Affirmative Action Policies Never Addressed the National Question
For all it’s self-proclaimed enlightened ways, U.$. imperialism continues to uphold the myth of race in everything it does. Enter the Supreme Court with their historic decision to end affirmative action in higher education. While the “race-conscious” policy did benefit (some in the) oppressed nations, the framework of race, created by the oppressor, continues to setback the progress of the oppressed.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority position, “Many universities have for too long… concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin… Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
We are not in the game of integrating oppressed people into the oppressor nation, but affirmative action based on “race” did prove an effective way to do that. Ending it will mean less oppressed nation people in higher education as recent history in California has shown.(1)
However, the racial statistics used to tout the success of affirmative action can be misleading. Because “race” and not income, or zip code, or cultural background are used in many of these statistics, what looks like perfect representation by skin color may be doing nothing to benefit the New Afrikan masses. Extrapolating from some broad statistics, one author estimates that maybe 7 or 8 of 154 “Black” freshman (5%) at Harvard in 2020 were from families defined in the U.$. as impoverished. Whereas, in the general population, 30% of New Afrikan youth are from impoverished households. This article also cites anecdotes saying the vast majority of black faces at Harvard are from bourgeois African families or had one Euro-Amerikan parent. Again, indicating affirmative action was not really benefiting the New Afrikan nation at Harvard anyway.(2)
The passage of the U.$. Civil Rights Act in 1964, which preceded the “affirmative action” practices we know today, was a comprehensive act to outlaw discrimination in what had been a segregated country. This was not just a result of the organizing of the oppressed within U.$. borders, but the pressure from the Soviet Union (though at that time they’d taken up the capitalist road) and China and the broader national liberation movement taking place across Africa, Asia and Latin America. And while progressive changes took place in the United $tates in the 1960s it did not quell the upsurge of national liberation struggles within U.$. borders because it never addressed the national question like the Soviet Union and China did. Rather it continued to institutionalize the concept of race through the new civil rights laws being passed.
By never addressing the national question, things like affirmative action, or Under Lock & Key can be attacked by the imperialist state as “racist.” To the imperialists the oppressed nations don’t exist, so when we talk about New Afrikans or Chican@s or Euro-Amerikans, they censor our literature for “racism.”
We must identify the principal contradiction to keep our eyes on the prize and not get distracted into dead-end politics. The principal contradiction we see under imperialism is nation, as well within the United $tates we say it is nation. This does not mean everyone from an oppressed nation is an ally. We must think in terms of percentages, not in black and white.
In discussing racism in political repression, Triumphant talks about the neo-colonial era. And we echo this sentiment that “skinfolk ain’t necessarily kinfolk.” That Black bourgeoisie are often playing significant enemy roles, in defense of U.$. imperialism.
However, just because neo-colonialism exists, it does not mean that nation is erased and class is all that matters. Neo-colonialism is still national oppression, it’s just a smarter form.
In reality, not seeing race at all is impossible for us in this racist society. Even when speaking of nations, we use phenotypes to classify people; we are still stuck in this model handed down by the European settlers who created “whiteness.” We must develop a political analysis to guide us that is beyond the myth of race and bloodlines, that instead operates in the material reality of nation, which J.V. Stalin defined as " a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested in a community of culture."
Comrade USW36 wrote on this topic:
i too, no longer use “Black” and “White” to define people. i’m a “New Afrikan”, Black is “created” by European settlers to enforce their new “white” identity rule. i hope all Rev Nats study Fanon (and Yaki’s “Meditations”), New Afrika, Native Amerika, and New Aztlan can be freed. We can be united and create a true North Amerikan Revolutionary Nationalist United Front to decolonize and delink from this imperialist juggernaut. Black and White identities won’t help us free any of the NA nations (i’d like also to salute New Asian Pacific Islanders).
If Amerika is the “prison house of nations”, if our aim is to weaken it from the inside, if revolutionary nationalism is viable then this isn’t just a path for New Afrikans it’s for us all, even European-settlers if they commit class-suicide. New Afrika isn’t just descendants of Afrika. It’s a scattered and potentially solidified nation with all sorts of “ethnicities”, and too, anyone can be a New Afrikan; shaming people ’cause they’re not “Black” enough or not at all is bourgeois bullshit. Someone like the Euro-Amerikan teacher Rachel Dolezal shouldn’t have been discarded like trash if she lied about her ethnicity; that could be corrected by self-criticism but if she consciously was willing to fight for the liberation of “New Afrika” then she’s a “New Afrikan” it’s that fucken simple. But we all need to wrestle with these contradictions here in the heart of empire.
A better example than Rachel Dolezal is Yuri Kochiyama, who was actually a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), joining at its founding in 1968 along with a 17 year-old Mutulu Shakur. Kochiyama was a close comrade of el Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X when they met). As a child of Japanese descent she spent years in a U.$. concentration camp during WWII. The RNA continues to serve as a model for how to address oppression from within the empire. Armed with Maoism, revolutionary nationalism within the belly of the beast can lead us to a world with out racism.
1. Nina Totenberg, 29 June 2023, Supreme Court guts affirmative action, effectively ending race-conscious admissions, NPR.
2. Bertrand Cooper, 19 June 2023, The Failure of Affirmative Action, The Atlantic.