On Friday’s edition of Catalyst Radio, the Community Media Center (CMC) interviewed organizers Tristan Taylor and Heather Miller with the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). BAMN has been involved here in the state of Michigan in working to defeat the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) as well as across the country wherever affirmative action programs have been similarly attacked.
BAMN was interviewed on the program in advance of a hearing by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission into the possibility of racially targeted voter fraud arising from the petition gathering campaign to get the MCRI on the ballot. The MCRI, which will eliminate all affirmative action and equal opportunity programs, has a title that is deceptive in that it refers to “civil rights” when it involves eliminating one of the gains of the civil rights movement. The title of the MCRI is misleading in itself, but the initiative has drawn further attention due to the way in which petition circulators misrepresented the proposal in an effort to get people to sign it thinking that they were protecting civil rights. BAMN, who has conducted an extensive review of signatures on the petition, found that of the 500,000 signatures collected 125,000 of them came from African-Americans. Starting with an investigation in Detroit, BAMN found that the majority of these people believed they were signing a petition that protected affirmative action rather than one that is designed to end the program. Last week when BAMN went to the Grand Rapids Public School Board to ask for a resolution against the MCRI, two of the board members told the group that they were approached to sign the petition by circulators claiming that it was designed to protect affirmative action.
BAMN has challenged not only the racism involved in banning affirmative action, but also the racism that has allowed the MCRI to get on the state ballot. While the majority of signatures come from areas with large populations of color such as Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids, thus raising the likelihood of fraud, there has been no reaction from elected officials in Michigan such as Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, Attorney General Mike Cox, and Governor Jennifer Granholm. The group argues that this is a form of racism as any fraud that deceived white voters would have been addressed immediately, but because this fraud was done to African-Americans state officials have chosen to ignore it. Tristan Taylor said that “everyone in state of Michigan has a vested interest to protect the voting rights of everyone in the state” and that BAMN will hold elected officials accountable for their inaction and argued that the more attention the fraud receives the more likely it is that it may be removed from the ballot in November.
BAMN formed in California in 1995 in response to Ward Connerly’s effort to eliminate affirmative action in California. These efforts to remove affirmative action are an attempt to re-segregate society and roll back the progressive gains of the social movements of the 1960s and the 1970s. BAMN believes in organizing strong movements that can protect these gains and that there is a need to organizer to defend progressive programs wherever needed. The name, taken from a Malcom X quote, was chosen to make it clear that there is a new civil rights movement that is serious about fighting racism and sexism in American society. According to BAMN, the majority of its members are high school students because they are aware that they have a vested interest in protecting affirmative action in addition to having the enthusiasm to organize “a fight to win” rather than organizing from the defeatist perspective that is occasionally present in progress groups.