The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the University’s race-based admission policies will represent either the progression or decline of civil liberties to some activists defending affirmative action. A week-long push by activists calling for integration and equality through affirmative action – and the organization of a civil rights march to the Supreme Court – wrapped up Saturday with an indoor rally in Rackham Auditorium.
Organized by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary and United for Equality and Affirmative Action brought speakers to address various issues that involve supporting affirmative action.
“Under-representation of Hispanics in college is a national disgrace,” of the League of United Latin American Citizens President Hector Flores said Saturday. “Seventy percent of Hispanics attend low-income schools – there is no level playing field for these students.”
Flores added that affirmative action was fair and necessary to create a diverse student body.
Speakers also included James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, who said while he could not claim the American history of segregation and oppression as African Americans, Hispanics and women could, affirmative action was still an important issue to him as an American citizen.
“We cannot separate or pick and choose the movements. We are doing it for our country and kids,” Zogby said.
High school students from Detroit and other schools who may be most affected by the Supreme Court decision also attended the conference. High school student speaker Evette Hollins, from Renaissance High school in Detroit, received a standing ovation after she spoke about her efforts to convince classmates to join her in activism.
“Say goodbye to racial divisions between us, hello to no more color lines,” Hollins said.
The Revs. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow and PUSH Coalition, and Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, were scheduled to speak but could not attend.
Some speakers lectured on proposed alternatives to affirmative action, such as the Ten Percent Plan implemented in Texas, which speakers such as the director of the Harvard University Civil Rights Project, Gary Orfield, and Texas A&M University Prof. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva said they oppose.
Event organizer Shanta Driver said there should be no alternative to affirmative action because the 10 percent plan does not create a diverse student body.
“No other policy creates diversity like affirmative action,” Driver said. “Texas A&M, the largest university in Texas, does not represent minorities in Texas. There are only 2 percent blacks and 8 percent Hispanics at the college. That’s in a very diverse state.”