Guerrero: Affirmative action cases aren’t about ending discrimination. Their goal is white supremacy.
In the United States today, affirmative action is the one major form of diversity-related legislation that has gained widespread approval. When it was first introduced in the 1980s, the rationale was clear: As a means of ending discrimination, affirmative action is necessary. But it’s easy to become confused, because many of us think that our nation’s history of white supremacy—the reason we have these issues that no one wants to address, and the reason that so many of our politicians refuse to address them—has ended.
But the issue of affirmative action isn’t about whether we want to eliminate racism; rather, it’s about whether we want to end racism. It’s about eliminating white supremacy, and a white supremacist movement that has not officially “gone away.” In this, the history and current state of the race issues surrounding affirmative action is deeply linked to the ongoing battle over the question of race in America, to which I’ve been referring since my days as a student of history in college.
The central controversy surrounding affirmative action is not whether or how to end racism. Rather, the central controversy is whether or not to end racism. For many, this question has been answered by saying “yes,” so those who have chosen to vote on it have simply been making a political choice. For others, the central question is “why bother?” For many, the issue of race is not so much a question of whether or not to end racism as it is a question of power, the power that can be wielded to keep people of color in the margins of society, and the power that can be wielded to make racist speech illegal. For others, the central question is merely one of “the right thing.”
And yet, affirmative action is not about ending racism. It’s about ending white supremacy.
This isn’t an issue about power.
When a woman says she wants an opportunity to gain a better job just because she is a woman, she is not saying, “Give me the power to do whatever I want simply because I am a woman.” She’s not even saying “I want to have more of whatever it is that I want simply because I am a woman.” She’s saying, “Give me the power to gain exactly what I’m asking for