October 17, 2013
By Princess Manasseh
Hours before the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments challenging Michigan’s Proposal 2, Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins was joined by a host of fellow civil rights leaders at the Sentinel on Tuesday, October 15 with hopes the controversial proposal would be overturned.
Civil Rights advocates and local community leaders gathered to urge The Supreme Court to overturn Proposal 2, which bans the use of affirmative action in Michigan’s colleges and universities’ admittance practices.
The community is hopeful an overturn of Proposal 2 will also trigger the reversal of California Proposition 209, which outlaws affirmative action policies in colleges and universities.
Jenkins, California State Senator Kevin De Leon, and Sentinel executive Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr., each voiced their displeasure of the two props when speaking to reporters at the confab.
“Today, I am steadfastly standing with the NAACP and like minded civil rights organizations, which is urging the Supreme Court to overturn Proposal 2 and Proposition 209, which have had a devastating impact on the social, economic and education advancement of minorities throughout the country and particular here in California,” said Bakewell.
“What we’re asking,” Jenkins told the crowd, “is for the Supreme Court to take special interest, and billionaire’s and millionaire’s money out of the ballot initiative system. Proposal 2 and Proposition 209 are instances of individuals putting forth hate filled and biased propositions and funding them,” said Jenkins.
Senator De Leon spoke passionately to the crowd citing himself as an example.
“I am a direct beneficiary of affirmative action,” he said meaningfully. “I would not be a state senator today, or head of the appropriations committee – the only Latino to head up the appropriations committee in the history of the California State Senate, if it were not for affirmative action,” the Senator declared.
“When I applied to a UC school, I didn’t have the grades, I didn’t have the stellar SAT scores but because of affirmative action, the admissions office decided to take a chance on me. They said this young man may not meet all the criteria, but given a chance it might balance out.”
What Senator De Leon spoke of is one positive of affirmative action. On Oct. 15, hearing attorney Mark Rosenbaum argued for a myriad of positive consequences that can be attributed to affirmative action, many of which benefit non-minority students.
Molly Nestor, a teacher in Brooklyn New York and a Caucasian woman, is a case plaintiff in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (the case which contests the constitutionality of Proposal 2). Nestor spoke before the court Tuesday, of how the ban on affirmative action has affected her.
“As a student who graduated with a class admitted after Proposal 2 passed, I feel I am less prepared to serve diverse communities," said the University of Michigan graduate. "If universities want to prepare leaders that create a more equitable future, they have to foster equality and diversity in their student body. Proposal 2 keeps that important work from happening."
The Supreme Court will not issue its ruling until spring of 2014, but community members who rallied on Crenshaw were looking to send a message, hoping to give the courts something to think about.
Dr. Jamie Miller, professional psychologist and activist was apart of Tuesday’s rally.
“While Affirmative action is not the optimal or only answer to the problem of inequality, until we have either a viable alternative or equality is a reality, affirmative action must be active,” said Miller.
Senator De Leon summed up the need for equality in a compelling statement. “We stand here today to send a clear message to the Supreme Court Justices in Washington DC. ‘Do the right thing,’” he told them, “’Do the right thing’ for economic equality, for racial equality, so that we can send every single child, regardless of who they are or where they come from...we can send them to Cal State LA or UCLA instead of Folsom, Chino, or Pelican Bay [state prisons].”