Is there a significant difference in the employment rate of African American in Higher Education in California after the implementation of Affirmative Action?
Chapter 1 – Introduction and background to the problem
This paper attempts to provide an analysis of Affirmative Action in minority employment, specifically in relation to African Americans in the California Higher Education system by comparing the period 10 years before and 10 years after the implementation of Affirmative Action in Higher education in the State of California. The paper argues that affirmative Action led to changes in the State of California structure including Higher Education and employment rate as compared to the period before the affirmative action which were the 1950s. The paper attempts to highlight if there is a significant difference in the employment rate of African American in Higher Education in California after the implementation of Affirmative Action by comparing Cal State Universities with UC Universities.
African Americans have always been discriminated against in the United States but in the Deep South the situation was far worse. One could assume that in liberal states such as California and New York the situation would be better but apparently this is not the case although the introduction of affirmative action has actually increased participation in the educational and higher educational sector in California (Altbach, P. G., &Lomotey, K. (1991).
Background on affirmative action
African Americans in the United States always have been discriminated against even after emancipation and especially in the South of the United States. The case studies reproduced here continue to reaffirm that situation which does not seem to change since most white people are not predisposed to give equal service to blacks. The studies deal with medical visits and treatment where white medical staff regularly insult or hurt black people without the slightest notion of an apology reaffirming the perceived sense of superiority and ingrained racism which is prevalent in the field.
In principle the theory of nullification is the deeming of a federal law by a state as unconstitutional. This situation occurred when the Southern states regarded the banning of slavery which was a federal statute as something which went against their culture and way of life, thus being unconstitutional. There were several exponents who spoke avidly and vividly against the banning of slavery and these included John C Calhoun, the senator from South Carolina as well as Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and George Pendleton from Ohio who repeatedly threatened secession from the Union during the period immediately preceding the Civil War which was the apotheosis of the nullification theory taken at an extreme level.
Nullification theory as a weapon against federal law imposition
When framing the Constitution, the founding fathers declared that it was important that no state was deemed to be above the law and this meant that a certain balance had to be achieved between the needs of the states and those of the country as a whole. Thus James Madison deemed the theory of nullification as not provable in a court of law since the Constitution is deemed to be the supreme document by which everyone should abide.
Plessey versus Feguson – important case law regarding the theory of nullification
Plessey versus Ferguson was an important case in Louisiana in 1896 where the Supreme Court ruled that races should be separated on railroads in facilities that were ‘separate but equal’. This was just the sort of decision that the Southern states needed to implement a programme of institutionalized segregation which came with the blessing of the Supreme Court.
The case occurred on 7th June 1892 when Homer Plessey, a black man boarded the Louisiana State Railroad coach and was asked to sit at the back on account of his skin colour. After refusing to do so, he was arrested and the state brought a case against him where he defended himself stating that his rights were denied according to the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. After losing the case in the state of Louisiana he appealed to the Supreme Court where he eventually lost the case on a vote of 7 to 1, an unsurprising verdict as most of the judges came from Southern states who were zealous in implementing legalized segregation.
Naturally enough, this ruling proved to be a boon for states to force blacks to use separate facilities for practically everything including toilets, eating in restaurants, schools and obviously travelling on trains. More often than not, the facilities provided were separate but far from equal as states could not care less about their negroe minority.
The first real issue in this case was that the Constitution declares that ‘all man is created equal’ but this ruling definitely confirmed that he is not, at least according to the colour of his skin. The excuse used and justified by the Supreme Court was that races had different traits and practices and thus were not really comfortable doing things together. This makes a mockery of the 14th Amendment as it is clear that such practices can never be justified or condoned as they open the door to racial discrimination on a wide scale. Naturally states only needed to observe this ruling partially to ensure that they were in line with the law and several Southern states introduced the infamous Black Codes to put the negro on the complete margins of society.
It was only in 1954 that a more liberal Supreme Court finally ruled that Plessey versus Ferguson was unconstitutional. The Court based its ruling that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ violated the 14th Amendment and could never be accepted as a just law as it intrinsically discriminated between races and obviously on evidence presented by the NAACP’s lawyer Thurgood Marshall, it was observed that the facilities provided for blacks were far from equal to those for whites. Plessey versus Ferguson remains a landmark case in every respect as it demonstrates the institutionalized racism prevalent in the Deep South and how this was vigorously upholded by a Supreme Court which was no less racist than its Southern counterparts.
Plessey versus Ferguson also shows the courage of a lone man against the whole force of the racist Southern community who chose bravely to defy a whole institution in what were very early years for the civil rights resistance movement. Although he lost the initial battle, the end result was that he started a whole movement for equality which eventually culminated in the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Irons P, 2009).
Racial segregation – nullification in all but name
The United States, especially the Southern states were devastated by the Civil War and there needed to be a sense of reckoning to address all the issues which erupted after the War between the States. The issue which perhaps affected the Southern states more than others was how to deal with the millions of free slaves who were now roaming the country. The answer in many states was the system of sharecropping where black workers would be allowed to farm a patch of land as labourers and their payment would be to keep some of the food themselves for their own subsistence and the rest would go to paying the rent for the land. This system was little better than slavery in that sense as it bound the labourer to the land and if he could not afford to pay his rent due to a bad crop he would be kicked out (Bowles, 2011).
Racial segregation also increased substantially as the beginning of the 20th century approached with the infamous Black Codes enacted in the Southern States which made blacks pariahs in their own towns and villages. Additional restrictions were imposed after the infamous Plessey vs Ferguson case of 1896 and blacks continue to suffer daily humiliations apart from copious lynchings and murders which increased rapidly after these restrictions were imposed.
Eventually the Civil Rights Movement managed to break down the barriers of racial segregation although these still remain up to this day albeit in different forms and notions (Irons P, 2009.
Conclusion – nullification in a subtle manner
Nullification is something of the past perhaps although Southern states still continue to invoke their right to defy federal law when the issue of racial segregation crops up. This was seen in evidence when the Southern states refused to accept federal laws regarding the segregation of schools and other public institutions. This type of attitude continued to prevail until recently and although the extreme case of secession was never invoked, nullification is not something which will go away (Bowles, 2011).
Affirmative action is a positive development in the sense that it is a tool for minorities to gain certain rights such as decent housing, jobs and the right to vote. This is argued extensively in Caro (2002) especially in the chapters where Senator Lyndon Johnson attempts to take on Southern segregationists who are dead against the negroe’s right to vote. Although the cases presented here do not deal with voting issues, they still describe the discrimination that remains inherent in American society (Bowen, W. G., Kurzweil, M. A., Tobin, E. M., &Pichler, S. C. 2005).
Occasionally, affirmative action can be seen to interfere with certain social mores and can also be interpreted as a disruptive influence especially in housing sitautions. There can be situations where an all white housing district is suddenly invaded by quotas for other races and that could cause a considerable amount of social disruption in the residential complex.
Busing is another issue where affirmative action is positive but can also be disruptive in situations. This occurred on quite a few occasions in Boston when school children where required to board buses without any segregation within the races and that caused consternation and confusion with inevitable strained race relations even in a Northern town.
Affirmative action is good be it in schools, places of work and getting the right to vote as it is a just and good cause which is positive and not negative. How this impacts on participation in Higher Education is a huge issue and this is also true when Supreme Court decisions are taken into consideration. The recent judgement which restricts the application of the Voting Rights Act also demonstrates a certain bias against blacks especially in redistricting on a racial basis (Caro, 2002).
Judicial activism and its impact on particpation in Higher Education
Unfortunately the judicial activism of justices such as Clarence Thomas and other similar conservatives have done more harm than good with regards to the advancement of blacks in the United States. Thus there is still some institutional racism around especially in the Southern states where the blacks have to be put in their place according to the white supremacist majority. Certainly if there was no affirmative action movement in the 1950’s and the 1960’s there would have been no hope for the black voter to gain much traction in the hope of making it in the world. Essentially this also means that discrimination in housing and other areas was to continue if affirmative action was not in force. The arguments against this statement are rich indeed and demonstrate how some black conservatives are not mindful of the huge and considerable progress achieved in the areas of civil rights. Affirmative action is definitely something which the black community should be proud of and also shows that when blacks work together, a lot can be achieved. However this does not necessarily mean that blacks have increased as a proportion of lecturers and academic staff in higher education institutes which is certainly the case in California. This is affirmed by Altbach, P. G., & Lomotey, K. (1991) who state that the racial crisis in American higher education is actually getting worse as more blacks seem to be dropping out of the educational system.
The Brown vs Board of Education case which set the stage for affirmative action
Brown versus Board of Education
The Supreme Court has judged many landmark cases in its over 200 years history but the one which springs to mind and which perhaps is the most far reaching is the famous 1954 case and decision Brown vs Board of Education where it ruled that segregation in schooling was unconstitutional. This decision obviously gave way to a wave of protests across the South where blacks began clamouring for their rights and the whole Civil Rights movement took fire. It is indeed a landmark case as initially it appeared pretty straightforward and nondescript but the end result was to have a cataclysmic effect on the United States as whole.
The case was filed in 1951 by thirteen parents from Topeka, Kansasa who argued that the system of segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The parents asked the court to reverse an 1879 law which allowed certain districts to maintain what were deemed as ‘’separate but equal’ facilities for black and white children when the reality was far from the truth. The case received national attention and was supported by the local NAACP. An interesting aside to the case was that one black child was forced to attend the coloured school which was over 1.6 km from her house while the white school was just seven blocks away, a clear case of injustice and impracticality.
There were other cases which were heard alongside the Brown case in the Supreme Cort and these included Briggs vs Eliot in South Carolina, Davis vs County Board of Prince Edward County (Virginia) Gebhart vs Belton (Delaware) and Volling vs Sharpe (Washington DC). All the cases had been lost in state courts so they were petitioned before the Supreme Court.
The case was argued for the plaintiffs by the distinguished attorney Thurgood Marshall who later became himself a judge of the US Supreme Court in 1967. Intriguingly there were judgements in court which found the doctrine of separate but equal to be lawful although in the Delaware case, the court actually ruled that segregation caused harm and was essentially immoral.
Interestingly there were several instances where the ruling of the Supreme Court was not accepted and several senators who hailed from the Deep South went in open defiance of the court’s decision. The most infamous was Senator Harry Byrd’s ‘Massive Resistance’ campaign which called for the blocking of the integration decision. Other senators with openly racist views such as Olin Johnston, Richard Russel and John Stennis campaigned heavily for the decision to be overruled although they were perhaps less vocal and more diplomatic than others (Bowles, 2011). The Supreme Court decision in Brown led to the opening of the floodgates regarding racial discrimination cases and unfortunately this also led to instances of violence especially with regard to states where lynching had been commonplace such as Mississippi and Alabama. The Emmett Till murder in 1955 set the stage for a brutal civil rights campaign which also looked forward even when the 1957 Little Rock case showed that it was extremely difficult to implement the Brown decision if local authorities and populations stubbornly resisted it.
President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ and its effect on higher education
The Great Society was a term coined by President Lyndon Johnson as he made the fight against poverty all over the United States as his battle cry. In 1964, the United states was torn apart by civil strife due to the Civil Rights question with several millions of Negro Americans denied the right to vote and with Johnson making this part of his battle plan, a war on poverty was launched. Johnson’s speech at the University of Michigan outlined the fact that the society he wanted to see was one which ‘enabled each child to enrich his mind and enlarge his talents’ (Faragher, Buhle, Czitrom, Armitage p 774). Still whether this was actually arrived at is debatable since the measures Johnson took to eradicate hardscrabble poverty from states such as West Virginia who depended on subsistence agriculture were indeed debatable.
In fact as the Vietnam War continued to escalate and spending on the military budget drastically increased, the plan for a Great Society fell by the wayside. And although the Civil Rights Act was made law in 1964, the vast majority of African Americans in deep South states still lived in abject poverty with several of them continually discriminated against on an almost daily basis. This led the implementation of educational and social reforms to founder, mostly to the intransigence of local state governments to see beyond the colour line.
The programmes created by the Office of Economic Opportunity such as the Job Corps did not have the desired effect since there was a lot of resistance on the ground to them. The Community Action Programme, although well-meaning was not much of a success either since there seemed to be considerable aversion to the actual forming of communities to tackle inequality issues. Thus although the government came up with lots of measures, the end result was that poverty was not eradicated in one fell swoop as was expected by President Johnson although in some states there was some success. On balance, it appears that the end result was mixed and that the status quo prevailed although the government did enough to stimulate the Great Society.
Resistance to women in higher education
There have been various trends in the American Higher Education system, which have transformed the way we think about this institution but the one which I feel has been the most significant is the role of women within the system. Before the war it was extremely rare to find women in the higher educational system as the faculties and colleges were chiefly manned by men and even female participation as regards students was rather low too.
Still the increase in faculty professors and lecturers ever since the war has been pretty short of phenomenal. Some universities, especially those in the North were perhaps more attuned than others to employ female staff although in the South, this remained a very much male dominated society. Women however brought a new perspective to teaching especially in the social sciences where they could bring their not inconsiderate experiences to the fore and could also assist female students with more controversial issues (Mclachlan A (2000);.
Obviously not all students or fellow lecturers accepted women into their universities. There was resistance on quite a large scale in several universities as women were seen to be as somewhat inferior to men on the academic scale. However when several students began attaining high grades and the majority of these were women, it appears that resistance rapidly vanished and women continued to populate universities and colleges at even higher rates, in fact today we are in a situation where women far outnumber men in a college education (Mclachlan A (2000);.
The drastic increase in woman participation in the field of high education certainly represents one of the most important trends in this field and has continued to influence our thinking in this area for many years. As Rudolph (1990) so rightly argues, the segregation of classes by gender which was so prevalent a part in American society before the war, began to fall apart even as racial divisions continued unabated. In fact, however one could argue that increased female participation in higher education also helped the cause of civil rights as black Americans were eventually also admitted to Southern universities after considerable peer pressure, largely from women. Women saw themselves as downtrodden and discriminated against, largely a similar situation in which African Americans found themselves in so the whole drive to liberate and emancipate both women and blacks came largely at the same times.
Resistance to women in higher education
It is obvious that women were not seen as welcome in several universities particularly in the South and when the women were black this was even worse. One can refer to the Little Rock, Arkansas case in 1957 where eight black girls were initially allowed to enter High School but incredible resistance along racial lines made that almost impossible (Walls Lanier 2009). This trend was also seen when African American students attempted to enter Southern universities such as the case of James Meredith at the University of Southern Mississippi which ended up with the deployment of the National Guard (Williams 1988).
Women instilled values of thrift and hard work in the educational movement after the Second World War which were not always prevalent due to the male dominated regime of secondary education (Machlachlan 2000). They also brought certain women related values to particular courses like sociology and other disciplines which were perhaps absent before and which became much more instilled in the national curriculum as time went by. According to Machlachlan (2000), in 1972, discrimination against women in higher education was still rampant and rife.
Women brought an alternative approach to post-secondary education after the Second World War due to their drive and zest for learning. The male dominated regime fell as women began instilling their ideas and trends into the classroom and with more and more lecturers joining the staff at top universities they also brought an alternative approach to teaching and instructing which differed considerably from the male approach.
Naturally this was not an easy process but a rather painful one which continued to influence education as decades went by and which today can be said to be part and parcel of the American school system.
Solomon (1985) argues that women have transformed the debate on higher education by instilling their values and have also infiltrated into male dominated professions which for centuries were completely a male prerogaritive. Women are now found in professions such as the medical, the legal, and architecture etc, where they bring a much needed alternative approach to issues which have perhaps been too closely adhered to by males.
It is important to note that women continue to increase their participation in higher education even as we speak so this phenomenon will not be going away anytime soon. Female participation can only be described as one of the singularly most important elements amongst the transformation of the higher educational system in post war America and the trend is set to continue. It has certainly transformed the whole system accordingly and with considerable aplomb.
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