California University System

Ugly Results of Ban on Affirmative Action

Revolutionary Worker #953, April 19, 1998

March 30--The Students of Color Solidarity Council from the University of California at Berkeley called a press conference. They revealed to the world that the number of Black and Latino students admitted to their campus for fall 1998 is being drastically cut.

This coming freshman class will be the first one chosen since the abolition of the state university system's affirmative action program. And the student press conference exposed the fact that there will be a cut of almost two-thirds in the numbers of Black, Latino and Native American students admitted to UC-Berkeley.

Most colleges in the U.S. have always felt like hostile territory for Black and Latino students. There have been decades of struggle over breaking down the racist barriers to admissions and toward transforming the climate and curriculum on campus. And it has remained true for Black people that "we have to be twice as good to get half as far."

Now the admissions process of California's state university system has taken a giant step backwards--toward the re-segregation of higher education. It shows what will happen throughout the society, if powerful forces succeed in their plans to cut away at affirmative action more generally.

The movement to abolish affirmative action is nothing less than a campaign to widen inequalities and strengthen institutionalized racism in this society.

The Makings of an
Educational Apartheid

Only 10.5 percent of the students admitted for the September 1998 freshman class at UC-Berkeley are Black, Latino or Native American. Among those turned away were 800 Black, Latino and Native American students who had perfect 4.0 grade point averages and average SAT scores of 1200.

The cut will be greatest for Black people. Only 2.2 percent of the students admitted to next year's freshman class will be Black people--in a state that is over 7 percent Black. University officials estimate that their next freshman class will end up with even fewer Black students, because they expect many of those admitted to go elsewhere in protest. The percentage of Asian Americans admitted has not changed significantly.

At the same time there were some colleges in the California University system that actually show an increase in the enrollment of Black, Latino and Native American students. These include schools like Riverside which are not considered as prestigious as Berkeley and UCLA. It has always been true that Black and Latino students have been concentrated in the less prestigious campuses--now this trend is being intensified as the top schools in the California university system are made "off limits."

The abolition of affirmative action has had this same effect elsewhere too: Not a single Black student ended up enrolling in UC Berkeley Boalt law school in 1997, after the abolition of affirmative action there. When affirmative action was abolished at the University of Texas Law School, only 10 Black students were offered admission--a drop of 80 percent from the year before.

Intolerable Inequality

The situation of Black and other oppressed nationalities in the U.S. has always been filled with outrageous discrimination and oppression. The affirmative action programs instituted in the 1970s did little more than scratch at the problem. These programs were never enough and never intended to uproot the deep inequalities that shape life in the U.S.

But here we are in 1998, and the ruling class is moving to undermine, weaken and even abolish the affirmative action programs. In California, this has now meant a blatant increase in the barriers keeping Black and Latino students out of schools like Berkeley and UCLA.

This system is going backwards towards strengthening inequality. It is heartless, insulting and infuriating! It reveals how stubbornly this system and its rulers are committed to defending and preserving white supremacy.

"The numbers available to us today mean nothing but shame, shame, shame," poet and professor of African-American Studies June Jordan told the Monday press conference. "These decimated numbers prove that we absolutely need affirmative action policies. When a law is wrong we have an obligation to break it."

These racist moves must be fought and defeated. They are insulting and oppressive to millions of people, and should be completely intolerable to anyone who has a basic sense of justice and decency.

The issue here is really what kind of society we want to live in. Do we want a society stamped from top to bottom by systematic discrimination against Black people and other oppressed nationalities? Do we want a society where women are kept in second class status? Do we want a society where the power structure drives many of the sections of the people down so that profit can be made from these inequalities and injustices?

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