The decline in affirmative action over the last several years should be a major cause for concern for anyone interested in social justice. We often hear from rightwingers how affirmative action is actually reverse racism against qualified whites, something that many white men and even white women are happy to believe in since they see any rise in society by blacks or Latinos as a direct threat. Unfortunately, the left has not properly defended affirmative action for reasons that deserve another posting. But we must defend this key piece of civil rights legislation and I will attempt to do so here.
When whites oppose affirmative action, it is a racist act. Though they may frame the issue in the rhetoric of the self-made man, that is a coverup for not being willing to confront the historical white racism that continues to course through the veins of this nation. Mainstream whites have always opposed rights for blacks and since the Civil War this rhetoric of the self-made man has dominated the reasons why they oppose it. Most whites didn’t oppose slavery. Most whites refused to support the federal government using its power to ensure a fair shake for blacks during Reconstruction. Most whites supported Plessy v. Ferguson. Most whites didn’t actively oppose lynching. Most whites didn’t support the desegregation of schools when it applied to them. And we all know what happened when blacks started to move into white neighborhoods in the North. Opposing affirmative action is simplythe next phase of whites opposing black civil rights. And until we fight to uphold the rights of blacks and fight against historical white privilegethat we whites benefit from everyday, the racists who actively fightaffirmative action and average whites who are insecure with their own lives and ready to blame blacks for their problems will continue to roll back thegains of the 1950s and 1960s.