Two days after the Law School”s race-conscious admissions policy was struck down by a federal judge, the Rev. Jesse Jackson stood on the steps of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library yesterday and encouraged students to fight the ruling.
“This is another great movement now. It”s Ann Arbor. It”s this campus. It”s your day. Don”t let the confederates turn back the clock. This is the American flag one America, one people,” Jackson said, speaking about U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman”s opinion handed down Tuesday. “Affirmative action is not a minority issue, it is a majority issue.”
Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, rallied hundreds of students who filled the Diag in support of affirmative action and to show the courts that Friedman”s decision will not be accepted by the University.
“Keep making America better and better. We are a better nation because of this University,” he said. “Here you stand multi-racial, multi-cultural. Brother King would be proud of you.”
He said race should be a deciding factor in admissions because universities use other fundamental factors like legacy. “Legacy is a factor. Gender is a factor. Geography is a factor. Let”s include all the factors and make American universities look like America”s future,” he said.
During the rally, Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary member Erika Dowdell addressed Martin Luther King Jr.”s “I have a dream” speech, in which he said, “We have come to cash this check a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
Dowdell, an LSA junior, said it is time to fulfill King”s dream. “This new movement must demand that that check be cashed. We will fight this case all the way to the Supreme Court and we will not end until we see every race being represented in our schools and every institution of education.”
Dowdell said Friedman admitted racism is a part of society but said his decision showed he does not care. “We will not stand for his “oh well” attitude. We will not have an “oh well” attitude. We want integration in this society now,” she said.
BAMN member Jessica Curtin, a Rackham student, said the decision took her by surprise but she is confident that “one man” is not the deciding factor in the fight against affirmative action.
“We know that we are right, we know that racism exists in this society and that there must be social programs to offset it. We are going to go to the Supreme Court and win,” she said.
Miranda Massie, the lead attorney for the student intervenors in the lawsuit, called the judge”s opinion “dishonest,” “wretched,” “backward” and “regressive.” Massie said Friedman”s ruling should not hold up in higher courts but urged all students to read the 90-page opinion. “You cannot read that opinion with an open mind and think that Judge Friedman ever had an open mind, before, during or after the trial.”
Jackson called on students to join the national march in Washington, planned for October, and the national conference on affirmative action planned for April or May that will be held here.
“It should be a national conference here to prepare for a major logistical gathering,” Jackson told reporters after the rally. “Race is too fundamental to our culture.”
Curtin later said the point of the rally is to impact the decision of the Supreme Court.
Most students supported Jackson”s ideas, but not everyone was impressed with what he had to say.
“I”m really excited about the initiative that the students have taken,” said LSA freshman Natoya Coleman. “I have a sense of comfort that everything”s going to turn out to be okay.”
“I think he was avoiding a lot of the topic,” said John Donovan, an Engineering sophomore.
Donovan, who said he does not believe taking away affirmative action will lead to resegregation, said Jackson spent too much time focusing on segregation and not affirmative action. “I think he was just finding something to attack.”