Tuesday, September 22, 2009

History of Race Preferences

¡Hola! Everybody...
No foreplay today, getting right to the issue...

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-=[ The Curious History of Race Preferences ]=-

Their leaders seem more intent on vying with blacks for permanent victim status than on seeking recognition for genuine progress by Hispanics over the last three decades.

-- Linda Chavez on Latino/as

Linda Chavez, an anti-affirmative Latina favored by conservatives because of her last name, would have us think that Blacks, Latino/as, and other people of color are looking for handouts and preferential treatment. Ironically, it is she who has benefited professionally and financially by trading on her own Latina heritage. Like many conservatives, she claims that segregation was defeated and white prejudice almost completely eradicated after Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. She goes as far as saying (as many black and brown enablers of the racial conservatives do) that it has been liberals that have derailed Latino/a progress. I call those who deny the reality of racism racial conservatives. I addressed their shoddy scholarship earlier (click here).

You might know of Chavez, she testified recently against Supreme Court Judge Sotomayor during Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. Chavez has a particular dislike for Latino/as in general and specifically for Puerto Ricans, but I will not explore that today. I will address her sub-standard scholarship and self-loathing when I address Black and Brown conservatives. Chavez had to step down as a nominee for Labor of Secretary under the catastrophe known as the Bush II administration because, yes, she hired an illegal Latina immigrant. She denied knowing said individual was here illegally though the person in question contradicted that denial. Later, Chavez herself would issue an admission of sorts and forced by Bush's people to step down.

Therefore, if I call Chavez a hypocrite (she admonished Clinton appointees who did the same), it’s not character assassination, it’s an observation. Calling her a “come mierda” (shit eater) can be perceived as an attack on her character, but -- fuck it -- she’s a shit eater if ever there was one...

Chavez and other racial conservatives believe the United States has made better progress in removing racial barriers than liberals will acknowledge. The shift began, they argue, during the 1950s. And when the Civil Rights movement succeeded in abolishing Jim Crow, white racism had all but withered away. As a result, at least according to Chavez and her masters, affirmative action programs are unnecessary and in fact are a form of “reverse racism.”

Ironically, the current debate over race-based solutions assumes that the only beneficiaries of these policies are blacks, other racial minorities, and women. However, if we define affirmative action as “race and gender preferences codified into law and enforced through public policy and social customs,” then it is indeed strange and peculiar to suggest that affirmative action began when in 1963 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925. Taking the above definition, often cited by opponents of affirmative action like Chavez, it would be more accurate to mark the beginning date for this legal policy as 1641. That is when laws specifying rights to property, ownership of goods and services, and the right to vote, restricted by race and gender, were first enacted. In 1790, Congress formally restricted citizenship by naturalization to “white persons,” a restriction that would stay in place until 1952.

Understood in this way, affirmative action has been in effect for 367 years, not 46. For the first 330 years, the deck was legally stacked on behalf of whites and males (Fredrickson, 1988). Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, in Dred Scot, didn’t mince his words when he said: “Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported to this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community, formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all rights, and privileges, and immunities guaranteed by that instrument?” Justice Taney’s answer to his own question leaves no doubt. We the people, he stated, was never intended to include blacks, slave or free. The authority cited by Taney in his ruling? The Constitution, the courts at every level, the federal government, and the states -- all having routinely denied blacks equal access to rights of citizenship (Harding, 1983).

It follows, then, that from the inception of the United States, wealth and institutional support have been invested on the white side of the color line. This preference, in turn, has led to an accumulation of economic and social advantages for European Americans. On the black side, it has resulted in the systemic exclusion of equal access to economic and social benefits, leading to a disaccumulation for blacks. When Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925 in 1963, he was simply attempting to pry open the doors that had been sealed shut for more than three centuries. Now, after only four decades of “racial and gender preferences,” come mierdas like Chavez and other racial conservatives, have launched a largely successful attack against affirmative action programs that were instituted to reverse three hundred years of disinvestment in black communities. Yet when power and wealth were being invested on their side of the color line, white Americans registered hardly any opposition to the arrangement, nor do racial conservatives acknowledge this historical fact (Steinberg, 1995).

However, we don’t have to go back three hundred years to find the roots of current white privilege. We can look at more recent policies that have been instrumental to racial inequality. But that’s for another post...



Fredrickson, G. (1988). The arrogance of race. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Harding, V. (1983). There is a river: The black struggle for freedom in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Steinberg, S. (1995). Turning back: The retreat from racial justice in American thought and policy. Boston: Beacon Press.


  1. Hey there. i dont have much to say as Im trying to maintain a hold on the remains of my sanity. but some people really bother me. Now, I do understand concerns about AA and all that, I have some. BUT at the same time, I wont ever say that ppl do not have legitmate beefs OR that TPTB will simply cede power and control to others. No, it has to be taken. And ther eis a time to legislate decency and I can deal with that. Those who have see, rightly, any attempt to level the playing field as taking something from them.
    I wont argue that. I will say that when people have seized more thant heir fair share and used their might to hold others down and maintain their grasp on EVERYTHING, that sometimes taking shit is what has to be done. My ancestors BUILT this place, but they didnt get wealthy or powerful from it. Im not asking for 40 acres or a nasty ass mule, but a FAIR shot at a job and education, that isnt too much. Healthcare for ppl who work 40 fuckin hours a week, that aint too much.

    Folk wanna say it wasnt them, it was their ancestors blah blah. Well, wahts that quote about standing ont he shoulders of giants? Yougot what you have because your ancestors were standing on the backs of mine, you didnt DO it, but you are profiting. If you are so committed to decency, own up to the fact that you benefit from past oppression. (Shit, CURRENT oppression too.) Pay a lil more for a tshirt so immigrants can get a fair wage. Pay a lil more in taxes so ppl can get healthcare, if those same people werent here working for peanuts and cutting your lawns and watchin your kids for you and harvesting food, where would you be? You benefit from their labor, let them benefit too. Reciprocity.

    Im tired of typing, is this long enough?

  2. this comments system is glitchy...


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