Texas Civil Rights Review
"34 Words, 41 Shots"
A Defense of Affirmative Action
A Talk by Dr. Robert Jensen
Delivered to a panel on racial disparity in health
at the annual conference of the
American Public Health Association,
Boston, Massachusets, November 14, 2000;
and for the "Speaking Truth to Power" Series
at Schreiner University, Kerrville, Texas,
April 3, 2001
I want to start with the 34 most misused words about race ever spoken in the United States:
"I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Those are, of course, the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr., spoken in 1963 at the March on Washington. King used the term "dream", but his topic was the nightmare of race and America, of life in a racialized and racist society.
Today, conservatives and liberals alike invoke King's dream of a color-blind society in ways that I can only guess would deeply sadden and anger King. For to be blind to color in the United States in the year 2000 is to be truly blind.
But blindness, I think, is the wrong metaphor, and not just because it equates a disability with lack of understanding. It is also the wrong metaphor because one does not choose blindness; it is a condition one must deal with. The failure to understand race in a racialized world, the failure of white America to understand its own power and privilege, and how that power and privileged is based on a racialized and racist system, is a choice. It is a kind of willed ignorance, for one has to work very hard not to know what is so obvious. This clamor for color-blindness is, I want to argue, a kind of collective willed ignorance on the part of the majority of white Americans.
The way of out of the ignorance, I think, is relatively simple. We must learn to hold two seemingly contradictory things in our minds:
First, race is a fiction we must never accept.
Second, race is a fact we must never forget.
Civil Rights Complaint Revealed
Against Texas Ag Extension Service
Seven Agents Sign
By Greg Moses
(June 19, 1999) AUSTIN, TX--The Texas Civil Rights Review is posting the complete text of a civil rights complaint now pending before the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) concerning alleged discriminatory practices at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAEX).
The complaint, whichh is the subject of an ongoing investigation, alleges racial discrimination in employment, promotion, salary and position at TAEX, as well as discrimination against black youth in 4-H programs, and harrassment and retaliation against black employees who raise such issues.
Investigators have not yet released their findings. Stay tuned to the Texas Civil Rights Review.
November 7, 1997
CERTIFIED NO. Z 434 075 834
Mr. Daniel H. Joyce
Dear Mr. Joyce:
This letter is a class action Title VI complaint against the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAEX), Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University System, for its present, past and continuing practice of racial discrimination in the employment and treatment of minorities, specifically African Americans (blacks) within TAEX. The TAEX has employees in each of the 254 counties with its administrative and support staff headquartered on Texas A&M University campus, College Station, Texas (see attached flow chart for Texas A&M University System). The address for TAEX headquarters is as follows:
Office of the Director
A brief description of each discrimination complaint is listed below:
I. Employment Discrimination. (A). Between 1966 and 1997, the number of professional blacks employed by TAEX has declined from approximately 100 to 36 or about 300%, whereas the percentage of white employees has remained relatively unchanged.
(B). Historically, black Extension professionals are employed for positions only in a few select counties (primarily, those in the eastern half of Texas), whereas our white counterparts are employed in practically all of Texas 254 counties.
In 1991, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its Civil Rights Compliance Review Report, recommended that TAEX, "Advance Affirmative Action efforts to fill vacancies in districts/counties whichh have no minorities. Utilize your (TAEX) under representation indices when conducting recruitment activities." Unfortunately, the recommendations made by USDA to TAEX remain unfulfilled and thus, the racial bias in employment and refusing to place a representative number of blacks in non-traditional counties remains basically unchanged.
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II. Promotion Discrimination. (A). Historically, the number of blacks in supervisory and administrative positions at the district and headquarter levels has been either totally absent or severely disproportionate to the number of positions held by our white counterparts. Since the passage of the Smith Lever Act of 1914 whichh established the Cooperative Extension Service, there has been only one black administrator. He served in a position created by TAEX following passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After his retirement, TAEX discontinued the position and no other black male has since held an administrative position at the headquarters level. There was one black female to serve as a District Director (Supervisor) following passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was later promoted to an administrative position until her retirement. Currently, there are no black administrators at the headquarters level. There is currently one black female District Director (Supervisor). This person was considered only after a vast majority of black county Extension agents signed a joint letter petitioning TAEX to integrate the search committee that had previously excluded black participation. Ironically, TAEX officials excluded black county Extension agents from the search committee despite their knowledge that the district (District 9) represented the largest number of black county Extension agents (approximately 42%), within the State.
(B) Black males who apply for District Director positions are always routinely passed over, and often not interviewed, even when their education, tenure and experience are equal to or even superior to their white counterparts. Some positions are put on hold when a black applicant applies and are later filled without informing the black applicant that the position has been reopened for further consideration. Some black county Extension agents who have received the TAEX Distinguished Service award and have more than 20 years of employment are not promoted or given salaries comparable to their white counterparts.
In 1991, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its Civil Rights Compliance Review Report, recommended that TAEX, "Recruit more minorities for administrative and professional positions." Currently, TAEX does not have a single minority on its administrative staff at headquarters level.
III. Salary and Position Discrimination. (A). According to the TAEX Operational Budget for Fiscal Year 1996-97, white county Extension agents are assigned to the top paying county positions as County Extension Director, with a current salary range of $57,240 to $70,735 or a mean of $63,515. The title, Program Leader Coordinator, is the highest position held by black county Extension agents with a salary range of $37, 902 to $52,766 or a mean of $45,876. This equates to more than a 28% salary disparity between the top white and black county Extension agents, although more than 90% of black county Extension agents have earned Masters and Ph.D. degrees. Similar inequities in salaries also exist between white and black Program
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Leader Coordinators, considering that the tenure of blacks on average is greater than their white counterparts.
(B). Further observation shows that when education and tenure are taken into consideration, the average salaries of black county Extension agents overall are significantly less than their white counterparts for similar employment positions.
IV. 4-H and Youth Discrimination Neglect in eliminating racial barriers that hinder participation of minority youth in 4-H programs and National 4-H Congress is evident as cited in a letter written February 18, 1994 by TAEX 4-H & Youth Development Specialist. The letter states, "Dick Sauer, President and CEO of National 4-H Council has informed each State 4-H office that corporate contributions to the National 4-H Youth Congress have declined from a high of $2.4 million to $1.1 million in the last four years." The reason stated for the decline is, "There is lack of racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of delegates attending Congress." Thus, as the number of black county Extension agents declines due to race-based employment practices, so does minority youth participation in 4-H programs.
In 1991, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its Civil Rights Compliance Review Report, recommended that TAEX, "Develop and implement a plan to identify and eliminate barriers in order to increase minority participation in District, State and National 4-H programs."
V. Harassment and Retaliation. Black employees who complain of unfair treatment or racial discrimination are thereafter systematically denied promotion or salary increases comparable to other county Extension agents when education and tenure are taken into consideration. A classical example is black Extension agent who filed a racial discrimination complaint and lawsuit against the TAEX, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University System. He has since experienced multiple acts of harassment and retaliation and been denied all applications for promotion despite his superior service, tenure, broad experiences and earned Ph.D. degree. Recently, Texas A&M University administrators denied his application for emeritus status although it was previously approved by his former Department. The decision is currently being appealed, which is an example of the continuing harassment and retaliation imposed on black employees who opt to exercise their Civil Rights (see attached letters).
The Office for Civil Rights has repeated that applicants have a right to file a complaint and to be free from acts of harassment or retaliation by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University System.
Since the extension employees are considered faculty members within Texas A&M University and
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were covered by the Texas Plan we would ask that the Texas Agricultural Extension Service be included in the current Title VI Compliance Review of Texas Institutions of Higher Education.
Clemogene Wilson, M.S.
Jacqueline Jones, M.A.
David E. McGregor, M.S.
Bernard Mitchell, M.S.
Nora M. Galley Hodges, M.S.
Arnold Brown, M.S.
USDA Office for Civil Rights
Investigates Employment Discrimination
In Texas Extension Service
Serve on All White Top Staff
At TAEX Headquarters
(Jan. 18, 1999) AUSTIN, TX--Civil Rights investigators have spent nearly one year looking into complaints of racist employment practices at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
The probe by the Office of Civil Rights for the USDA is the second federal civil rights investigation now underway in Texas. In the summer of 1997, the Department of Education also launched a civil rights inquiry into vestiges of segregation in Texas higher education.
Both inquiries have focused substantial attention upon the College Station campus of the Texas A&M University System, which serves as Texas headquarters for the agricultural extension service.
Top administrators at TAEX have been virtually all white since the extension service was founded in 1914. Two black administrators have been hired and retired since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Today, the top twelve administrators at TAEX are white.
The USDA investigation was prompted by a complaint signed by six veteran black employees alleging systematic racial discrimination in pay and promotion.
Two defendants named in a 1993 discrimination suit are among the top twelve administrators at TAEX. The plaintiff in that case was awarded an out-of-court settlement in 1996.
Both USDA and DOE report that their investigations are ongoing.
Department of Education's
Office for Civil Rights
Reviews Texas Higher Education
(August 20, 1997) Officials from the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education are undertaking a major review of higher education in Texas, to determine if the state is in compliance with its legal obligation "to eliminate all vestiges" of segregation.
The review is the first major study of Texas higher education undertaken by OCR since 1978-79. At that time, OCR concluded, "that the State of Texas has failed to eliminate the vestiges of its former de jure racially dual system of public higher education, a system that segregated blacks and whites" (Brown 1981, p.3).
The current investigation by OCR comes at a time when Texas colleges and universities have virtually dismantled their affirmative programs in the wake of a decision issued by a federal district court in West Texas. The Hopwood ruling, which was originally issued to settle a relatively narrow question about the use of affirmative action at the University of Texas Law School, has been extended by Texas policy-makers to encompass all affirmative action for students in Texas higher education.