Opinion: Perfect Backlash

The November feud between the Texas A&M University administration and the Young Conservatives of Texas over the impropriety of an “affirmative action bake sale” reveals that the concept of “diversity” need not entail a commitment to civil rights. Soon after the president of the university appealed to the YCTs for civility and diversity, he suspended civil rights in admissions.

Whether one opposes civil rights loudly and uncivilly, as with the bake sale, or loudly and civilly, as with the suspension of affirmative action, the common bond is opposition to civil rights as we know them in the 21st Century.

The administration’s emphasis on a strategy of “diversity” without civil rights serves to frame the process of admissions as something the University confers solely by its own good graces. This construction of the matter evades recognition that some applicants, as members of protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, hold civil rights that the University is bound to respect.

In previous years, Texas Civil Rights Review provided the essential history of how Texas pledged to undertake affirmative action in higher education as a way to meet its responsibilities under civil rights law. The decision to suspend affirmative action breaks that promise and declares that Texas A&M will serve as its own authority in matters of civil rights enforcement.

By the way, I don’t know where these recent developments leave the athletic department, which has been quite vocal in its opposition to the YCT bake sale antics. Coaches and recruiters now work under a president who is telling the state’s elected leaders of color that he’s not going to respect their demands for civil rights at Texas A&M.

Adding all this up, it is tempting to conclude that the administration is mostly irritated by the YCT’s lack of tact, presenting the Aggie attitude in ways that make the administration’s policies much more naked than they otherwise might have seemed. The YCT’s also serve as a more scary alternative to leadership that at least recognizes the importance of diversity.

The YCT’s opposition to “diversity” policy as such reveals that attitudes of racist supremacy still thrive. They could not even tolerate the administration’s appointment of a “diversity officer.” In this context, the administration’s promise to provide “diversity” without civil rights may be viewed as a way of pandering to a climate of racist opinions.

The dramatized tensions displayed between the YCTs and the president over the question of holding an “affirmative action bake sale” served to keep the focus of the community mired in reactionary alternatives to the status quo.

Thanks to the YCT flap, the president is able to swoop in to “defend” his new diversity chief, announce a “bold new program” of pure salesmanship, and never mention that he is deliberately breaking commitments made by the state of Texas to federal offices of civil rights.

140 years after the emancipation proclamation the party of Lincoln returns triumphant to the South, so Southern that Lincoln is surely wincing at the meaning of it all. Whether we consider the “affirmative action bake sale” by the YCT’s or the unilateral suspension of affirmative action by the administration, Texas A&M provides evidence that it is still a pre-eminent incubator of racist leadership. Keep an eye on those YCT’s as their careers blossom before your eyes. Gates taught the YCT’s a lesson all right: Look kids, stop pushing cookies. Watch a real pro at work.

In the end, the showcase dispute over the value of “diversity” does not mask the fact that there is no disagreement between the YCTs and the administration about the substance of civil rights. And without any clear commitment to civil rights there can be no “excellence in leadership.”

If we sum together Texas A&M’s suspension of its civil rights commitments and the Republican-driven redistricting plan that is now under judicial review, then we come up with an image of perfect backlash in Texas.

Re: Opinion: Perfect Backlash
by Anonymous on Sunday, December 14 @ 23:58:39 EST

I am actually glad that YCT held the bake sale. I think that the situation called several important issues to attention. First, it made the administration more aware of the fact that student apathy has made the administration lazy. A similar bake sale was going to be held at SMU and the SMU admin. shut it down before it started! Similar actions have been taken by other administrations at other universities across the country.

Second, the action calls to mind that the lack of diversity not only hurts the student body, but it also hurts the university’s wallet (through strained recruiting efforts for football). If there’s anything that can moblize the administration its the idea that A&M could be making more money. If money is what drives a policy that supports diversity, so be it.

Third, the situation also shows that there is a weird group of ultra-right conservative students on campus here. Most students do not identify with YCT or the ultra-right. YCT acting the way it did will allow for other, more sensible student organizations to rally support for more main-stream and moderate views. Really, the YCT bake sale was bad for a lack of tact, but good for 3 other very important reasons. And to that I say, “Thank you YCT. You are helping a progressive transformation to occur here at A&M!”

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