Feds OK Separate “Help” for Blacks on Urban Campuses


March 19, 2013

New York, New York. The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Education Department–even before sharing its decision with the complainant–rushed out its clearance of what its exiting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights deemed “supportive programs” for African American male students at urban universities. In letters released toThe Chronicle of Higher Education, the OCR late last year “cleared” support programs for African American males on urban campuses, including “Black Male Initiative”programming at the City University of New York (CUNY) which the new York Civil Rights Coalition accused, back in 2006, of race and sex-based discrimination. The OCR says it has closed its investigations of the CUNY Black Male Initiative programs on the grounds that OCR accepts CUNY’s assurances that the programs are “open” to others and are not exclusively for African American male students.

We are appealing the ruling as a misstatement of law and a return to the discredited ‘separate but equal’ doctrine in higher education.

The New York Civil Rights Coalition’s executive director, Michael Meyers, blasted the OCR decision as “disingenuous, Orwellian double talk”.

The New York Civil Rights Coalition’s Michael Meyers’ statement follows:

“I have never known the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education to issue a decision on a complaint without sharing its findings and conclusions with the complainant. But there is little in its decision that is based on established standards, much less the rue of law in conjunction with Supreme Court precedents. The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education has established a new race-based classification outside of the justification of affirmative action to give a green light to programs for African American male students that it calls “supportive programs.” In so doing, the Office for Civil Rights ignores the considerable evidence that the City University of New York (CUNY) set up for the exclusive ‘benefit’ of African American males special (i.e. separate) classes and programs; its special class for African American males at Medgar Evers College, for instance, was exclusively for black males only, and it was taught by a black male–the college’s African American male president.  Not even black women students were included.  Indeed, black female students were told the special class was for African American males. 

“The Black Male Initiative at the City University of New York on its face–and in every way it’s been organized, advertised, promoted, and how it’s been administered–has been exclusively for the supposed “benefit” of black males. CUNY, in setting up the separate programming, had argued that the “young black male” is different and has “special needs.” So, they can’t have it both ways–except with the paternalistic Office for Civil Rights. Now, with a green light from the federal government, CUNY can merely claim that such programs are “open” without any evidence that they have included black women or students, male or female, other than black men. The Black Male Initiative has the government announcing to every other person and to all young women in highereducation–regardless of their color and similar circumstances as black men–that they need not apply. Moreover, the Feds have accepted the mere assurance from CUNY officials that these programs are “open” without regard to race or sex. Imagine what the feds’ ruling would have been if CUNY had announced and organized a “White Men’s Initiative.” Would the Office for Civil Rights have accepted verbal assurances from the college officials that programs for white men were “open” to others than white males? The absurdity of the race and gender-based classification would have drawn the ire and disapproval of the Office for Civil Rights had this not been a program for the supposed “benefit” of African American males–the stereotype about whom is such that they are uniquely “disadvantaged” and in need of “special support” because of their skin color and gender. Thus, on the nomenclature alone, and the substance of its flagrant abuse of process of ignoring Supreme Court precedents that disfavor race-based classifications, the OCR is engaged in an exercise of Orwellian double talk and double standards of civil rights law enforcement.

OCR has willfully ignored Supreme Court precedents to approve discriminatory race-based and gender-based classifications, in the guise of approving “support”programs for African American males. This is a disconnect from genuine affirmative action efforts–where racial classifications, if they are to be upheld–must be narrowly tailored and serve a compelling governmental purpose–and even then, be integrative in purpose and effect. This instant OCR decision, however, ignores that jurisprudence and turns inside out Title VI law in order to achieve the result it sought–i.e. the federal government sanctioning and reviving the doctrine of separate but equal in higher education, on the pretext that the segregation– by race and sex–is to be regarded as a supposed “benefit” to African American males. This constitutes a significant and unforgivable breach of equal opportunity law and an inversion of the rhetoric about race as a badge of inferiority and stereotype. It is the biggest breach of trust and of principled civil rights enforcement to memory in the history of Title VI and Title IX enforcement by the federal government.

The upshot of OCR’s errant nonsense is that in its view racial separatism and official segregation–and racial classifications–can lead to positive rather than negative results if it is either sought by or is cast by the segregating governmental entity as “for the benefit” of the previous victims of racial exclusion and segregation. In other words, to paraphrase my mentor, Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, OCR thinks the character of racism and of discrimination and exclusion based on race–and on the basis of race and gender, “in support” of African American males–would depend on the attitude the black males and their university benefactors and enablers have toward the segregative programs and conditions. On the contrary, when Title VI and Title IX were adopted by the Congress it would have been the consensus of the nation that racism would have gained its greatest triumph had its supporters back then been able to persuade blacks that segregation was both acceptable and desirable, and that the justification for this separatism was color alone.This arrangement with segregation, and with sex and race-based stereotypes, is what OCR has approved–it has, in knee-jerk, paternalistic fashion, adopted a “separate but equal” view of civil rights law enforcement; in OCR’s warped view of equal opportunity and racial neutrality, as long as blacks themselves say they want the segregation–and there are no whites or others of a different skin color to formally challenge that segregation–the federal government sees nothing wrong with racial classifications and discriminatory programs arranged and funded by the government. This is an appalling betrayal of the public policy mandate of Brown v. Board of Educationand of our federal laws that seek to end segregation and discrimination based on skin color–and in this case, discrimination based on the group’s skin color and sex.”