Harmon on affirmative action ruling: There must be ‘recalibration’ of where we go from here

African American Chamber founder says people of color must pursue fairness and equity from value imperative

John Harmon, the founder and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, has been battling for equity throughout his lifetime.

He long ago learned that fairness is not always a part of the equation.

With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the ability of college and universities to use race as a factor in admissions — even if they are doing so for the purpose of ensuring a diverse student population — Harmon said it became that facts are not always part of the equation, either.

“We all know that facts matter; however, what is more important is who controls the narrative,” he said. “We are in a new era wherein precedent is no longer the standard for adjudication, and, therefore, Blacks, and others that have a similar standing in society, must pursue fairness and equity from a value imperative.”

How you do that is not as easy to express.

For starters, Harmon suggests working more closely with HBCUs.

“We should work collectively to strengthen the value proposition of our Historically Black Colleges & Universities federation and other institutions of higher education that are committed to having a more competitive society,” he said.

The voting booth matters, too. But, before voting, Harmon suggests voting for candidates who do more than just talk the talk.

“It is evident from those who represented the majority decision, that their victory stemmed from an election wherein the person representing their interests was victorious and has delivered for his constituency,” he said. “Wherein, Black people as an aggregate continue to vote as a collective for candidates that are often selected on their behalf and do not deliver proportionately on small issues, let alone on landmark legislation.”

Finding true partners, willing to take meaningful action, is key, he said. That’s the only way to change the generational dynamic.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is etched from a charitable versus a value imperative,” he said. “It is well-documented how generational wealth and disparities were created in America, and that, too, is being rewritten.

“Notwithstanding, the AACCNJ will continue to drive its mission through strategic partnerships based on reciprocity, equity and true accountability. All other methods will contribute marginally to our effort to improve the competitiveness of New Jersey.”

Everything is on the table, Harmon said.

“Those who follow the courts and elections were not surprised by the Court’s decision,” he said. “However, the postmortem dictates a recalibration of where we go from here.”