Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
In the simplest terms, regarding higher education, affirmative action (which stemmed from the civil rights movement in the 1960s) is the practice of considering a student’s background characteristics such as race as a factor in deciding whether to admit an applicant. This is typically referring to admissions policies aimed at increasing the number of black, Latino, and other minority students on campus. This is really important to me right now especially because I have a daughter who is beginning college in the fall and I want her to see diversity everywhere.
This is done so that colleges and universities can factor race into the equation when considering who to admit. This is not a free pass for minority students, it is a part of a holistic approach that reviews every aspect of an application, including grades, test scores and extracurricular activities.
The fact of the matter is that even though I believe that all people are created equal, not every one of us were dealt the same hand in life. Our experiences are very different, and race plays a huge part in how our experience plays out. Whether or not English is your first language matters. Ignorant, racist predispositions that society holds tight to are holding minority children back from evolving and succeeding in the United States.
Regardless of how many “woke” people want to say they don’t see color, they are the minority and worse still, in many cases, they only don’t see color when it’s easy or convenient or doesn’t affect them directly. I’m not blind to race or skin color. I was raised to see the differences, embrace those differences, and appreciate the differences. We don’t all have to look and believe the same to deserve human respect. We don’t even have to be friends for me to respect your humanity. You still with me?
The bottom line is that the goal of race-conscious admissions policies is to increase student diversity, in order to enhance the educational experience for all students. It’s a counteraction to white privilege. Schools also employ recruitment programs and scholarship opportunities intended to boost diversity, but the Supreme Court litigation was just focused on admissions. Remember a few years ago when there was a scandal about celebrity parents paying their children’s way into college? Yeah, see, minority children don’t do that. They can’t do that. We have to work for it. We know that education is the great equalizer and to be educated is to have power so we are determined to do our best.
To be completely honest, when I was a teenager applying for colleges, I hated the thought of affirmative action. Not because it wasn’t for me. Nope, I was the exact kind of kid it is meant to help. I was a very smart, capable, involved, first-generation student from a blue-collar family who worked my ass off to get into my top choice schools. I did it. This little freckled Mexican got into Harvard and every other school I applied to.
But I never ticked that fucking “Hispanic” box, not even once. I refused to because I didn’t want all my hard work being diminished and reduced to charity by some ignorant asshole who was jealous that I got accepted and he didn’t. I didn’t want people saying, “Yeah, but you only got in because you’re Mexican.” No bitches, I got in because I’m really fucking intelligent, and I worked twice as hard as anyone else I knew. Yeah, I’m humble too.
My pride made me lose out on scholarships that I could have gotten had I just checked that box. But I couldn’t do it. I’m still paying for that mistake, literally. I refused to let anyone think I needed their charity. I was just as good as any middle-class Caucasian student only my skin wasn’t alabaster, we lived pretty close to the poverty line and my dad’s first language wasn’t English. But how could I, at 17-years-old, accept that as my destiny? I couldn’t.
You can only live for so long hearing that “Mexicans are coming over here stealing all of our jobs, living on welfare and not paying taxes.” In my house, none of that shit was true. We were taught to work hard for what we wanted. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, that is pretty much across the board for us Latinos, at least for every Latino I know.
We are not taught to take handouts. In real talk, most of us would rather starve than take handouts. We don’t take your jobs. We take the jobs we earn and deserve, and, in some cases, we even take the jobs that most won’t take because we’re taught from birth that family is everything and hard work is honorable. So, with no shame at all, we put our heads down and do the hard, back breaking work to feed our families because that is the point of everything.
When I heard that the Supreme court overturned affirmative action, I was conflicted. But, I wasn’t surprised at all. After the events of recent years and the blatant racism that plagues this nation why would I be shocked that SCOTUS did this not so covert microaggression against minorities? The more I thought about it, the sadder I got because what a boring and unseasoned life we would live with no diversity?
Our Gen Z and Alpha children, they truly don’t give a shit about color. They see it and they respect it, and they move the fuck along. My daughters don’t discriminate against anyone because of the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, their pronouns or birth gender. My children don’t care who you love or how you celebrate that love. My girls, they judge you on your character and even then, they let it go. They believe in second chances and know that people are fallible. They choose joy and love over hatred. They make better choices than the generations that came before them and they move along. If you try to challenge their beliefs, they’ll hear you out but if you’re wrong, they will stand up for what is right and what is fair. All this to say, I hope these children stay this way and change the world.
I think affirmative action still needs to be in place because minority students are still getting passed over and shut out of colleges and universities across the country. Look, my children have had the good fortune to go to the best private schools and have every privilege there is to help them achieve their dreams of university and a career. They have choices. My girls also have upper middle-class parents who paved their way. They want for nothing. They have resources, 3 meals a day, a refrigerator full of food, air and heat. Comfortable beds and don’t have to worry about things like translating for their parents or figuring out where they’re going to get money for school lunches or clothes. They have a stay-at-home mom with 3 Master’s Degrees who makes her own rules and chooses her collaborations. They have the life they have because their father and I worked tirelessly to give them that life because someone gave us a chance to work for our dreams.
But that is not what my childhood was like. I did have to worry about where I was going to get money for lunches, books, clothes and field trips. When I was growing up, there were six children raised on a factory worker’s salary and a stay-at-home mom’s love. When I went away to college, no one helped me. I had to pay my own way. As a 17-year-old, had to figure it all out. I had no support system, and it was very difficult for me. But I still made it. I went hungry sometimes and sometimes the cultural differences between inside my home and outside made me feel like I was from a different planet. In retrospect, I realize that I had to work twice as hard because my situation was different from the middle-class Caucasian kids that I went to school with, which is not their fault, but it wasn’t mine either. Being different shouldn’t be a character flaw.
Being a minority in the United States means being born with stigma and shame because the majority will make you feel like you are less than, no matter what you do. Affirmative action was an attempt to level the playing field. It wasn’t perfect but it was something and some kind of effort is better than none; if only to make us feel like we are seen, and someone cares enough to hold their hand out to help us up. It’s not a handout but a hand up. We’re not about stepping on the majorities back to get to the top. It’s about us all starting from the same point and being afforded the same opportunities to compete for opportunities, despite the differences in our skin color. That’s what affirmative action is about.
There was one weird exception to the conservative Supreme Court majority’s decision ending race-based affirmative action in higher education on Thursday: military academies. Apparently, using race as a factor in admissions to military academies can “further compelling interests,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
The distinction suggests that there could be value in using race to diversify some American institutions i.e., the U.S. military’s officer corps but Roberts’ overall decision says loud and clear that it would be unconstitutional to do so at public and private colleges and universities.
I feel that the U.S. government is sending the message that they don’t mind our minority children dying in service to their country in the name of equality and justice that they can’t even fully receive themselves. By the same token, they can’t be afforded that same luxury at the collegiate level. This sends the message to minority parents that the U.S. government finds our children to be disposable and unworthy of educating. I call bull shit. Don’t tell our children they don’t deserve your help to better their situation while simultaneously telling them that they are perfectly okay to die for the same country, that refused to care whether they lived in poverty and ignorance.
According to Huff Post, Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in her dissent, “The Court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom.” What the fuck America? What the actual fuck?
Affirmative action is about equality, that is it. No one is trying to out do the majority, we just need our kids to get a fair shot at achieving the same things in life as everyone else. What are your thoughts? Do you think affirmative action in schools is a good thing? Or is there something more progressive or maybe even more effective for leveling out the collegiate playing field for all students?