Describing itself as “a primarily student- and youth-based organization” devoted to “building the new civil-rights movement,” By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) seeks to galvanize “a united struggle of the black and Latina/o communities and all the disadvantaged and oppressed in American society”—a society allegedly “distorted by ... racism, sexism and anti-LGBT bigotry.” BAMN traces “the New Jim Crow second-class treatment” which these groups receive to the “unbridled cynicism” of the many “re-segregationists” affiliated with the Republican Party and the conservative movement. The organization urges its activists to “work collectively” to promote “real egalitarian principles” through “mass action” in conjunction with young leaders of other “new movements”—not only “to save Dr. King’s Dream for America,” but also to forge “an international movement of the oppressed” that would, “for the first time in human history,” place “the needs of humanity ... before the enrichment of a few.”
Attorney Shanta Driver founded BAMN in 1995 in Berkeley, California, to act as a bulwark against a University of California Board of Regents campaign promoting Proposition 209, a bill designed to ban affirmative action in the state's university system and public-employment sector. When Prop 209 became law in 1996, BAMN asserted that by cutting “underrepresented minority student enrollment,” the bill “violate[d] the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution” and would lead inevitably to “the resegregation of higher education.”
Since then, BAMN has worked tirelessly to “reverse the continuing attack on affirmative action [and] integration” in California and elsewhere. For instance:
In 2003 the group helped organize a 50,000-person, pro-affirmative action March on Washington which took place on April 1.
In 2007 BAMN launched a federal challenge against the recently enacted Michigan Civil Rights Initiative of 2006 (also known as Proposal 2), a law that -- with the support of 58 percent of Michigan voters -- had banned governmental “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”
Lower courts subsequently upheld Proposal 2, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decisions of those courts. But in November 2009, BAMN, collaborating with Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, again challenged the law in a federal appeals court. On July 1, 2011 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a 2-1 decision (BAMN v. University Of Michigan) overturning Proposal 2.
BAMN's challenges to anti-affirmative action legislation have not been confined solely to the courtroom. Indeed, the organization exhorts young nonwhites to employ tactics of intimidation and harassment in order to advance BAMN's agendas. This directive is intended not only for low-income minorities but also for those from “privileged backgrounds,” who, according to BAMN, should “[come] out of their Brooks Brother[s] suits,... sto[p] acting like exaggerated white people, embrac[e] their communities, put principles before career, and buil[d] mass militant struggles.”
This militancy was vividly displayed in Michigan in 2006, when several hundred BAMN activists stomped on the floor and shouted obscenities to disrupt a meeting where the state's Board of Canvassers had gathered to certify a ballot initiative allowing voters to decide whether or not to ban affirmative action. Tactics like this led the FBI in 2002 to circulate, among Michigan law-enforcement officials, a report citing BAMN as a potential terrorist group.
BAMN employs an "ends-justifies-the-means" approach that, according to American Civil Rights Institute founder Ward Connerly, is reminiscent of the tactics advocated by the late community organizer Saul Alinsky. In Arizona in 2008, for example, BAMN activists tried to buy lists of signatures that had been collected by anti-affirmative-action petitioners—so as to prevent those names from being submitted to state legislators.
Many of BAMN's pro-affirmative action efforts are conducted collaboratively with such organizations as the NAACP, the ACLU, ACORN, and the Service Employees International Union. In BAMN's calculus, “attacks on affirmative action” can be attributed largely to a virulent brand of “smothering and deforming racism” that seeks to promote “a system of de facto segregation” in which “undocumented and immigrant students from less privileged communities” are “almost entirely shut out of [the] most selective public universities.”
Central to BAMN's pro-affirmative action crusade is its effort to eliminate the use of the SAT exam by university admissions departments, on grounds that the test is “biased” and “academically unsound.” On average, whites nationwide score about 200 points higher than their black counterparts—a fact that, according to BAMN, merely reflects “the complex racism and inequality of our society.”
Also active in the immigrant-rights movement, BAMN advocates the passage of a national DREAM Act which would allow illegal-alien students to attend college at the reduced tuition rates normally reserved for in-state legal residents, and to earn conditional permanent residency and a path to citizenship. Moreover, the organization seeks to ban “anti-immigrant raids” at workplaces; stop the deportation of illegals; make California a "sanctuary" state wherein illegal aliens are beyond the reach of the law; and repeal Arizona’s “racist” 2010 immigration law, which deputized state police to verify the immigration status of criminals suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. In the spring of 2006, BAMN helped lead the massive wave of immigrant-rights rallies that swept across the United States.
Consistent with BAMN's view that racism pervades American society, is the group's contention that the U.S. criminal-justice system egregiously discriminates against nonwhite minorities. To address this issue, BAMN has called for a “mass movement against police brutality.”
BAMN also seeks to “defend public education”—from the pre-K through college levels—by demanding an end to all tuition hikes, school-budget cutbacks, and teacher layoffs. Accusing “the rich and powerful” of seeking to use “the economic crisis” as a pretext for shirking their duty to pay school taxes, BAMN in 2010 called for any shortfalls in education budgets to be funded by “taxing the corporations, banks, and billionaires.” Additional revenue, said BAMN, could be generated by “end[ing] the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan,” because “you cannot end racism at home while fighting a racist war abroad.”
When officials in Wisconsin and other fiscally insolvent states sought, in 2010 and 2011, to cut back the extravagant, budget-busting benefits enjoyed by unionized public-sector employees, BAMN denounced the “nationwide attack on public services, unions, workers and the poor.” The organization vowed to “mobilize the mass, militant, collective power of workers, students, and young people in cities across the nation.”
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