By Richard Gordon Hatcher
Donald Trump once famously asked the African American community: “What do you have to lose?” We now have the answer. Everything.
Is this the time to stand up and fight back? Clearly, the answer is yes. Poll numbers on Trump’s disastrous performance as President reveal rapidly shrinking support for him and his policies.
Yet his minions are generating alarm and outrage as they push forward with their right wing agenda. Recent reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is planning to investigate and possibly sue universities over admissions policies that allegedly discriminate against white applicants are fanning the flames of both racism and resistance to racism.
This action brings us back to the Allan Bakke case of almost 40 years ago that alleged “reverse discrimination” against white students at a California medical school. At that time, in a close vote, the court ruled that while affirmative action was constitutional quotas were not.
Judge Harry Blackmun wrote in his opinion on Bakke that “To get beyond racism, we must first consider race.” His words ring as true today as they did then.
Two years after the Bakke ruling, civil rights organizations came together to oppose the nomination of Robert Bork, an arch-conservative and Ronald Reagan’s nominee to the Supreme Court. We were able to defeat Bork through national sustained political action, and thus were able to stem the tide of reaction in favor of democracy and fairness.
But now we have conservative Neil Gorsuch on that court.
By saturating the ground with gasoline, all someone needs to do is light a match at the Supreme Court that could undo admission policies all over the country.
We cannot allow that to happen.
Right now, the DOJ is looking to pull together a team of lawyers from the department’s Civil Rights Division to work on “…intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”
Eight states already ban affirmative action admission policies.
It is clear that this administration is building a case against young people of color on every front.
The evidence is compelling. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Civil Rights Division chairperson Candice Jackson, who is white, will be brought into the fray. She has claimed she was a victim of discrimination at one point in her college career.
Meanwhile as planned, the Education Department has scaled back its civil rights investigations at public schools and universities.
Many in the civil and human rights communities warned against DeVos heading up the Education Department. This is the result.
This bombshell follows another volley from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they would not enforce recent DOJ reforms aimed at the nation’s cities’ police departments.
The reforms mandated by then Attorney General Eric Holder were templates for the nation’s out of control police departments.
An unrelenting trend in police shootings of unarmed African Americans continues to stalk the nation.
Add to this Sessions’ rant that prosecutors must enforce maximum sentences for drug offenses that we know will target Black and Brown communities unfairly, sending more young people to the nation’s prisons.
And all of this on the heels of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act four years ago.
We agree with the Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund that “This is what a 21st century assault on civil rights looks like, an assault on voter rights, an assault on police-community relations, and now this latest attack on affirmative action. It is really stoking an us versus them narrative that is doing nothing but harm to our country.”
We hope that the public is not foolish enough to believe that the Trump administration has no discernible policies. These actions are proof positive that through the DOJ, the Education Department and the Supreme Court, he intends to use false flags to tear asunder good policies and laws under the guise of “Making America Great Again.”
We say he is really trying to “Make America White Again!”
We must stand up for this generation and the next in every way possible—through our national organizations, on the streets, in the courts, in our social media, and in our churches, mosques and synagogues.
In this way, we can uphold our great democratic traditions by being on the right side of history and make real Dr. Martin Luther King’s proclamation that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Richard Gordon Hatcher is a civil rights activist, lawyer, and one of the first African American mayors of a major American city, Gary, Indiana. He is currently Chairman of the Board, National Civil Rights Hall of Fame, dedicated to educating the nation’s children of the sacrifices made to open the doors of opportunity for all citizens of the United States.