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Positive discrimination

June 30, 2007 am30 3:07 am

When someone comes to talk to me about a union situation in their school, one of my first questions is how often their chapter meets. If the chapter does not meet, the contract is vulnerable to administrative predations in that school. It’s true even if the Chapter Leader meets with the principal.

Positive discrimination (affirmative action, desegregation, etc) was won by a movement. Movement demobilized? Gains are vulnerable

This is not so different from the embarassing 2005 New York City teacher contract negotiations, when the Mayor decided he did not need to bargain with us. Our chapters were flabby, did not meet, did not function. From a position of weakness, there was really nothing we could do. Choice A was to wait him out, get only steps and no fresh raises in the interim, and work on strengthening our chapters. Choice B was to cave in on a host of issues. Our ability to negotiate was undermined by our failure to maintain our strength.

(more below the fold —>)

The Supreme Court decision, essentially overruling fifty years of attempts to overcome systematic school segregation, represents the same balance of forces. When people marched, the politicians responded by ratifying into law what people had essentially, through strength, seized. Any version of history that claims that politicians acted out of goodness…

Electing the right people, lobbying, that’s analagous to the Chapter Leader meeting with the principal. Without membership behind him, or without a movement behind Civil Rights leaders, there’s really not much reason for the politicians to pay much attention. Some will claim that we need to change the composition of the Supreme Court. Good. But we won’t win anything back without redeveloping our strength, and our strength does not emanate primarily from the voting booth.

Here’s some more interesting posts on the subject:

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2007 am31 6:29 am 6:29 am

    I’ll add to that that without a set of positive issues to appeal to people with, you won’t ever have a movement behind you. Telling people that their hard-won victories are precarious will gain you a few core activists and alienate everyone else. That’s why the American pro-choice movement is so weak, while the gay rights movement is thriving.

    The problem of school desegregation is something entirely different, though. First, I hate to say it, but inner city schools have enough money as it is. Stuyvesant works perfectly well on $8,500 per student per year. What $20,000/year buys is incompetence-proof schools; failing schools in Bed-Stuy could use that, but as long as opponents can point out to well-run schools, there won’t be the political will to give them money. Making those schools better-run requires parents who have the time and money to raise hell whenever the principal is being an idiot, but if those parents had the time and the money, they probably wouldn’t live in Bed-Stuy.

    Second, there’s a huge split in the civil rights movement about whether school integration is any good. Jonathan Kozol mentions that there are black activists who’re just as much into separation as residents of Manahasset and other white suburbs; to those activists, what’s important is spending more money on black-majority schools, and integrating whites and blacks is a failure from the 1970s.

  2. July 1, 2007 am31 9:27 am 9:27 am

    We disagree about every word you’ve entered here. I’m going to let it sit a while, but I’m surprised Alon.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    October 15, 2007 am31 9:53 am 9:53 am

    how are u thiz morning dear!


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