Monday, March 21, 2011

Nation-Building and Affirmative Action in 19th Century America

The Huffington Post
Grant Calder, Teacher
Posted: March 21, 2011 01:24 PM

Why all Americans should learn about the Freedmen's Bureau

In February 1865, shortly before the Civil War ended, Congress established "a bureau of refugees, freedmen and abandoned lands."
The great African American scholar and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois described the "herculean task" delegated to this agency as nothing less than "the social uplifting of four million slaves to an assured and self-sustaining place in the body politic."
Had this been a time of peace and prosperity the bureau would still have faced monumental challenges. As it was the South lay in ruins; hunger was widespread; southern whites were determined to resist emancipation by any means; and there was absolutely no precedent for a multi-racial society on the scale being contemplated.

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SJW's Comment: Mr. Calder is making some very simplistic and superficial comparisons between the work of the Freedmen's Bureau and affirmative action programs in the modern era. Moreover, he brings in Afghanistan and Iraq as, implicitly, examples of unconstitutional actions in addition to affirmative action. Unfortunately, he fails to prove in what way the wars or affirmative action is unconstitutional, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed the latter issue in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. The Labor Department in 2000 promulgated regulations that emphasize that quotas are illegal. It also did a study of reverse discrimination cases at the EEOC and found very few and even fewer that had merit. It is axiomatic that those who have enjoyed the benefits of preferences (i.e. owning slaves, being wealthy or being part of a majority white male-dominant culture) would resent the changes imposed by a Freedmen's Bureau or affirmative action. That is not a reason to ban the remedy, even if it is distasteful to the one who inflicted the injury or benefited from it.

For more information about affirmative action, visit:, the American Association for Affirmative Action.

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