The forgotten history of affirmative action

Racial discrimination and police brutality sparked riots in the 1960s, and affirmative action was used to calm the unrest, historian Mark Naison says.

Posted: Jul 4, 2018 11:03 AM
Updated: Jul 4, 2018 11:26 AM

The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a set of Obama-era policies that promoted using race to achieve diversity in schools, teeing up new battle lines over admissions standards.

While the decision does not change current US law on affirmative action, it provides a strong illustration of the administration's position on an issue that could take on renewed attention with the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the official announcement Tuesday afternoon.

"The American people deserve to have their voices heard and a government that is accountable to them. When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President," Sessions said. "In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website. That's wrong, and it's not good government."

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

The move, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes as the administration has thrown its weight behind a student group that accuses Harvard University of discriminating against Asian-Americans in its admissions process.

In a statement to CNN, Harvard spokeswoman Melodie Jackson said that it will "continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years."

Last year, Sessions announced that he was ending the practice of the Justice Department issuing "guidance documents" that have the "effect of adopting new regulatory requirements or amending the law" but do not go through the formal rulemaking process. As a result, 25 documents were rescinded in December and 24 additional ones were rescinded Tuesday, including seven related to affirmative action.

The guidance reversed Tuesday provided examples of different educational contexts within which institutions could permissibly consider race and answered questions about how to interpret Supreme Court decisions.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley told CNN earlier Tuesday that the department "remains committed to enforcing the law and protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination."

Tuesday's reversal does not affect what a school decides to do on its own within the confines of current Supreme Court precedent, but civil rights groups swiftly reacted with disappointment.

"We condemn the Department of Education's politically motivated attack on affirmative action and deliberate attempt to discourage colleges and universities from pursuing racial diversity at our nation's colleges and universities," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "The rescission of this guidance does not overrule forty years of precedent that affirms the constitutionality of a university's limited use of race in college admissions. This most recent decision by the Department of Education is wholly consistent with the administration's unwavering hostility towards diversity in our schools."

The National Education Association also reacted critically to the news.

"Affirmative action has proven to be one of the most effective ways to create diverse and inclusive classrooms. But by telling schools and universities that they should not use affirmative action to achieve inclusive classrooms, the Education Department has again failed our students," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. "President Trump has indicated he intends to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court who will declare that affirmative action is unconstitutional in our schools. The Education Department's action forecasts how much is at stake in the upcoming Supreme Court nomination process. Our nation must join together and fight to ensure all our students have what they need to succeed."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
Lowndes6261144
Lamar610284
Lafayette6026117
Washington5279132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4440103
Pearl River4418139
Warren4277118
Marshall4267100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Grenada254882
Covington254380
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237647
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
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