Shanta Driver earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social relations from Harvard University in 1975, and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School in 2002. She has been affiliated with the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL), a Marxist organization, since 1983, and is currently an attorney at Scheff, Washington & Driver, a Detroit-based civil-rights and labor law firm.
Reasoning from the premise that America is a profoundly racist nation, Driver passionately supports affirmative action as a necessary safeguard against discrimination targeting nonwhites in the workplace and academia. In September 1995 in San Francisco, she participated in a demonstration protesting a recent decision by the University of California Board of Regents to roll back affirmative action in the UC system. Driver acknowledged to reporters at the scene, that she was an RWL member from Detroit.
In 2008 Driver told an interviewer on National Public Radio that it was the “aim and intent” of Ward Connerly, the former University of California Regent who had led the fight to eliminate public-sector racial preferences in several states, to “resegregate higher education” by “driv[ing] black and Latino students … off of campuses across this country.”
Driver is the national chair for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights; the founder and national chair of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN); and the national director of BAMN’s nonprofit affiliate, the United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund. She was instrumental in organizing a 50,000-person “March on Washington to Defend Affirmative Action,” which took place on April 1, 2003. In addition, Driver was the legal architect of a student intervention into Grutter v. Bollinger, the University of Michigan Law School affirmative-action case where the Supreme Court ruled, in June 2003, that while hard, race-based quotas were impermissible, the “use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body” was a legitimate practice.
More recently, Driver headed up the legal team challenging the constitutionality of state bans on affirmative action in Michigan (BAMN v. Granholm, 2007) and California (BAMN v. Schwarzenegger, 2010).
Also under Driver’s leadership, BAMN helped organize the massive wave of immigrant-rights rallies that swept across the United States in the spring of 2006.
In 2011, Driver’s law firm filed a suit that was successful in striking down the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative of 2006 (a.k.a. Proposal 2), which had banned the use of race and gender preferences in college admissions and in government hiring and contracting.
Since the mid-1990s, Driver has been a guest speaker—chiefly on the subject of affirmative action—at hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide. She also has addressed scores of civil-rights, professional, religious, political, and governmental organizations, including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the NAACP National Convention, the Tavis Smiley Foundation Youth2Leaders Conference, the National Bar Association, the American Sociological Association, Americans for Democratic Action, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the National Organization for Women, and the Society of American Law Teachers.
Among the numerous awards Driver has received during her career as an activist are the American Association for Affirmative Action Rosa Parks Award, the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Black Engineers “Fulfilling the Vision of Tomorrow” Award, and the National Lawyers Guild-Detroit Unsung Hero Award.