The naming of the California anti-affirmative proposition The Civil Rights Initiative several years ago and the naming of the Florida anti-affirmative action initiative One Florida now seems a lot like that scene from "The Stand' to me. The Civil Rights Initiative wasn't about civil rights and One Florida isn't about uniting people in support of minority and women-owned businesses or minority students. Instead, One Florida is Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's initiative to end affirmative action in that state. Bush says that his program, designed by a small committee and enacted by an executive order, will actually ensure more minority students and a better program for women and minority-owned businesses. But he has yet to show how that will happen. Under One Florida, Bush contends he will use the power of his office to ensure that state contracts are awarded fairly.
In addition, it will use what he calls the Talented Twenty concept in which the top 20 percent of Florida's high school graduates will be guaranteed a place in the state university system. The problem with this latter plan, however, is that no financing is guaranteed and while it guarantees a place it does not guarantee a place at the best Florida state schools. Thus, thousands of Florida minority students could find themselves relegated to the lowest-ranking schools in the state system. Since Bush announced his plan there have been protests at the three public meetings which he held after enacting One Florida and two African American state senators held a sit-in in Bush's office in protest.
On March 7 more than 30,000 people marched in protest to the state capital, Tallahassee, on the 35th anniversary of the famous Selma, Ala., civil rights march and the day when Bush was addressing the legislature. Speakers included all major civil rights leaders from across the nation, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kweisui Mfume of the NAACP, Martin Luther King, Hugh Price of the National Urban League and Patricia Ireland of the National Organization of Women. Marchers included not only African Americans from across the state, but also White truck drivers from the Teamsters union and Hispanics from south Florida. More than 500 school bus drivers in Miami-Dade county took off from work to attend the rally, along with church groups and community groups such as the MAD DADs from Liberty City in Miami. Grandparents brought their grandchildren and groups of college students who had never marched before were there.
In one poignant comment, Jackson reminded the governor that as the son of a rich and powerful family, he and his brother didn't have to worry about whether they would be accepted in college, no matter what their grade point average had been. His message was clear – affirmative action was still needed by those of us whose skin color or family credentials give us no favors in college admissions. That's really what affirmative action is all about – making the playing field even for those who continue to have fewer opportunities because of race, because of class, because of gender. Black people, Latinos and Latinas, and women are still the poorest in this nation, are still more apt to face discrimination in the work place, in housing, in health care.
That's the message to Gov. Bush – pretending that this is not so is not acceptable. We will not, like the people in "The Stand,' allow the government to pretend that everything is all right – that all are equal or that laws are not necessary. More African Americans moved to the state of Florida in the 1900's than to any other state in the country. They " re not about to let Bush turn them around.
In the words of one man, "This is a business trip. We have to take care of business and stand up against the powers and principalities. ' Or in the words of his homemade sign on the van they traveled in,.