"400 years of slavery is worth 20 points'' said one of hundreds of placards in the crowd outside the U.S Supreme Court, in Washington. "Save affirmative action!"

Thousands had journeyed from as far away as California to support the University of Michigan Law School's admissions policies, in what may be the last line of legal defense of affirmative action in higher education and other arenas of American society. ``If we're not careful, we could find ourselves in a situation where there is a resegregation of schools,'' said Kweisi Mfume, chairman of the NAACP. "I remember what it was like before affirmative action.''

Inside, lawyers for white plaintiffs argued that the law school's attempt to maintain a "critical mass" of minority students amounts to unconstitutional racial "quotas" - a view thought to be shared by four of the nine Justices. Race is one of a range of factors in the school's admissions process, worth 20 points to minority applicants.

Swing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor buoyed affirmative action supporters with her skeptical assessment of the anti-diversity lawyers' presentation. "You're speaking in absolutes, and it isn't quite that," she said. "I think we have given recognition to the use of race in a variety of settings."

One of the largest contingents of demonstrators had traveled by bus from Michigan. Others hailed from as far away as California. "We must fight this fight . . . using our marching feet," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, joined at the podium by Martin Luther King III and presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton. "The struggle is not over," chanted the crowd. "They say Jim Crow, we say hell no!''

The march was called by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action & Integration And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). Organizers gathered their forces the previous day at historically Black Howard University, where Washington lawyer Donald Temple warned, "Tomorrow's case can take us back to Plessy v. Ferguson," the 1896 Supreme Court decision that ushered in more than half a century of segregation under the "separate but equal" doctrine.

Only an April fool...

National Bar Association President Malcolm S. Robinson admonished fellow lawyers to join the demonstrators. "Only an April 'Fool' will be silent and pretend that your successes within our profession had nothing to do with affirmative action programs that were enacted to remedy proven acts of discrimination within the realm of the higher education admissions process," wrote Robinson, in a letter to NBA members.

Much of the corporate, educational and even military establishment balked at following Bush back to the days of Jim Crow. A record-breaking number of friend-of-the-court briefs were filed on behalf of the plaintiffs, and endorsements of the University of Michigan's policies have also come from a number of mainstream Jewish organizations that had opposed more rigorous affirmative action programs - an indication that important sectors of the American establishment believe the assault on the general concept of "diversity" constitutes a threat to social stability.

Never since the 1954 Supreme Court Brown desegregation decision has an administration been so hostile to school integration efforts. Indeed, the anti-affirmative action phalanx and George Bush's political network are indistinguishable, as reported in the current issue of The Nation.

At stake is the freedom of the University of Michigan and other universities to use carefully tailored means to achieve a diverse student body. Standing against them are the Bush Administration and a handful of misleadingly named organizations with which the Administration has close ties, such as the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), Linda Chavez's Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), and Ward Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI). Key right-wing foundations have bankrolled these groups for the past dozen years. The CIR, which brought the Michigan cases, is also responsible for the notorious Hopwood case, which overturned affirmative action throughout the US Fifth Circuit. Bush's Solicitor General, Federalist Society veteran Theodore Olson, argued Hopwood on behalf of CIR.

Recently, the fetid breath of Thomas Sowell wafted into the diversity discussion via the loony pages of the Jewish World. Sowell is the Godfather of subsidized Black conservative "public intellectuals." Now in eclipse, Sowell rose to unearned prominence through rightwing speaking and publishing networks in the 1970s, back when racist think tanks were just beginning to learn how to work the strings of eager Black puppets. Sowell continues to peddle pedagogical nonsense in brown paper packages:

Despite all the gushing about the mystical benefits of "diversity" in higher education, a recent study by respected academic scholars found that "college diversity programs fail to raise standards" and that "a majority of faculty members and administrators recognize this when speaking anonymously."

This study by Stanley Rothman, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Neil Nevitte found that "of those who think that preferences have some impact on academic standards those believing it negative exceed those believing it positive by 15 to 1."

The study Sowell cites - funded, like himself, by rightwing foundation money - actually "proves" that many white students and faculty resent affirmative action programs on "their" campuses, a valid argument only to those who believe that whites have an inalienable right to enjoy all of their preferences in life.

The Bush men have assembled a long and sorry list of ideological lawyers who are prepared to interpret the constitution along precisely those lines. Two especially gruesome nominees await lifetime confirmation by the full Senate. Democrats have been struggling to maintain a filibuster against corporate lawyer Miguel Estrada, a Honduran-born clone of Clarence Thomas and Bush's campaign wedge into the more opportunistic elements of the Hispanic community. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee last week rammed through the nomination of Texas judge Priscilla R. Owen, particularly noxious to abortion rights activists but also hostile to civil rights in general. It remains to be seen if hangdog Senate Democrats are capable of sustaining two filibusters, given their ingrained habit of rolling over under pressure.

Digital electoral error and fraud

Hundreds of computer scientists have joined to confirm the worst fears of a techno-phobic public: the new voting machines may be subject to tampering and irretrievable loss of data. According to the March 28 Washington Post:

[T]he the scientists' campaign, which began in California's Silicon Valley in January, has gathered signatures from more than 300 experts, and the pressure has induced the industry to begin changing course.

When Georgia debuted 22,000 Diebold touch screens last fall, some people touched one candidate's name on the screen and saw another candidate's name appear as their choice.

In September in Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties had a different kind of vote loss with ES&S touch-screen equipment: At the end of the day, precincts that reported hundreds of voters also listed virtually no votes counted. In that case, technicians were able to retrieve the votes from the machines.

Most of the affected Miami voting precincts were heavily Black.

The new voting technological has leaped ahead of legal precedents, raising questions of when and how voting rights are violated by acts of computer programming commission and omission - a new body of law that will eventually be sorted out by the U.S. Supreme Court. We all remember how the High Court voted when the last big Florida election dispute landed in their docket, December 2000.

The Hard Right is intent on plowing under the field of dreams sown in the Sixties and early Seventies. Minority business set-aside programs, championed by President Richard Nixon more than 30 years ago, are under siege in virtually every state. Studies such as the one cited by Thomas Sowell show that white majorities actually believe that African Americans are getting more than their fair share of public contracts.

In North Carolina, statewide Black Leadership Caucus chairman Larry D. Hall was compelled to correct the factual record in a letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight:

African Americans have been the most loyal Democratic voters in the state. African Americans provided much of the margin of victory for the university and higher education bonds. However, reports at the initial stages showed African American contractors had been awarded approximately 1.9% of the $750, 000,000 in bond contract awards....

The primary cause of the construction delays is that most contractors have too much work and not enough time. Yet, we continue to "lock out" segments of the community who could timely and economically deliver services to reduce this problem.

The events of September 11appear to have somehow validated suppressed white prejudices. A recent Leadership Conference on Civil Rights report cites steady progress in the struggle to convince the nation of the injustice of racial profiling, but

On September 11, this consensus evaporated. The 19 men who hijacked airplanes to carry out the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Arabs from Muslim countries. The federal government immediately focused massive investigative resources and law enforcement attention on Arabs, Arab Americans, Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, such as Sikhs and other South Asians. Many of the practices employed in the name of fighting terrorism - from the singling out of young Arab or Muslim men in the United States for questioning and detention to the selective application of the immigration laws to nationals of Arab or Muslim countries - amount to racial profiling. But despite public hostility to street-level racial profiling, anti-terror profiling has flourished.

Inevitably, the traditional profiling of native-born Blacks has become respectable practice, once again.

Counter Intelligence knocking at the door

History dictates that the police state mechanisms enacted and proposed by the Bush men (Patriot I and Patriot II) will disproportionately target indigenous communities of color. Ideological Bush men roam the countryside, warning that Islamist terrorists are aggressively recruiting among Blacks and Latinos behind bars.

For the serious reader, we recommend "Jihadis in the Hood," an excellent examination of evolving political and religious links between international Islam and urban America. In exploring the realities of "Race, Urban Islam and the War on Terror," Columbia University research fellow Hisham Aidi ridicules rationales for targeting prisons as nurseries of terror.

David Schwartz, who recently retired as religious services administrator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, strongly rejected the notion that American prisons were a breeding ground for terrorists, and stated that Islam was a positive force in the lives of inmates. Scholar Robert Dannin adds: "Why would a sophisticated international terrorist organization bother with inmates - who are fingerprinted and whose data is in the US criminal justice system?"

Real terror lies in the machinery of the U.S. criminal system, home to almost a million African Americans at any given time. Its appetite for Blacks is insatiable. So adaptable is the institution, it has turned the miracle of DNA to its own purposes.

Prosecutors in Houston, Texas have ordered retesting of 68 prisoners' DNA, including 17 men on death row, reports the March 31 Los Angeles Times.

Analysts botched simple tests. They misinterpreted data. They stored evidence in a room where the ceiling leaked so badly that, one stormy night, 34 DNA samples were destroyed.

"I have never seen such a collective bunch of incompetents in my life," said Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, former head of the DNA lab at the medical examiner's office in Harris County, which includes Houston. "They don't understand how the testing should be done or how it should be interpreted. None of them can think it through any better than the others. They just don't get it."

Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown urged a moratorium on those death penalty cases in which evidence from the police crime lab was used.

"This is the right thing to do," the Black mayor wrote, displaying a keen sense of understatement.

For some, salvation comes in the person of Johnnie Cochran who, unfortunately, can only rescue a few clients at a time. Steven Crawford was freed from a Pennsylvania prison last year after serving 28 years for killing a 13-year-old friend in a $32 robbery. Crawford was 14 at the time. Crawford's story became newsworthy to the Associated Press - by virtue of the glow emanating from his celebrity lawyer.

Notes by a now-retired police chemist - found in a county detective's briefcase after he died - contradicted police testimony about blood particles on a hand print left by Crawford in the garage.

The new evidence suggested that the print was old and Mitchell's blood was splashed across it, not that Crawford made the print while the blood was on his hand.

The lawsuit names the state, Dauphin County and city of Harrisburg as well as the chemist, a state police trooper and the county detective's estate. All testified about the validity of the hand print evidence.

The discovery of the notes prompted a judge last year to order a new trial. Prosecutors instead decided to drop the case.

Crawford wants $35,000 as compensation for his 28-year ordeal.

Donna Brazile shows her Lieberman colors

We knew it all the time. Black Democratic National Committee member Donna Brazile, who convinced former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braun to run for in primaries, is a supporter of the party's rightwing, Bush-minded champion, Joseph Lieberman - the Connecticut Senator with the corporate bucks.

Brazile came out of the conservative closet waving the war flag. "After I heard Al Jazeera broadcasting that videotape showing what the Iraqis did to the American POWs, I was livid," Brazile told the Washington Times. "We have to send out the strongest possible message of support."

Most of the Congressional Black Caucus oppose the Iraq war. "I don't want to make any comment on the Black Caucus' position. They have their reasons. For many people this is a moral issue," said Brazile, revealing her own moral deficit. "We cannot afford to be talking just to the anti-war people. That's easy. We have to talk to everybody, especially independents."

Lieberman is a raving Arab-killer, more rhetorically hawkish than the Bush men.

Brazile managed Al Gore's 2000 run for President, and recently started her own political consulting outfit. Gore's roots are in the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the Southern-born, corporate wing of the party now led by Joe Lieberman. The DLC is the most lucrative grazing ground for big consultant fees. In recent months she has been ostentatiously huddling with Republican operatives, as well, advertising her... open-mindedness.

Slyly, Brazile pretends that Congressman Richard Gephardt - who tore his butt with anti-war Democrats by helping craft Bush's first War Powers Resolution, last October - is her favorite guy. However, veteran Washington-watchers (like the publishers of ) can read her like a commercial billboard. Again quoting the Washington Times article: "Gephardt is a personal friend. I worked for him on the Hill. Dick would put America first," she said, but then she added: "I could also support Lieberman. Gephardt or Lieberman," she repeated. Nothing about Carol Moseley-Braun.

Brazile appears to be already giving the racist, sleep-talking Lieberman advice, on spec.

LIE berman's shameless bid

A few days after Brazile's coming-out article, Lieberman announced what the Los Angeles Times described as "a series of liberal social goals, including affirmative action and an expansion of civil rights protections for homosexuals." The event was less than advertised, consisting of platitudes and outright lies. Lieberman claims to be a staunch supporter of affirmative action, when in fact he has always added the caveat, "but I oppose quotas" - a red herring since no college affirmative action program has included quotas since the Bakke decision of the Seventies. Lieberman pointedly refused to join other Democratic Senators in endorsing the University of Michigan's "diversity" program, back in January. Apparently, the stacks of corporate amicus briefs favoring Michigan changed his mind.

Lieberman is also the strongest Democratic supporter of faith-based bribery in the Senate. White House Faith-based Initiatives operatives routinely praise his efforts to fine-tune the legislation for smooth passage. Singing the same tune, Donna Brazile urges Democrats to collaborate with Bush's plan to buy the political allegiances of Black preachers: "I'm urging them... to discuss where they can agree on domestic issues, such as Bush's faith-based initiative."

Kucinich strong as ever

Presidential contenders Sen. John Kerry and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean remain unquotable on the Iraq war, having not yet recovered from shock and awe-induced bouts of the waffles. Rev. Al Sharpton continues to preach the same perfect line, in minute accord with every major element of the mainstream Black political agenda, a model for the progressive agenda.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is the white candidate with heart, and a penchant for poetry. The following can be found on his campaign web site.

Stop the war now. This war has been advanced on lie upon lie. Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for any role al-Qaeda may have had in 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attacks on this country. Iraq did not tried to acquire nuclear weapons technology from Niger. This war is built on falsehood.

Stop this war now. Seventy-five billion dollars more for war. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars for tax cuts, but no money for veterans ' benefits. Money for war. No money for health care in America, but money for war. No money for social security, but money for war. We have money to blow up bridges over the Tigris and the Euphrates, but no money to build bridges in our own cities. We have money to ruin the health of the Iraqi children, but no money to repair the health of our own children and our educational programs.

Gunboat economy

While Rev. Jesse Jackson searches for a company willing to insure a plane to carry a religious delegation to Baghdad, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) deconstructed George Bush's belief that "the market alone, not a democratic government in cooperation with the private sector, can fix an economy."

To reinforce this conservative philosophy, he appoints judges to federal district and appeals courts - and wants to appoint Supreme Court justices akin to Scalia and Thomas - who have a similar conservative anti-government ideology, who will likely interpret the law and the Constitution in a way that favors market forces (business and finance) over human rights and civil liberties - courts that limit the reach and effectiveness of government....

In Iraq - by ignoring the UN, international law, collective security and world opinion - the President is trying to impose a U.S.-led outside-in and top-down "democracy" that matches his top-down and trickle-down market economics. But our democracy, even in its infancy, was brought about through a bottom-up American revolution of values which led to a Declaration of Independence, a revolutionary war, and ultimately a Constitution. It didn't come through gunpoint democracy!

Unlike Lincoln, President Bush is trying to build a more perfect world before he builds a more perfect Union. But, like Lincoln, we should be trying to complete "the great task remaining before us" in our own democracy, even as we seek - alongside others - to build a more perfect, humane and truly democratic world.

Peace on the Web, Rally in Harlem

Peace activists from around the globe gather on the web April 3 - 7 for a National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution. Check in at Peace Web to find your "gathering" of choice - for example, the "Gathering of African/African American Peacemakers."

Thousands are expected to gather in Harlem to answer a "Call to All African Americans & People of Color," April 5. Among the participants is Black Telephone Workers for Justice, who issued this statement:

The Black Telephone Workers for Justice join with worldwide public opinion against the racist, unjust and imperialist war being waged by the Bush Administration against the people of Iraq. We are in full support of the April 5th March Against War to be held in the Village of Harlem. We hope that it will be a tremendous expression of opposition by the Black community and other communities of color, to the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Let there be no mistake. The war against the people of Iraq is n illegal action, in violation of international law, in violation of the UN Charter, and in opposition to the sentiment of the majority of the world's people. When all is said and done, the Bush Administration must be brought to trial for War Crimes.

The raising of the U.S. and Marine flags on Iraq's territory, was an act no less villainous than the raising of European flags in Africa during its late 19th Century conquest and partition. This modern day empire building must be resisted will all of our energy and resources.

Saturday, April 5, 2003 @ 11 am
Assemble at Marcus Garvey Park at 124th St. & 5th Ave.
March starts at 12:00 Noon
2 PM Rally at Harlem State Office Building
125th St. & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd (7th Ave.)

Black Solidarity Against the War Coalition
Endorsing groups (partial listing):
District Council 1707:Raglan George/Executive
Director, Brenda Stokley/Local 215, Victoria Mitchell//Local 107, Glenn
Huff/Local 205, Norman Taylor/Local 215, Betty Powell/Local 95
Muslim American Society
Al-Awda NY/NJ
The New England
Committee to Defend Palestine
Women in Islam; Council on American
Islamic relations (CCAIR-NY)
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Defend Palestine Committee
Vieques Support Campaign
Harlem Tenants Council
Harlem Fight Back
December 12th Movement
New York City Chapter of The National Conference of Black Lawyers
New York City Metro Area Chapter of N'COBRA
Patrice Lumumba Coalition
Black Telephone Workers for Justice
New Jersey State wide Coalition for Reparations
People's Organization for Progress
Black Workers Unity Movement
Blacks Against The War, Action for Community Empowerment
Community Justice Center
Cuba Solidarity New York
The Emergency Committee for Palestine
New Jersey Solidarity
Monica Santana/Immigrant Rights Activist
William Camacaro/Committee in Solidarity with Venezuela
Silvia Arana/Latino Collective of WBAI
La Fuerzan de la Revolucion
NY City MetroChapter of the Black Radical Congress
The Free Mumia Abu Jamal Coalition
Valentin Silverio Partido de los Trabajadores Dominicanos
Carlos Bernales (Peru)
Centro Cultural Abya-Yala
Wilson Spencer Bloque de la Izqierda Dominicana
Luis Barrios Iglesia San Romero NYC
Working Peoples Voice Collective
Women for Racial and Economic Equality (WREE)
Folk Singer & Activist Matt Jones


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Issue Number 36
April 3, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story
Racist War and Pirate Plunder

"Skeeza" is as "Skeeza" does... Countdown to impeachment... U.S. journalism’s corporate death

Guest Commentator
Is the US Funding Haitian "Contras"? By Kevin Pina, Port au Prince, Haiti



Commentaries in Issue 35 March 27, 2003:

Cover Story
Onward Embedded Soldiers - The corporate media’s deputized war coverage

War and the Great White Disinformation Machine by Dr. Kweli Nzito

The Issues
Baraka: "Condoleezza’s a Skeezza"... Affirmative action hangs in the balance... The inevitable clash with Iran

Guest Commentator
Are Black People Pulling Their Anti-War Weight by Donna J. Warren

Guest POET
Operation Putrid Smell By Rodney D. Coates, Ph.D.

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.