The Midterm 2014 Election: A Look at the Black Candidates for Congress

The Midterm 2014 Election: A Look at the Black Candidates for Congress
By Dr. Elsie L. Scott
January 5, 2015

A total of 91 African American ran for congressional (U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives) offices in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The majority of the candidates ran on the Democratic Party ticket—66.

Black Candidates by Political Party
Democrats 66
Republicans 21
Other 4

Incumbents

Of the 91 candidates, over half, 48 (52.7%) were victorious; 87.5 percent of the victors were incumbents. The 48 African American Members of Congress in the 114th Congress will be record-setting. The two incumbent Senators, Corey Booker (NJ) and Tim Scott (SC), 39 Members of the House of Representatives and one non-voting Delegate won reelection. Only one of the black incumbents did not retain his seat, Steve Horsford, a first term Congressman from Nevada. The 97.6 percent reelection rate for black incumbents is consistent with the reelection rate for Members of Congress in general. A total of 416 Members of Congress sought re-election, and 393, or 94.47 percent, were successful. All of the black Members of Congress, with the exception of Delegate Donna Christensen (VI) who chose instead to run for Governor of the Virgin Islands, ran for reelection. African Americans were elected in four congressional districts that previously did not have an African American representative—Michigan-14th; New Jersey-12th; Texas-23rd; and Utah-4th , and an African American was elected in the 12th District of North Carolina to the seat vacated by Mel Watt when he accepted a political appointment in the Obama Administration.

Black Elected Members of the 114th Congress:
Incumbent Senators 2
Incumbent Representatives/Delegates 40
New Representatives/Delegates 6

Republicans

Less than one-fourth (23%) of the black congressional candidates were Republicans, but for the first time since Reconstruction one Senator and two Representatives of African descent will be members of the Republican Party. Tim Scott (SC) won election to fill the unexpired term of former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, becoming the first Republican of African descent to win a Senate seat in the South since Reconstruction. Hiram Rhodes Revels from Mississippi was the first African American to serve in the Senate in 1870. Scott will have to run again in 2016. Mia Love of Utah became the first Republican woman of African descent and the first Haitian-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She formerly served as Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. Another first was made when Will Hurd defeated incumbent Democrat, Rep. Pete Gallego in Texas’ 23rd District to become the first black Republican U.S. Representative from the South since Reconstruction. Hurd is a 37-year-old former CIA officer.

Women

Black women scored some significant victories in the Midterm election. With the increase from 16 to 20 black women in the House of Representatives (including two Delegates), the 114th Congress will have the largest number of black women in history serving in Congress. Of the 12 new women Representatives elected, four were black women. Black women, who make up 12.7 percent of the U.S. female population, will make up 21.4 percent of the women serving in the U.S. House for the upcoming session of Congress.

As pointed out above, the first black female Republican Representative, Mia Love, was elected to represent the 4th District of Utah. N.C. Assemblywoman, Alma Adams, became the 100th woman to be elected to the House when she won election to fill the seat vacated by Mel Watt in the 12th District of North Carolina. She also won a full term in the 114th Congress. In New Jersey, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman became New Jersey’s first African-American congresswoman by winning election in an open seat. New Jersey, which has one of the highest percentage of women serving in the state legislature (30%), has not had a woman in its federal delegation since 2003. Southfield, Michigan Mayor Brenda Lawrence was elected to fill the seat vacated by Congressman Gary Peters (MI-14th) who was elected to the U.S. Senate. Stacey Plaskett was elected Delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Delegate Donna Christensen did not run for reelection because she ran for Governor of the Virgin Islands.

Percentage of Votes Received

Generally, the black incumbent Senators and Representatives received a high percentage of the votes cast in their state/district. Eighteen received 80 percent or more of the vote and of that number, three Representatives, all from Georgia, received 100 percent of the votes cast in their district. The common perception is that black Congress members get a high percentage of votes because they represent predominantly black districts. Only three congressional districts that are represented by black Representatives have black populations of 60 percent or more—Alabama 7th, Louisiana 2nd, and Mississippi 2nd. There is one congressional district in Tennessee with a 63.8 percent black majority that is represented by a white Representative. Sixteen of the black Representatives (over one-third) represent districts that are minority black (less than 50 percent black), and only 11 of the 44 Representatives represent districts that are 55 percent or more black. Three black Representatives won in districts that are majority Hispanic. In total, ten Representatives who received 70 percent or more of the vote represent districts that are minority black.

The two newly elected Republican Representatives represent districts with the smallest percentage of black voters, and they received the smallest percentage of the votes. Hurd from Texas won with 49.8 percent of the vote, and Love from Utah won with 50 percent of the vote. Hurd beat an incumbent Hispanic Democratic Representative in a 70.8 percent Hispanic district. Love won in an open seat in a predominantly white district.

The black Democratic incumbent receiving the lowest percentage of votes was Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri who received 51.6 percent of the votes. Cleaver’s district is only 21.5 percent black, but there are other Representatives who received much larger percentages of the vote with a smaller black population percentage. Representative Barbara Lee’s district is only 19.8 percent black, and but she received 87.3 percent of the vote. Representative Marc Veasey’s district is 15.6 percent black and 65 percent Hispanic, and he received 86.5 percent of the vote.

The South

Twenty of the black Representatives represent districts located in one of the former Confederate states. Despite the fact that the southern states are “red” states, all of the southern black Members are Democrats except for one new Representative and the incumbent Senator from South Carolina (who was originally serving in an appointed capacity). The Republicans have not done a good job of recruiting black candidates in the South where they control most of the congressional seats. Only six Republicans—including the two who won–ran for congressional seats in the South. On the Democratic side, 34 African Americans ran for congressional seats as Democrats—including the 18 who won.

Conclusion

The 2014 Midterm election was historic in that a record number of African Americans ran for seats in the U.S. Congress. It was also historic in the number of African American women and the number of African American Republicans who were elected to Congress. The question to be answered now is “What effect will having such a large number of blacks in Congress have on the lives of African Americans?” Since the majority of the African American Members are Democrats and the majority of the House and Senate Members are Republicans, the black members will not hold significant leadership positions where they can guide legislation and influence the congressional leadership. They are, however, in a position to play their original role of being the “Conscience of the Congress.” The first Congressional Black Caucus members were only 13 in number, but they caught the attention of the President of the United States and of their colleagues by positioning with a united front. Forty votes can be a critical block when the majority is looking to pass legislation or pass veto-proof legislation.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved.

Don’t Lose Focus on Justice Issues

[Note: This editorial was published in 2013 as part of a series marking the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. I chose to focus on the Justice System at a time when many mainstream Americans were not paying much attention to it. With the protests following several high-profile police killings, everybody from the President of the United States to John Q Citizen is speaking out on criminal justice issues.]

Dr. Elsie L. ScottDr. Scott

This year, we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. As African Americans, we are pleased that this country has progressed from the forced enslavement of a race of people to the removal of the Jim Crow laws.

We are also celebrating the reelection of a man of African descent to a second term as President of the United States. There is a lot to celebrate in 2013, but there is still have a lot of work ahead.

One of the areas that that is seriously flawed is the “justice system”. It is commonly known that the U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any other industrialized country. The fact that a disproportionate number of the persons convicted and imprisoned are African Americans is troubling.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2010, 4,347 out of every 100,000 black males were incarcerated in a state, federal or local facility. This number is seven times higher than the number of white males incarcerated. In 2010, African Americans made up 38 percent of the total state prison population compared to 34 percent whites and 21 percent Hispanics.

When arrest data is compared to prison data, the percentage of blacks in the total arrest numbers (27.8 %) is found to be ten percent lower than the percentage incarcerated. This seems to indicate that blacks are more likely to be convicted and sentenced to incarceration than whites.

An examination of felony conviction data shows that black felony convictions are more likely to result in incarceration than white felony convictions. According to BJS data for 2006, 39 percent of persons convicted on felonies were black and 60 percent were white.

Conviction data show that whites who are convicted are less likely to be incarcerated (66% to 72% blacks). For drug offenses, 72 percent of blacks convicted were incarcerated in 2006 compared to 61 percent of whites. Only 59 percent of whites convicted of drug trafficking were incarcerated compared to 70 percent of blacks. The mean maximum sentence imposed by state courts on white felons was 37 months compared to 42 months for black felons. If violent offenses are isolated, the statistics show that mean maximum prison sentence given to whites was 99 months, but the mean for blacks was 108 months.

Why are such large numbers of blacks in prison? There is the need to drill down into the issue of race and the criminal justice system. One can start with drug offenses. A large percentage of blacks have been incarcerated for drug-related offenses, including drug usage, yet, studies have shown that five times more drug users are white than black.

As long as many see the image of crime as a black man, this country will struggle with addressing race in the criminal justice system. Young black boys will continue to be placed in the prison pipeline beginning with childish pranks or school misbehavior. School discipline must be dealt with by the school system and not the criminal justice system. More must be done to reduce school dropouts because two-thirds of school dropouts are ending up in the criminal justice system.

Some good strides have been made around addressing the drug sentencing problems, but more need to be done. Drug usage and addiction are not criminal justice issues.

As the country reduces incarceration numbers, the issue of returning ex-inmates to the community must be addressed. Barriers to housing and employment, are giving them few legal options as they try to becoming productive citizens. They must automatically receive a restoration of their civil rights or they must be given a clear pathway to restoration.

So as we celebrate the equality and justice anniversaries, let us not lose focus on the justice issues that still loom before us.

The Continuing Problem of Police-Black Community Relations

Dr. Elsie L. Scott

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The recent shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year old African American male by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 focused the country’s attention on relations between African Americans and law enforcement agents once again. In the 1960s, a number of cities experienced violent uprisings that resulted in property loss and damage, and loss of lives. Since that time, incidents involving the police and black civilians have resulted in uprisings in a number of urban areas. After each of these incidents, public officials, media representatives and citizens have assessed the causes and suggested improvements.

The reaction to the 1960s riots that started with the Watts riot of 1965 was unlike the reactions to the other uprisings in that national attention was placed on the incidents. The President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed an 11-member commission (the Kerner Commission) to review the causes, the effects and preventive measures. The Kerner Commission found that police action was a major precipitating factor for all of the uprisings they studied. Federal and local resources were invested in actualizing some of the Kerner Report’s recommendations. Some of the reforms implemented were changes in police policies related to police misconduct, changes in citizen complaint process, recruitment and promotion of black police officers, and the implementation of programs designed to increase positive police-citizen interaction.

Despite the positive changes in police-community relations that were implemented in the 1970s, another major uprising took place in Miami, Florida in 1980. The not-guilty verdict of four police officers charged in the killing of a black motorcyclist led to three days of rioting that resulted in deaths, injury and property destruction. Reacting to the riot, a citizens’ review board was created, but there are questions about its effectiveness. More black and female officers were hired and promoted, but the culture did not immediately change.

The police case that personified problems with the police in the 1990s was the Rodney King case in Los Angeles. A tape of police officers beating a black man captured the nation’s attention, and when the police officers charged in the beating were acquitted, rioting started. Over one billion dollars in property damage resulted, and 53 people were killed. The chief of police who helped to create a culture of suppression and confrontational policing was forced out, but it took time and a federally-mandated consent decree to change the culture to one that was more community focused.

Cincinnati took center stage as the major uprising of the first decade of the 21st century. In 2001, four nights of looting and rioted followed the shooting death of a teenager by a police officer. The city was placed under a federal consent decree that resulted in training for officers in handling the mentally ill, changes to the foot pursuit policy, establishment of a Civilian Complaint Authority and the collection of race-related data during police stops.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri has taken the headlines. It is too early to know what the results of case will be. What is known is that the Ferguson police seemed to have learned little or nothing from the earlier cases. Some examples of mistakes they made were 1) not releasing details of the incident; 2) shooting the “suspect” multiple times even after he seemed to walking away; 3) refusing to name the officer who shot Brown; 4) responding to the uprising with military equipment; 5) leaving the dead body in the street for hours.

In some of the cities that have experienced unrest, improvements have been made in police processes, but the improvements often have not been sustained, and they have not been holistic in approach. The problems with the police cannot be isolated from the problems within the rest of society. In many urban areas, people have risen up in part because of the economic oppression they are facing. The police shooting is just a spark that ignites a flame after years of frustration around unemployment, underemployment, housing conditions, etc. Until investments are made in addressing economic and social disparities, uprisings will continue to occur.

After an incident, rhetoric is heard from the various sides, bandages are placed to stop the bleeding or a stop-gap solution is applied. Business goes on as usual or people find a way to move on in a new environment, but the core of the problem remains. At the core is the legacy of slavery and racism. The stereotyping of black men as criminals has become ingrained in society to the point that police officers and other people are quick to act upon mistaken assumptions of the motives of black men, whether they are walking or driving. Until the country is willing to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan to address deep-seated racial problems and issues, Fergusons will continue to occur.

Acceptance of Spirit of Democracy Award from National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Me with award

I would like to thank Melanie Campbell and the board members of NCBCP for this award. I would also like to congratulate the other recipients for their achievements. I want to thank my nephew, Dr. Ivory Toldson and his wife, Marshella for sharing this evening with me. I would also like to thank my friends Joan Farrelly and Barbara Santos for joining me and to my friend Rhonda Glover who could not be here, but provided tickets for two Howard University students to attend. I am pleased to have some of my former staff members from CBCF and so many of my sisters from the Black Women’s Roundtable.

This award is given to persons who support the NCBCP mission and vision of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition. Civic participation was ingrained into me by parents who were denied that basic civil duty, the right to vote. I watched them being denied that basic right even though they were born in this country and paid taxes in this country. They could pass the literacy test and could meet all the other qualifications, except they could not pass the voter identification test. For the younger persons in the audience, the voter identification requirement was not a photo ID. It was an in-person identification by two registered voters (and all the registered voters were white). They could not find two good white people to verify that they were who their driver’s licenses said they were.

As a child, I helped people who could hardly read and write, people who worked a full day in the cotton fields but cleaned up and came out at night, learn how to complete a voter registration card with no errors. We taught them how to pass a literacy test that was designed at the college level and above. I watched crosses burn near my home and answered threatening phone calls with people on the other end saying that they would rape my mother and kill my father. I heard the shots rang out in the night when night-riders filled a barrel of bullets into my father’s car in an attempt to kill him and my other family members. I witnessed my parents take the NAACP underground when the state of Louisiana outlawed the organization.

If you ask me where my commitment to civic engagement came from, I will tell you that I inherited from Rev. John Henry and Mrs. Alease J. Scott. It is in my DNA. Civic participation is indeed a cultural responsibility and a tradition in my family, and I am trying to pass it on to the next generation. Thank you for this award.

Elsie L. Scott, Ph.D.

Remembering Dr. Jewel Limar Prestage, My Academic Mother

Jewel Prestage

by Dr. Elsie L. Scott

I join my colleagues in mourning the passing of the “mother of black political science”, Dr. Jewel Limar Prestage, my academic mother. Dr. Prestage had a track record of teaching, mentoring and producing successful students that may be unequal in academia. These are just some of her success stories in the Washington, DC area: Ike Leggett, County Executive of Montgomery County, MD; Dr. Carolyn Williams, former undersecretary of HUD; Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO, Center for Global Policy Solutions; Dr. Shiela Harmon Martin, Chair, Political Science Department, University of the District of Columbia; and Atty. Weldon Rougeau. It has been reported that she produced at least 45 Ph.D.s and over 200 lawyers, elected officials and governmental and business officials. Two of her students went on to serve in the U.S. Congress, and several served in the Louisiana legislature. In my class of nine political science majors, three of us earned Ph.D.s, three earned law degrees (one became a judge), one is an A.B.D., one earned a master’s degree and the other was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the armed services and was killed in combat.

Twiley Barker, Jewel & me

Dr. Twiley Barker (Jewel’s academic father), Dr. Jewel Prestage & Dr. Elsie Scott

She was a role model for us as black women. She received her Ph.D. at the age of 22, and while still an undergraduate, managed to find a smart, handsome, supportive man who she married while she was in graduate school. Their 60-year marriage was an example of collaboration, love, support and respect. She was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science, and she was a trailblazer in research on women, having co-authored one of the early books on women in politics.

Dr. Prestage became my second mother after I joined her program at Southern University. Before I met her, I had planned to attend law school as my father had tracked me to do. She insisted that I get a Ph.D. instead. I know that Desiree Pedescleaux, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Spelman College, had a similar experience with Dr. Prestage.

She mentored and mothered all of her students, but I felt very special because she chose me to follow in her footsteps and go to the University of Iowa. She wanted me to be the second African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science frDr. Prestage and me at her SU retirementom Iowa. That did not happen because I hated Iowa as much as she loved it. She was, however, successful in keeping me from dropping out before I received my master’s degree. She would make phone calls to the professors and to me to try to get us to find common ground. She did not drop me when I left Iowa after completing my master’s program, with 12 hours toward my Ph.D. She kept me as a mentee and celebrated when I chose to join her former student, Dr. Mack Jones, in his new Ph.D. program at Atlanta University.

My friends who went to other schools, especially majority white universities, did not understand what was so special about Jewel Prestage. We revered her because she  aggressively sought financial assistance for us to pursue graduate study.  In an underfunded program, she found resources to expose us to outside programs and activities that would help our career advancement. She connected us with our “big brothers and sisters” who had achieved what we were striving for. She cared about our academic success and about us as individuals. When we graduated, she did move on to the next group of students, she continued to open doors for us well after we graduated, and she checked on our well-being.

Like my mother, she was very proud of my accomplishments and was always looking for ways to let others know about me. She invited me back to Southern University and to Prairie View University to speak to her students. She nominated me for awards and introduced me to people she thought I should know. She collected news clippings of my achievements and shared them through other mediums.

We, her former students, joked about phone calls with Jewel. You had to set aside a long period of time for a Jewel call—at least an hour. Even when you told her you were in a hurry, she did not rush off the phone. Jewel Prestage did not believe in rushing, whether it was to class or to catch a plane. I am glad she did not rush us because we got a chance to receive the real essence of a mentor. With each phone call, she was polishing her “jewels” to be the valuable gems she knew we could be.

His Brother’s (and Sister’s) Keeper: Lessons Learned from a Black Father

Witness to the Truth

Dr. Elsie L. Scott

My father was different from most black fathers in my small hometown in Louisiana.  He wore a white shirt and a bow tie every day.  He did not eat “greasy” food after 2:00 p.m. because he said his body would not digest it before he went to sleep. He drank herbal teas before they were marketed, and he promoted walking and physical exercise before it became the norm.  He read a lot and did not buy us a television because he said it was the “ignorant box.” He talked about civil rights for black people to anyone who would listen.

He did not drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs, curse, gamble or even play cards.  Yet, he was well respected in our hometown to the point that when he walked down Levee Street (the block where the nightclubs were located), even the winos straightened up and hid their bottles as they spoke to Rev. Scott.

With a “saint” as a father, it was not easy growing up.  All the boys were afraid to try to “court” me because they were afraid of my Daddy.  When I went to parties and started dancing, I would hear people saying, “I didn’t know Rev. Scott let her dance”.  Other children would be surprised to know that I knew all the words to the top ten hits.  One girl told me that she thought that all we did was sit around the house and read the Bible.

Beyond my father’s religious “sainthood”, he was the Moses of the civil rights movement in our section of the state.  He was not afraid to speak out for the rights of black people.  He refused to back down even when he was harassed, his family threatened, crosses burned near his house, his office burned down and he was shot.

At the time I was growing up, my father’s activism and its negative impact on our lives was not appreciated by me.  I longed for normalcy–whatever that was.  I knew I wanted to be able to sleep at night without worrying about someone bombing our house.  I knew that I wanted a life where I did not have to jump every time the dogs started barking.  I did not want to answer any more threatening phone calls.  I blamed my father for staying in Louisiana and subjecting us to all of these things. I once told my father that I did not know why he married and had a family because we were all suffering for his fight. I had to go to college before I could truly appreciate why it had to be my family that made the big sacrifice.

Beyond Daddy’s civil rights involvement, he was always helping others.  We developed a spirit of service from observing Daddy. From the time we were very young, I remember my father taking us to visit the sick and the people in nursing homes. I remember him taking us to the parish prison farm to visit people there.  Even though I did not like the smell of the nursing homes, I felt good going to visit (We also went without our parents) the seniors because for some, this was the highlight of their week.  I developed my zeal for justice from watching my Daddy advocate for those who had been unjustly incarcerated. My father never went to law school, but he studied law books so he could provide legal advice to those who did not have the money to hire a lawyer (or who did not trust the advice they were receiving from the white lawyers).

My father taught us sharing. I remember my father coming to my closet asking me to take some of my clothes and give to a family that had lost everything in a fire. He and my mother taught us to be kind to everybody regardless of their station in life, so we were always sharing even though we did not have a lot.

Daddy taught me the lesson of not letting others control you through finances. He paid for everything with cash because he knew credit could be used by the white people to control him.  He did not want to have anything that would compromise his ability to lead and his involvement in securing rights for black people. As a result, we never had a new car, but our family had no debt.

I grew up to embrace some of the values instilled in me through the teachings of my parents, but most of all through the examples they set. Of course I never embraced Daddy’s social values of not dancing and social drinking, but I did adopt his health and fitness values, and the spiritual and service values will always be with me.

My father liked to talk politics and enjoyed a spirited debate about politicians and issues.  He would probably OD on all the political shows that are now on television.  I inherited my interest in politics from him.  I remember arguing with him about integration–that he had fought for–and Black Power–that I had embraced.  Despite our different world views about the way we could achieve equality, he respected my opinions. When my brother was arrested and expelled from college for “inciting” students to riots again conditions at his college, Daddy was his biggest supporter. He fell out with some of his political friends who refused to stop the unfair prosecution of my brother.

It was not easy growing up the daughter of Rev. Scott, but I survived and I am a better person for all that I learned from him.

Can’t We Just All Get Along

Can’t We Just All Get Along
Dr. Elsie L. Scott
Director, Ronald W. Walters Leadership & Public Policy Center
Howard University

When Rodney King finally spoke after his beating by Los Angeles police officers, many were expecting him to say something about his beating, but he uttered the words, “Can’t we just all get along?”
These words came to me when I realized that today, April 29, was the 22nd anniversary of the verdict in the Rodney King case was issued, and rioting started in Los Angeles. There are no cities burning today, but the headlines and the blogs are full news and reflections on race in light of the leaked tape of Donald Sterling. It is not just the Sterling case that has us talking about race. It is also the Cliven Bundy case and the Supreme Court decision in Schuette v. Bamn. These are the topics of the day, but there will be other race-related topics in the future because we refuse to deal with the race issue in this country.
People of African descent were held in involuntary servitude for close to 250 years. Then a proclamation was issued stating that they are free, and later some Constitutional amendments were added to give them legal standing. The “freed” people were not given land or compensation for their labors. No schools or few schools were established to educate their children, but they were expected to catch up with the born free citizens. When they started businesses and found other ways to provide for their families, their businesses were destroyed, their rights were taken away, they were re-enslaved through the criminal justice system, and they were asked why they could not succeed like others.
Many blacks have tried to just get along and have found themselves falling further behind economically through unfair labor, banking and legal practices. They have tried to get along and found discrimination in housing. They have tried to get along and found they have been profiled, restricted, labeled and stereotyped.
Despite the dream of many Caucasian Americans that they would not have to deal with the issue of race, race issues are woven into the fabric of American society. The framework was established by the founding fathers when they allowed slavery to be legalized, and they allowed enslaved people to be defined as property. There was an opportunity to do something about it when slavery was abolished, but weak government “leaders” allowed the defeated South to continue a form of enslavement.
Notwithstanding all that African Americans have gone through, many have tried to find a way to just get along. Affirmative action was seen as one way to make the playing field even and to adjust for some of the past discrimination, but the term “reverse discrimination” was coined and this measure was stripped of its effectiveness.
What seems to be the final nail in the affirmative action coffin is the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Schuette v. Bamn. Affirmative action was needed because we all cannot just get along. The University of Michigan, in arguing for keeping the policy, stated that universities must have race-sensitive admissions plans to ensure diversity.
We have seen the impact that the change in admissions policy has had on California universities. At UCLA, for example, only three percent of the law students are black (33 out of roughly 1,100 students).
It was sad to watch two black female law students on the Melissa Harris Perry Show talk about what it means to be part of the three percent. The experiences they talked about were similar to my experience as the only black in my graduate school program at Iowa years ago. (I was the only black in my program, and we had no black professors.)
Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion in Schuette, essentially stated that the will of the people supersedes concerns about racial equality as long as it does not violate the Constitution. He seemed to question “race-based categories” (affirmative action) when he wrote: “Government action that classifies individuals on the basis of race is inherently suspect and carries the danger of perpetuating the very racial divisions the polity seeks to transcend.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a brilliant dissent in this case. She outlined three prominent areas in which race matters. “Race matters…because of the long history of racial minorities being denied access to the political process.” “Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society.” “And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away.”
We did not magically enter into a post-racial society when an African American was elected president. Many people had hoped that they would not have to hear anything else about racial discrimination and inequality. They hoped that we could just all get along, but nothing had been done to weed out the Donald Sterlings and Cliven Bundys.

It is not just the white men over 60 who are preventing us from just getting along. There are numerous hate incidents of college campuses such as the white students at San Jose State University barricading their Black roommate his room, displaying a Confederate flag, writing the word “nigger” on a white board in a common area, attaching a metal bicycle lock around his neck and calling him “three-fifths”. Black faculty at majority institutions are being charged with discrimination for highlighting black history, and young white people moving into inner cities are not showing respect for the institutions and culture of original residents–black people.

No, we cannot just all get along because the majority refuses to admit that race matters and that racial discrimination and inequality are still prevalent in society. No, we cannot just all get along because to too many people, getting along means subservience for people of a darker hue. We cannot just all get along because we are not all starting from the same place. We cannot just all get along because there is no real communication between the races. No, we cannot just all get along because people in the U.S. want to be able to wish away racial problems, by closing their eyes and by some type of magic, we would all just get along.