This year on Martin Luther King”s birthday we march with a purpose. Martin Luther King Day must no longer be a time when pompous speeches soothe us while inequality and injustice fester. Now is not the time for hollow commemorations celebrating Martin Luther King”s struggle for integration and equality in America. Now is the time to take up that struggle and build it energetically. The last civil rights movement won equality before the law and outlawed segregation it won promises from the powers-that-be.
Our new movement can win equality and integration in real life. This march not as a single event in and of itself, but as a part of a process of growing struggle and criticism of the status quo, as part of an awakening of young black, other minority and antiracist white people can change the race relations of this society.
At the University of Michigan a historic struggle is unfolding over the question of integration in higher education. The two lawsuits against affirmative action at the University of Michigan are currently under consideration by the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and will be in front of the US Supreme Court over the next year and a half. The outcome of these cases will be felt around the nation. Our march must say to the judges who will decide affirmative action”s legal fate and to American society as a whole we will not accept a return to the segregated conditions which gripped the University and other institutions of higher education before the first Civil Rights Movement won affirmative action.
At the same time, this MLK march is also a declaration to the University of Michigan that we intend to hold the University to its word. It must continue its leading legal defense of affirmative action. Currently, a search process for a new president to replace Lee Bollinger is under way at the University. Our institutions of higher learning must be led by people committed to maintaining desegregation programs in higher education, committed explicitly to the defense of affirmative action. We will not accept the charade in which Harvard University is currently wallowing. No University in America can claim to hold the dignified position of enlightener, of beacon of knowledge while capitulating in deeds to the ugly racist tradition of marginalizing black, Latina/o and Native American people. Only leaders unequivocally committed to the integration of higher education are acceptable for our nation”s great schools. We demand that the next University president be on record unequivocally in defense of affirmative action. We will accept no less.
Ours is a time when the US government openly claims racial profiling of Arabs to be its policy, when affirmative action to kill and die in the armed forces is assumed and affirmative action in higher education, employment and contracting is under an aggressive attack.
This year”s MLK march and rally must speak to these injustices and take the next step in building the mass movement that is necessary to change them all. The March begins at 12 noon, at the corner of South University and South Forest.
Aleobua is an LSA junior and Curtin is a Rackham student. Both are members of the Defend Affirmative Action Party.