRI, voice their opinions? Sentencing Project, "One of every three black ensure their place on top. Is it a surprise then
Do they not have good reasons to get angry and males born today can expect to be imprisoned at that University students have told those black
shout, even with profanity? By telling these stu- some point in his lifetime." Upon release - in a students from Detroit to be quiet?
dents to go back to Detroit and play nice and haunting parallel to Jim Crow - many of these Many of these silencers, including some
speak in quiet tones, are we maintaining an blacks are disenfranchised by state laws. opponents of affirmative action, supposedly
oppressive order? What is the best approach to The segregation of our schools and cities, his- want racial equality but through different means
civil rights - the militant efforts by the Black torically and presently, has been another way than those used by BAMN. I don't know which
Power movement or the nonviolent policy of to marginalize black Americans. As education approach is best, but if we want equal and inte-
Martin Luther King? I don't support violent pro- advocate Jonathan Kozol points out in his new grated education, we must support affirmative
test, but don't we already live in a violent society, book, districts with high concentrations of blacks action. If our intentions are sincere, we must then
in which millions die at the hands of crime, pov- receive far less funding than those in the suburbs. be willing to accept the implications of an equal
erty, drugs and war? If those schools can't meet certain testing stan- and integrated society.
These are hard questions, but I can say one dards, in accordance with Bush's hypocritical
thing for certain: To eliminate affirmative action No Child Left Behind Act, they forfeit additional Cravens can be reached at
in favor of race-neutral standards, as many letter funding. The more students need help, the less jjcrave@umich.edu.

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Reggie Brown, John Davis, Whitney Dibo,
Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Eric Jackson, Ashwin Jagannathan,
Theresa Kennelly, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose,
David Russell, Brian Slade, John Stiglich, Imran Syed, Ben Taylor.

If affirmative action is
continued, everyone will
live in a racist society

that the proponents of affirmative action are
racist, because it gives preferential treatment
based on race. Because that also seems like
a plausible argument, I'll accept his position

society is a deciding factor. Is that what we
really want? A system based on socioeco-
nomic status, which places importance on
need, rather than color, would avoid this

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