<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Why History Remains a Factor in the Search for Racial Equality <p> <i>Earl Lewis</i></b> <p> <p> The conversation began innocently enough. "So how do you think of yourself?" we asked. A light-skinned child of six, the product of an interracial marriage, she without hesitation responded, "I am black, African American." "Why?" came the question from both parents' mouths even before we realized the consequences or implications of what we had just asked. With a tone that suggested surprise at our need to ask, she pronounced, "If slavery still existed, I would be a slave." The young girl whose sense of self could not be erased from the history of race in America was my six-year-old daughter Suzanne. Even at that tender age she knew enough about her country to comprehend that she could not live outside of history and its meanings in everyday interactions. As a nation and society we had created race, and she was a by-product of that history; in and out of school she had been so educated. Unwittingly, she joined a long list of scholars in saying that race was an historically manufactured social construction and had a lingering effect on all. No matter how much she might have desired, she could not escape that history. <p> This essay does more than retrace that history; it explores the link between past events and contemporary public policy. It begins with a review of the constitutional debates over access to education, especially higher education, culminating in the landmark 1978 <i>Bakke</i> decision. It briefly reviews the imperatives for adopting affirmative action policies in the United States during the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It argues that federal officials responded to real disparities in life choices and material conditions and that the policies adopted were rooted in the history of racial discrimination in the United States. To underscore this point, I rely almost exclusively on black-white comparisons, while acknowledging that affirmative action benefited American Indians, Latinos and Latinas, Asian Americans in some instances, and white women. Rather than examine all sectors of society, the second half of the essay looks closely at diversity in higher education. I conclude with two essential points. First, policies designed to insure equitable access to opportunity produce a more civic-minded citizenry, which was a key reason for the introduction of affirmative action. Second, the introduction of affirmative action cannot and should not be divorced from the particulars of a given society. In the American context, this meant that action by public and private institutions intended to both correct past inequities and produce societal gains. With the latter in mind, those same policymakers sought to take advantage of the diverse talents and skills that deserved to be nurtured, assuming that in doing so they served the larger goal of furthering the aims of the democratic society. That the debate over affirmative action roils one nation reflects the United States' continued encounter with its racial dilemma. That ethnic hostilities have surfaced in a number of world settings reminds us of the problem difference plays in all societies. Failure to acknowledge and address the dilemmas of ethnic integration could prove a vexing and enduring problem for the world in the twenty-first century. <p> <p> <b><i>The Continued Encounter with the American Dilemma</i></b> <p> Nearly six decades ago Gunnar Myrdal, aided by the prodigious research skills of a team of social scientists, forced an intellectual and philosophical confrontation: He and his colleagues exposed the profound differences between the American ideal and the American reality. As a liberal democracy, the United States had long been hailed as a "shining city on a hill," an example of the best in human potential, where, some claimed, caste, class, religion, gender, and race were social markers but not barriers to success and achievement. From the foothills of Appalachia through the dense thicket of ethnic urban enclaves, across the barren landscapes of the West, another narrative competed. It described an America where social markers limited the height of one's accomplishments and narrowed the scope of one's dreams. Myrdal's effort to understand those two Americas culminated in the publication of <i>An American Dilemma</i>, which he subtitled <i>The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy</i>. <p> Race, Myrdal concluded after his research, played a significant role in America. That the study commenced during the Great Depression, when black unemployment rose substantially, underscored rather than distorted what minority status meant in a democratic society. From our vantage point of the early twenty-first century rather than the midpoint of the twentieth, one might contest the juxtaposition of <i>Negro</i> and <i>problem</i>. After all, the special place of African Americans in the country's life and history had as much to do with others as it did with the descendants of the enslaved Africans who labored so mightily in the fields, farms, and factories before the Civil War. Yet in looking at a modern democracy that denied its full benefits to a subordinated, racialized population, Myrdal identified a disjunction that still vexes the United States and the scholars who study the ways of its citizenry. <p> The American Negro problem is a problem in the heart of the American. It is there that interracial tension has its focus. It is there that the decisive struggle goes on. The "American Dilemma," referred to in the title of this book, is the ever-raging conflict between ... the valuation preserved on the general plane which we shall call the "American Creed," ... and ... the valuations on specific planes of individual and group living. <p> <p> Using the vernacular of the last century's first years, which celebrated a general support for democracy and freedom for all Americans, Myrdal asked how to achieve a just society without violating the perceptions of justice and fairness, especially if laws were introduced to protect or advance the interests of a few. How does one realize equity in a society when the focus is often on equality, especially when equity represents the process of becoming equal? <p> In the half century and more since Myrdal compiled his observations, much has changed in America. The most rigid, state-enforced examples of racial discrimination live only in the memories of those old enough to have experienced the bitter sting or sweet benefits of legal segregation. Americans are today free to pursue affairs of the heart across the color line without governmental interference or opposition, free to live where their finances permit, open to attend schools and colleges of their choice and means based on factors other than just the color of their skin. Income disparities have narrowed, educational attainment levels have converged for select portions of the general population, and life expectancy, to name a few examples, no longer diverge as markedly. <p> Yet the tension Myrdal so brilliantly pinpointed remains a source of civic injury. Racial difference and intolerance can inflame as openly today as in the past. Hardly a day goes by when some example of the capacity to hate, often in a murderous fashion, outshines examples of tolerance. For commentators such as Dinesh D'Souza, who insist that racism is a feature of the past and not the future,4 come reminders that it is impossible for most of us to completely step outside of history. In popular culture, academic treatises, social analyses, advice on marriage mates, and families squabbles about friends, we are reminded that race, and our unavoidably incomplete analysis of it, figures significantly in the state policies adopted. <p> <p> <b><i>Deep Roots</i></b> <p> America's encounter with the dilemma of race began the day nineteen Africans entered colonial Jamestown and became bonded labor. More than two centuries of slavery, a Civil War, and periods of reconstruction and redemption added new chapters but did not alter the main storyline: race marked blacks as second class in American life. By the end of the nineteenth century the spring of hope that followed the abolition of slavery gave way to the winter of despair, or what historian Rayford Logan called the nadir. Extralegal violence, political disfranchisement, and growing residential segregation increased across the South and much of America. <p> A way of life evolved for blacks, whites, and others. In the South, racial groups lived in both the bright light and the shadows of one another's existence. On one level work patterns meant that blacks often had intimate knowledge of the folkways, thoughts, and behavior of whites. As in slavery, they saw whites for whom they worked at their best and worst. On another level, perceptions of supremacy meant that few whites saw most blacks as intimate equals, for they were not. Laws and local ordinances appeared that regulated human interaction. The system under which all lived became known as Jim Crow, or segregation. At its most basic level the system separated blacks from whites in things sublimely routine and in matters perversely significant-birth registers, water fountains, cemeteries, and telephone directories, for example. <p> The period from the 1890s to 1940 was more than a tragic story in American race relations; it was a period characterized by pronounced violence. Lynchings, mass murders, convict labor, debt peonage, abject poverty, and more subtle but nonetheless pernicious forms of racism shaped black and white lives for nearly three generations. In this contrived world the lowliest white assumed domain over the most successful black. Looking back from the twenty-first century, some may find it convenient to dismiss this ugly period in American history or to inflate the power of white authority. Many blacks managed for days and weeks at a time to live beyond the stare of white eyes. That too was a central dimension of Jim Crow life. They saw themselves as more than victims; they were full men, women, and children trying to chart lives in a sometimes inhospitable world. Yet victimization was not a figment but a real possibility, one that all blacks feared and one that elders explained to their charges so they could avoid death. <p> At the local and national levels blacks organized to thwart the system of segregation. They created national protest organizations, used political contacts and involvement to champion their own interests, and engineered efforts to challenge the legality of Jim Crow legislation. Throughout the history of struggle against the system, the courts of the land played a profoundly central role, especially the U. S. Supreme Court. <p> In the 1890s the battle lines of the fight for justice and opportunity centered on the Deep South. New Orleans had been a cultural and racial crossroads; there the different strands of Europe knotted with the ethnic fibers of Africa to produce a creole tapestry seldom found in the continental United States. In a tripartite arrangement, African, Europeans, and their progeny claimed their distinct places on the quilt of social relations that distinguished New Orleans, notwithstanding the existence of slavery, from other southern places. <p> In New Orleans Homer Adolph Plessy joined a group of others incensed by new limits imposed on them on public conveyances. Many blacks feared, and a number of whites hoped, that a new racial covenant was soon to emerge, one that established the sanctity of segregation. Plessy, seven-eighths white but nonetheless black according to state law, believed that the 1890 Louisiana law, the Act to Promote the Comfort of Passengers, violated his rights. The law specified that "all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this State, shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored races, by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations." Railway executives frowned on the provision as unnecessary and an additional financial burden. For nearly two years train workers all but ignored the prohibitions, allowing blacks to sit according to arrival and class of ticket, although companies did add cars for "coloreds only." Upset by the law and what it implied, blacks pushed to have the law abolished. <p> On June 7, 1892, a coordinated challenge took place. That day Plessy claimed his seat on the East Louisiana Railway as the train journeyed thirty miles north of New Orleans, headed to Covington. Through a prearranged signal, Plessy moved to the section reserved for whites, only to immediately be asked to return to his seat. Given Plessy's appearance, it is highly unlikely that the conductor could discern race from a quick glance. That a detective stood ready to arrest him when he refused to surrender his seat suggests a coordinated action. Soon Plessy found himself before a magistrate in New Orleans, who found that he had knowingly and willfully violated the state ordinance. Plessy appealed the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which allowed him to take his case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. <p> Four years after the initial act of civil disobedience, the Supreme Court issued its decision. Henry Billings Brown wrote the majority opinion, which codified the legal principle of separate but equal. The court's majority concluded that as long as blacks had nominally equal access to resources, the state could devise strategies to separate them from whites. The constitution, the majority reasoned, could not place blacks and whites on the same social plane. Over the course of the next two generations the critical issue would become what constituted equal opportunity. <p> Within twelve years of the 1896 <i>Plessy</i> decision the Supreme Court ventured into the territory of higher education. Berea College in Kentucky, a private institution, had been tied to an interracialist sentiment since its 1859 founding. School officials believed that the welfare of the nation turned on the ability to educate a leadership, guided by Christian principles, that could work with other groups. The school had been founded as a place where blacks and whites would encounter one another as relative equals (prohibitions against interracial dating notwithstanding). Opposed to the commingling, the state of Kentucky inserted itself. The state introduced legislation that required school officials to teach blacks and whites at separate times in separate locations. This set in motion a legal fight that ultimately landed in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the Kentucky legislation, arguing that the state of Kentucky could regulate human interaction at public as well as private institutions because the state had authorized the incorporation of the school. The constitutional prerogative did little to hide the net effect: segregation provisions drew invidious distinctions between whites and blacks. The language was highly visible in the Kentucky statute: <p> If the progress, advancement and civilization of the twentieth century is to go forward, then it must be left, not only to the unadulterated blood of the Anglo-Saxon-Caucasian race, but to the higher types and geniuses of that race. <p> <p> In fact, <i>Berea College v. Kentucky</i> accented the understood logic: segregation was not devised to benefit blacks but rather to insure that the interests of whites prevailed. <p> It did not take two generations before African Americans and their friends began to fight back. Even during the formative years of segregation individual blacks managed to attend the most selective colleges and universities. Private schools such as Amherst, Brown, and Harvard, and public universities such as Minnesota, Michigan, and UCLA counted a black graduate or two among their alums in the 1910s and 1920s. From this small cadre emerged a growing black intelligentsia, which included the legal theorists and strategists William H. Hastie and Charles Howard Houston, and such towering figures as Alain Locke, E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche. From their seats at Howard University they came to train among others the future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Defending Diversity</b> by <b>Patricia Gurin Jeffrey S. Lehman Earl Lewis Eric L. Dey Gerald Gurin Sylvia Hurtado</b> Copyright © 2004 by University of Michigan . Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.