To celebrate yesterday’s 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold the University’s tradition of using race as a factor in admissions, Reverend Jesse Jackson joined the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary at a spirited press conference.
Jackson said he admired the students for their efforts and for hanging on to the American dream.
“I know Dr. King would be so happy today. When young America comes alive and rejects the dope culture and chooses the hope culture they are in that tradition of college students that transform the country,” he said.
One of the students honored by Jackson, BAMN member and Rackham student Jessica Curtin said she was proud of the integral part she and fellow student activists played in the court’s decision.
“I’m really excited because we’ve prevented higher education from being segregated in four states – Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky. and Tennessee students did what everyone said cannot be done,” she said. “Racist inequality structures this society from education to the workplace to housing. If there is to be any integration, we have to have affirmative action.”
While protesting the decision before the press conference, LSA senior James Justin Wilson, a member of the Young Americans for Freedom, said he believed BAMN had nothing to do with the court’s ruling.
“I give BAMN zero credit. The judges said they were insulted by (BAMN’s) petition. The justices cannot be scared by people who run militant socialist movements,” Wilson said.
But Shanta Driver, BAMN’s national legal coordinator, said the only judge who was insulted by the petition ruled against affirmative action.
Jackson added that activism has always played an important role in the judicial system.
“The court is not oblivious to public opinion. In a democracy, public opinion matters,” he said.
One unique aspect of the University trials is that Grutter vs. Bollinger is the only case in which student interveners have put on a full case at trial. Miranda Massie, lead counsel for the student interveners, said yesterday’s court ruling was a direct result of the students’ case.
“The opinion of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is a spectacular and historic victory for the student interveners and even more important, for the movement they are building,” she said. “It was the student movement that took us this far and it is the student movement that will win us victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Though pleased with the decision, Jackson and the students went on to say that they plan to continue their fight for racial equality by expanding their new civil rights movement.
LSA senior and BAMN member Agnes Aleboua said the group plans to take the next step at a national conference to be held at the Law School on May 31. “This is where we’re going to decide how we’re going to move forward, to prepare for D.C., how to mobilize a national march on the capital, how to get to the schools across the country,” she said.
Jackson ended the conference by encouraging the masses to participate in the “new civil rights movement” and to remember that the court’s decision to allow race as a factor in admissions policies is a step in the right direction.
“(Affirmative action) does not have to negate white because it affirms all of us. We did not know how good baseball could be until everybody could play,” he said.