Know Your Enemy: The Assault on Diversity - Higher Education

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Know Your Enemy: The Assault on Diversity

by Black Issues

Know Your Enemy: The Assault on Diversity

While policy-makers and educational administrators decry the underrepresentation of African American students in institutions of higher education, groups like the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) work to limit African American presence on campuses even more. While innovative programmers build programs that will attract African American students to their campuses, CIR attacks programs that are designed for minority students. While some of us breathed a sigh of relief that the U.S. Supreme Court left affirmative action intact in the University of Michigan law school case, the CIR has been emboldened enough to see their victory in the undergraduate case as an invitation to continue litigation against universities.
Here’s what they say on their Web site: “Gratz and Grutter make the continued use of racial preferences risky for colleges. Schools have a choice. They can try to adopt the UM law school system to other contexts, in which case they face continued scrutiny and possible litigation. Or they can follow the Court’s explicit direction to investigate and use the hundreds of race neutral admissions systems now working in five states.”
Ted Shaw, the new president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, calls the threat that groups like CIR pose “huge.” He says, “Ironically even after we won Michigan they are trying to contain affirmative action through threats and intimidation, promising litigation down the line. Some universities are fearful of litigation, but others use threats as excuses to do less about affirmative action.” Because the threats of litigation are real, Shaw says, “It is hard to tell which response is real.”
It’s not hard to see what has been attacked. CIR has gone after minority scholarships, pipeline programs in the academy and corporate America, and summer orientation programs, just to name a few. Their attacks have had such a chilling effect on the development of minority scholarship programs, that some groups are deciding to forgo such programs for fear of legal attacks. Yet, these attackers have never gone after private programs for, say, descendants of Civil War veterans, or members of a particular ethnic group, such as Italians or Latvians. It is only race that makes their temperature rise.
 Who are the organizations that fund anti-affirmative action efforts? What are their agendas? And how are they funded? Surprisingly some of the very corporations that run a “diversity” line when they talk about their corporate goals also fund efforts to dismantle affirmative action. Some of the same folks who buy corporate tables at NAACP events are funding a litigation program designed to turn the clock back on civil rights. The Adolph Coors Foundation is one of the largest funders of anti-affirmative action work, but there are others, including Archer Daniels Midland, the ARCO Foundation, Chevron USA, Pfizer, the Philip Morris Cos., Texaco and the Xerox Foundation.
The CIR is not the only bad guy. The Pacific Legal Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Institute for Justice and the American Civil Rights Coalition are among the other groups dedicated to dismantling civil rights and affirmative action. Some African Americans have also become pawns in this game, working with groups like the Center for New Black Leadership and the Center for Equal Opportunity. Many of these groups have been funded by clearly conservative organizations like The Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Foundations (there are several), the John M. Olin Foundation Inc. and others. While foundations that are perceived as liberal struggle to show “balance” in their funding, or to be “apolitical,” conservative foundations show no hesitation to spend big money to achieve their goals.
Lee Cokorinos of the Institute for Democracy Studies has done an extremely thorough job of documenting the “organized challenge to racial and gender justice” in his book, The Assault on Diversity: An Organized Challenge to Racial and Gender Justice (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003). He looked at the plethora of new conservative organizations, their leadership, and the sources of their funding. He notes that the Right is battling those who support diversity in the media, in the courtroom, and in the political arena and warns of the “aggressive opposition” that these organizations pose to affirmative action and diversity initiatives. Their goal? Cokorinos says it is “the elimination of many of the central gains of the civil rights movement over the last half century.”
These organizations have been shrewd in their ability to use the language of the civil rights movement against it. They purport to stand for fairness, and insist that they simply want a level playing field. But they myopically ignore structural racism, or our nation’s racist past. Missing in action during the civil rights movement, they now want to argue that White people are victims of discrimination. Wonders Shaw, “Why devote so much of one’s time, money, resources … against affirmative action when so much racial inequality, as a consequence of our nation’s long history of White supremacy, remains intact?”
Obviously, these people see nothing wrong with racial inequities, shrugging them off as they attack the very programs that would close some of the racial gaps in income and education. We have to know these enemies and the many institutions they have created to oppose the African American presence in “their” institutions. They are well organized, well funded and arrogant. But knowledge is power, and we can begin to protect ourselves against assaults on diversity by understanding who these people and institutions are and what their agenda is.  



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