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It’s been nearly fifty years since the 1964 Civil Rights Acts and the United States is still in denial about ongoing racism. The June 24 Supreme Court ruling remanding a Texas affirmative action case back to the Fifth Circuit is only the latest example; there was no way that five justices would confirm ongoing racial discrimination by upholding the very mild Texas affirmative action strategy, so the Court’s allowing this vital remedy to survive—for now -- was a huge victory. But a separate Court ruling that day restricted individual race discrimination lawsuits only a year after it limited class action race (and gender) actions, leaving many victims without legal recourse.

voting rights

Today, the Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act on the grounds that "conditions" have changed. Many Americans join with the conservative Court majority in believing the sheer passage of time has eliminated racism, notwithstanding the evidence. And while progressives back affirmative action and other strategies to address ongoing racism, some activists feel that many progressives remain uncomfortable discussing race, to the detriment of building broader progressive movements.

I have never been so happy to be wrong.

wrote on July 3, 2012after learning the Supreme Court took the Texas affirmative action case, “There’s no way affirmative action in public colleges universities survives this ruling, decades of case law notwithstanding. The Supreme Court would not have taken this Texas case of a white student challenging race as an admissions factor if it wanted to keep the longstanding practice."

I feared all public and private sector affirmative action could be thrown out by the Texas ruling, as this Court is hardly known for limited decisions. So despite public claims by civil rights activists that they were “extremely disappointed” that the Court did not affirm the Texas program, few saw this as a possible outcome.

A bullet was dodged. And with no other pending Supreme Court cases on the docket, programs to address past discrimination against racial minorities and women will continue.

Ongoing Race Discrimination

In “Missing Men: The Lack of African-American Head Coaches in College Football,” Dr. Matthew Lynch lays out the inconvenient truths about ongoing racism in America’s colleges and universities:

“Of the 124 Division 1-A college football schools, only 15 had African-American coaches in the 2012 season, The Big Ten conference has seen zero Black head coaches in the past 10 years. Only 31 of 255 of offensive and defensive coordinators are African-American. Combined, Black football coaches and support staff represent a measly 5 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision numbers. At Division II and Division III schools, diversity is even worse. The Black Coaches Association reports that, in the 2012 season, only nine schools of 113 in these two categories had head coaches of color. These numbers exclude historically Black universities.”

I’ve never heard opponents of college affirmative action offer a non-racial explanation for such numbers. College football draws coaches from the ranks of former players (a high percentage of whom are black), yet is overwhelmingly white in head coaches and key assistants.

And the same college presidents who preside over this racist hiring are supposed to be trusted to ensure fair admission to black students in the absence of formal affirmative action policies. It's no wonder that wherever college affirmative action ends, the number of African-American students declines.

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I cite college football coaches because affirmative action opponents often attribute low employment numbers in various professions to small pools of eligible minorities. No job category more powerfully refutes non-racial explanations for hiring than college coaches drawn from a pool where blacks are a near majority.

Ongoing racism is also evident in housing. Here is the conclusion from a HUD report on housing discriminationreleased on July 11, 2013:

“Real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, thereby increasing their costs and restricting their housing options. The study concludes this is a national, not a regional, phenomenon.” While Black and Asian renters today “appear less likely than a decade ago to be told that advertised units are unavailable….changes in other measures of rental discrimination are not statistically significant.”

In other words, a study released two weeks ago found little reduction in housing discrimination over the past decade. It would have been a cruel irony for the Supreme Court to have disposed of affirmative action in the wake of such documented lack of progress.

Progressives and Race

On the day before the Court’s affirmative action ruling, Sharon Kyle, publisher of the LA Progressive website, posted, “Netroots Nation 2013 Still Lacking Diversity.” Kyle, who is African-American and served on the conference’s panel selection committee, noted “while I applaud NN13 for making a conscious effort to be inclusive, the outcome was disappointing and raises questions about the unintentional ways we exclude others. Why is it that this topic is such a hard one to broach? Is the progressive movement racially segregated? What can we do to change the racial composition of future Netroots conventions”?

These are good questions. I was struck by the overwhelming white composition of the progressive blogosphere while attending the 2008 Democratic Convention; Kyle indicates this has not changed.

It would be helpful for progressive bloggers of color to explain why they did not attend Netroots Nation. Yet many are likely too busy writing stories to divert energy into explaining why they did attend a particular conference. There are no easy answers, but when someone like Kyle, who tried to broaden the event’s diversity, is left frustrated by the outcome, something needs to change.

DailyKos is one of the leading forces behind Netroots Nation. Founded and still headed by a Latino, it provides strong coverage of race, poverty, and economic justice issues. Overall, the predominately white, NN segment of the progressive blogosphere does a much better job than traditional media in covering racial justice issues.

randy shaw

Randy Shaw

Writers for all these sites would agree that greater diversity among the Netroots is necessary to build a broader and more inclusive progressive movement. The challenge is figuring out how to make this happen.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

Tuesday, 25 June 2013