By: Lucia R.
Lucia is a sophomore in the JSA State of the Southeast. She has participated in JSA for two years now and enjoys competitive rowing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family in her free time.
Applying to college can be both an exciting and stressful time for a high school student. It is where we will take our first steps as adults as some of us go out on our own for the first time and blossom into the next generation of leaders. Although it is a unique time in our lives, many young people still worry about being denied by their dream school based on their race, ethnicity, sex, or gender.
Policies like affirmative action are sought to increase marginalized communities’ representation in the workforce and education. However, since its inception over 50 years ago, there are still debates on if the policy is relevant or fair in this day in age. However, before we dive into that, let’s take a moment to talk about what the policy is and how we got here in the first place.
What is Affirmative Action?
Enacted in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, affirmative action was set to improve Black Americans’ opportunities. The policy’s goal was to accept more students of color who were excluded from colleges and universities. Subsequently, affirmative action was broadened
to cover women, Indigenous, and Latinx people and was extended to colleges and universities and state and federal agencies.
Today, though some colleges and universities consider race and ethnicity one part of an individual’s application, other stars bar colleges from using the policy altogether.
Controversy and Struggle
One of the most notable conflicts that arose from affirmative action was the Abigail Fisher and University of Texas (UT) lawsuit. Fisher sued the school for using the policy and claimed it was not an
efficient way of implementing diversity into the graduating class. Although dismissed by multiple courts, this case was seen as a win by most right-winged individuals who sit unsteadily on the steps of the policy’s growing acceptance.
However, UT’s vice president for diversity, Greg Vincent, disagreed with Abigail and had something to say about her morality through the lawsuit.
Vincent stated, “...because of residential racial segregation in Texas; affirmative action is needed to help the university promote "both inter-group and intra-group diversity."
It is not difficult to see that behind the smoke and mirrors of progressive and performative America, there is still blatant racism and discrimination lining the walls of many higher institutions and industries, which shows the importance of the affirmative action policy.
Myth 1: Affirmation Action will make it harder for white students to get into colleges/universities.
According to the New York Times, The share of Black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans”.
Experts have said that students of color are at an inherent disadvantage in this country, leading them to be less represented in higher education populations overall.
David Hawkins, Executive Director at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling<, stated that “A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”
Myth 2- Affirmative Action is not needed anymore.
Although we surpassed segregation years ago and slavery even farther back, the inequalities that root from it are still prevalent today. Ever since the infamous Brown Vs. The Board of Education we have had a more inclusive and diversified school system. However, recent data shows that may not always be the case. The map above displays a clear image of extreme schooling inequalities throughout the United States (New York Times). Therefore, affirmative action is still necessary to ensure Black youth’s inclusion in higher education and learning.
Myth 3- Racial policies can only be fought with “color-blind policies.”
This is untrue and doesn’t constitute the messages of practically any civil rights leaders. As stated by the ACLU, Dr. King and others fighting against inequality supported the acclaimed affirmative action policy. They thought it an effective manner for including minorities in opportunities both in education and within the workforce.
When I looked deeper into the true meaning and value of the policy itself and the facts that disprove the statement overall, I found it very easy to understand how this policy works in favor of all of us. Affirmative action is a policy to remedy discrimination and prejudice that has cost the marginalized communities of this nation money, time, and respect.
As a white woman of Hispanic and immigrant descent, I have seen this in many lights, as it would affect me in multiple ways that were seemingly unexpected. The Latinx community is inclusive and diverse, and as a white student, I have contrasting experiences to those of a person of color in my community. It is a hard pill to swallow that the policy affects me more than one way, helping me in one and possibly putting me at a disadvantage with the next.
Although affirmative action, in theory, is set to serve those who are most marginalized; politicians, college admissions, and others in this country must continue to do the work to ensure that those underrepresented have a chance at higher education regardless of their background.