A cell phone video of a Philadelphia policeman viciously punching a Puerto Rican woman to the ground during an event celebrating Hispanic heritage goes viral, heaping more shame on this city perceived internationally as a notorious hub of police misconduct.
Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner — a Black man — fires that assaultive police officer — another Black man.
Yet, that punching policeman receives quick defense from a white man, the president of Philly’s police union, an organization widely condemned by many non-whites for its reflexive backing of bigotry and brutality.
The mayor of Philadelphia, a Black man, provides the Puerto Rican woman with an apology while Philadelphia’s district attorney — another Black man — decides whether the abuse the woman received warrants charges against that Black policeman.
Are the interracial dynamics evident in this incident of police abuse an example of post-racial America where historic fault-lines of race have blurred to the point of necessitating elimination of programs like affirmative action?
In this era when a Black man sits in America’s Oval Office and a Black female is a television network-owning billionaire many argue that programs to address America’s legacy of race-based inequities like affirmative action are unnecessary, illegal and divisive.
Never mind that less than two years ago Philadelphia’s Black mayor and police commissioner were the subjects of a civil rights lawsuit due to their controversial stop-and-frisk program where police stopped more Black and Hispanic persons that whites.
Never mind that Black-owned businesses received a paltry 3.5 percent of federal contracts funded through President Obama’s vaulted ARRA stimulus according to continuous stimulus monitoring conducted by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.
And, never mind that those who push the line that race prejudice is no longer a barrier to persons of color would not trade places with a Black person — even a rich Black person like comedian Chris Rock, who’s joked about the disconnect between those proclaiming the death of systemic prejudice and their refusal to surrender any benefits from systemic privilege.
If American society truly stood upon the “solid rock of brotherhood” that Dr. King referenced in his seminal 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech some Black Republicans would not need to criticize GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for lacking racial inclusiveness within top ranks of his campaign staff.
If that “sunlit path of racial justice” King noted in 1963 truly existed the Television Newsroom Management Diversity Census released last month by the National Association of Black Journalists would not detail how non-whites comprise 12 percent of TV news decision makers when non-whites comprise 35 percent of America’s population.
This week, yet another challenge to affirmative action programs lands in the august chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing. Most of the conservative members of that judicial body, including that court’s only Black member, consider affirmative action an ugly evil.
The Supreme Court’s current head, Chief Justice John Roberts, was a foot soldier in the Justice Department of 1980s President Ronald Reagan where legal schemes were implemented to dismantle civil rights gains of the 1960s like changing legal proof required for proving unlawful racism from impact to intent.
That small impact-to-intent change produced a big burden for racism victims requiring their providing both statistical evidence of race discrimination (documenting unqualified whites constantly promoted over qualified Blacks) plus producing evidence of “intent” to discriminate – evidence harder to obtain because most discriminators became savvy enough not to openly use the N-word.
This latest attack on affirmative action is another college admissions ruckus, this time from Texas.
Texas colleges give automatic admission to students graduating in the top ten percent of their high school classes. Those colleges utilize other factors, including race, for admissions of non-top-ten-percent students.
Abigail Fisher and another white student are challenging that admissions policy arguing that while they were ineligible for automatic admission their grades were better than others admitted who like them were not eligible for automatic admission.
The legal logic at the core of this challenge is not much different from the consistent history of attacks on efforts to reverse the legacies of American apartheid: white entitlement that twists color-blindness to continue excluding persons of color.
Race as a consideration in college admissions is a tactic employed to alter decades of discriminatory admissions similar to set-asides seeking to alter decades of discrimination in the construction industry.
The firms that always controlled construction successfully attacked set-asides to continue excluding non-whites and now many of those firms are spinning off companies [allegedly] headed by daughters and wives to take advantage of contracting advantages extended to female-owned companies established to correct gender discrimination.
Pennsylvania contractors, for example, bitterly fought the federal governments first construction set-aside program contending that program would deprive them of “profits,” force them to deal with minority contractors whom “they would ordinarily not do business with” and would place them at a “competitive disadvantage.”
Federal courts in the late 1970s reject those fallacious assertions but efforts to stack federal courts with conservative judges — funded in part by contractors receiving tax dollars — eventually lead to elimination of that set-aside program established because minority contractors received only one percent of the $2 billion Congress provided for public works projects in 1976 to stimulate the economy.
Affirmative action falls into that verbal equation of: Figures never lie, but liars figure.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.