Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
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Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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Teresa Stern is writing a book on the new civil rights movement that inclues oral histories of young activits.


Affirmative Action on Trial
by Teresa Stern

Detroit high-school student activist Desiree McLean: "I'm fighting for my life--literally, my life." (Photo by Teresa Stern)

Misunderstanding Gratz's true competitive position exemplifies what O'Melveny & Myers attorney Goodwin Liu calls "the causation fallacy." Writing in the Washington Post last April, Liu reminded us that in selective admissions, the competition is so intense that even without affirmative action, the overwhelming majority of rejected white applicants still wouldn’t get in. After looking at the numbers, Liu’s statistical analysis led him to conclude: "Because the number of black applicants to selective institutions is relatively small, admitting them at higher rates does not significantly lower the chance of admission for the average individual in the relatively large sea of white applicants."

The New Civil Rights Movement
As America’s schools resegregate and rightwing organizations present continuous challenges to affirmative action in higher education, a movement is growing to fight for integration and equality. Activists refer to this groundswell as the "new civil rights movement." Like the 1960s civil rights movement, high school and college students make up the majority. Unlike the first wave, however, this movement is thoroughly integrated and stands for equal rights for all people-- minorities, women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. The common interests of all minorities-African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Arabs-- are a critical point of unity.

Significantly, many leaders now are women.

A leading organization in the new movement is a group called BAMN--an acronym for By Any Means Necessary. They have brought out thousands of students for demonstrations and rallies on the UM campus and established a powerful presence at the affirmative action trials. In December 2001, when the case went to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, hundreds of students marched in freezing rain and packed the courthouse. For the first time in its history, the court found it necessary to set up an overflow room with audio feed to accommodate the large crowd that came to hear the proceedings.

When the April 1 Supreme Court hearing date for the Michigan cases was announced, campus activists began organizing students to go to Washington, D.C. for a show of strength outside the court that day.

BAMN and United for Equality and Affirmative Action (UEAA), the umbrella organization for the student defendants in the Michigan cases, held a press conference at the National Press Club on February 7 to announce the march on Washington to "Save Brown v. Board of Education," and claimed that students and young people from over 100 university and college campuses and high schools are hiring buses for the national civil rights march and rally at the Supreme Court. Given the tight security lockdowns hampering recent peace marches, they may run into trouble if the turnout is large.

What's at stake
In the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, the Supreme Court decided that separate can never be equal. Yet American schools are more segregated today than they were in 1970. As courts either failed to implement desegregation plans or dismantled them after a number of years, residential segregation has become more entrenched than ever, creating racially separate school districts.

Every major urban school district in the U.S.-- with the exception of Salt Lake City, Utah-- is predominantly African-American and Latino. The consistently lower standards of urban schools-- by virtually every measure-- ensure that minority students are not receiving an education nearly equal to that of their white counterparts.

"If the case loses at the Supreme Court," said Janee Moore, a student at Detroit's Renaissance High School and an activist in the new civil rights movement, "there will be a lot of uproar and reaction. The country will go backward and become even more segregated. Without affirmative action, it will just get worse." For high school students like her, dismantling affirmative action processes will mean less hope for their futures.

Next year will mark the 50-year anniversary of Brown v. Board ofEducation. The growing civil rights movement intends to see that historic promise fulfilled.


TAKE ACTION

* Read about affirmative action in the Feminist Daily News
* Read the April 3 chat transcript featuring Teresa Stern, author of
"Affirmative Action on Trial."

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