WE agree with the staff when they acknowledge the importance of conferences like Visions '89. Because the conference promoted an atmosphere of racial sensitivity on college campuses and in society, we support the staff when they praise Visions for bringing everybody closer together.
But in describing the backround for the event, the staff only partially heeds its own calls for fairness. The staff describes the 1980 s as a decade of "insensitivity and hostility to minority concerns" and condemns the Reagan Justice Department for seeking to roll back affirmative action. We agree with this assessment and remain critical of the Justice Department's failure to continue actively prosecuting civil rights cases.
We cannot agree, however, with the staff's characterization of the Richmond case as the culmination of the Justice Department's attempts to do away with affirmative action. The staff fails to recognize that the Supreme Court remains constitutionally independent from the executive branch. The Justice Department's attempt to roll back affirmative action and the Court's deciding on the constitutionality of certain affirmative action remedies are entirely separate issues.
Writing for the Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor questioned the constitutionality of setting aside 30 percent of a city's contracts for minority contractors and decided that minority contractors must prove specific instances of past discrimination before they can constitutionally qualify for affirmative action.
The Court's decision does not squash affirmative action. It merely questions the lengths to which affirmative action can be taken before reverse discrimination results. In the decision, the court attempts to rectify what it sees as an unconstitutional law, not to condemn or reject affirmative action as a remedy for past discrimination.
The staff fails to recognize that not all who question current forms of affirmative action, as the Court does in Richmond, are racist and are intent on "rolling back" civil rights. The staff's position implies that supporters of the decision are somehow against improving race relations and are insensitive to minority concerns. Such implications are both misleading and counterproductive to the purposes of conferences like Visions '89.