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.
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
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
At “Sections,” the Texas Civil Rights Review provides the essential history
of how Texas pledged to undertake affirmative action 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.
(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. Now the coaches and recruiters 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 lack of tack, presenting the Aggie attitude in ways that
make the administration’s policies much more naked than they otherwise might have seemed. The YCTs
also serve as a more scary alternative to leadership that at least recognizes the importance of
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.
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 bak sale” by the YCTs 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 YCTs as their careers blossom before
(Gates taught the YCTs a lesson all right: Looks 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.
Dec. 12, 2003