Civil rights advocates breathed a sigh of relief Monday after the Supreme Court declared affirmative action alive...for now. But in response to suggestions that the need for race-based programs in the admissions process is somehow eroding, advocates have a clear message: we're not there yet.
"Race is a major problem in this country, it is a daily problem" said Julian Bond, former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP,) on msnbc Monday. "The fiction is that these problems have gone away, Dr. King solved them years ago, Barack Obama's election proved they don't exist anymore. So therefore, we don't have to worry about these things."
Such notions are "simplistic" and "idiotic," said Bond.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas that a higher bar would need to be met in using racial standards to create a diverse student body, and that essentially, the lower court hadn't given the University of Texas' affirmative action program a close enough examination. The high court sent the case back to a federal appeals court for review, leaving the question of whether affirmative action is constitutional for another day.
Bond said that though the Supreme Court raised the bar for affirmative action in college admissions, it won't be difficult for universities to meet.
"If you want to have a diverse student body at the University of Texas or other schools around the country, you've got to have some kind of race-based formula," said Bond. "That doesn't mean that race is the only thing you put in the formula to decide who's getting into college and who's not, but race has to be a part of that formula."
Recent surveys show that the number of people who agree with Bond is on the decline. According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, support for affirmative action programs is at an all-time low, with 45% in favor. An equal 45% feel the programs have gone too far and should be eliminated.
PoliticsNation host Rev. Al Sharpton said he wasn't too worried about the dwindling public support for affirmative action on msnbc Monday, pointing to the "overwhelming" opposition at the time when the high court ended racial segregation in public schools.
"The court should rule based on law and based on what is needed, not based on public opinion polls," said Sharpton. "If we went by public opinion polls, blacks, Latinos, gays and lesbians, women--none of us would have made progress. We change public opinion; we don't respond and make law based on public opinion."