Tomorrow, when the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals hears the appeal of the two University of Michigan affirmative action cases, American society will change. Our society is going to move either forward or backward it can no longer remain where it has been. To coincide with the hearing, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary has organized a national civil rights march and rally. For the last four years BAMN has been fighting tirelessly to put these two historic cases at the center of the American political agenda.

By skipping over a hearing scheduled for Oct. 23 in front of the assigned three-judge panel, to a hearing of all nine active judges on Dec. 6, the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has expressed in a procedural way their understanding of the extraordinary importance of these two cases. The question that the court will answer with its ruling is whether we as a society will move backward toward more inequality, segregation, racism and injustice or forward toward more equality and integration, toward more justice and democracy.

The two University affirmative action cases are our generation”s Brown v. Board of Education. At stake is all we have achieved in the way of integration in higher education since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Immediately, these two cases will determine if it will be legal to take any positive steps to integrate higher education in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. A negative ruling would immediately outlaw affirmative action the incoming classes for fall 2002 at colleges, universities and graduate and professional schools would see a dramatic drop in black, Latina/o and Native American admissions. These cases are very likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court and determine whether it will be legal to take any positive measures at all to overcome the racism and sexism of our society.

We can win this critical fight. The tide is turning in our favor, but the question is very far from settled.

We must now make the federal courts accountable to the people. We must make clear to them that resegregating higher education will not be accepted that the condition whereby black, Latina/o and Native American people are marginalized and relegated to inferior education will no longer be tolerated.

We can convince the courts to rule for justice and integration by using the same persistent methods of mass organizing and mass struggle that secured victories during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Mass organizing and mass action are the methods that BAMN has been using to build the new civil rights movement. An example of this is the nation-wide petition campaign that has gathered over 50,000 signatures. The national civil rights march and rally in Cincinnati on Dec. 6 is another example.

What the struggle against racism and for equality needs more than any other thing is leadership and organization. By stepping out in front with a clear plan of action, BAMN has rallied the support of the establishment civil rights organizations and has called a new civil rights movement into being. As has been the case with every farsighted leadership acting at history”s turning points, we have drawn out unprincipled detractors of various political stripes. Awakening the slanderers, cynics and foot-draggers is part of changing history.

The fighting spirit and determination of the students and youth is contagious. BAMN student and youth leaders have drawn the establishment civil rights organizations into this struggle. Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push organization are co-sponsoring the rally and march. Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth are scheduled to speak at the rally. The NAACP student and youth chapter at the University of Cincinnati has been instrumental in building the march and rally.

The new civil rights movement is saying loud and clear we will not go back to segregation in higher education. The students and youth of America will not be force-fed the “separate but equal” lie any longer. We demand: Integrate the schools, we mean all the schools, and we will not rest until victory is won.

Aleobua and Curtin are members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary.

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