Back to School: The “Race” for Class President
A Mississippi school district has changed a 30-year-old racial policy on student elections. This year, a student won’t have to be African-American to run for class reporter. And a student won’t have to be white to run for class president.
- Student election rule designed to give equal chance to black, white kids
- Mother of mixed-race children objected to the rules
- As mixed-race population increases, what happens to black/white distinctions?
Separate Elections for Blacks, Whites Halted
The rules were adopted to ensure that blacks and whites would have fair chances of being elected to the class offices. They alternated each year. While it seems strange they were still in place at all, they presented a special problem for the mixed-race children of Brandy Springer. Two of her kids are half Native American, half white. Her other kids are half black, half white. Her question: when would they ever get the chance to run for election?
These sorts of policies remain the legacy of school desegregation and affirmative action. Court-ordered desegregation continues in a number of school districts nationwide. Usually this is enforced by busing students out of their school district into another. Affirmative action is a race- or gender-conscious means to enforce the Constitution’s Equal Protection principle. If the kids showed a racial bias in voting and denied minorities from offices, a school might be justified in imposing the alternating election scheme at issue.
In the 2000 Census, about 6.8 million people described themselves as mixed-race. The mixed-race category throws a curve at laws concerning racial policies. Many people of admitted mixed-racial parentage have trouble describing themselves as "black," "white," etc. This may cause problems to programs specifically designed to aid minorities. The Voting Rights Act comes to mind. It’s used to prohibit racial gerrymandering of voting districts. But it can’t be enforced without knowing who’s black and who’s white in a district. You might say this is becoming a gray area of the law.
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