We Can’t Afford To Lose Affirmative Action At Colleges, Universities

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Tamika Mallory on VotingIf you’ve never been to N.Y.C., you might be surprised by the amount of diversity and vibrant cultural exchanges you can find.  But if you look past the bright lights of Times Square and actually see who’s working, who’s unemployed, who’s in the executive seats, who’s living where, and who’s getting a good education, you might be even more surprised by what you learn.  Even here, at the center of the world, the need for reform and programs that can begin to fix some of these inequalities are necessary.

So just imagine how we need them in the rest of the country. One such program, affirmative action at colleges and universities, has for years tried to balance the issue of unequal access to higher learning.  Now with one court case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court may very well decide the fate of affirmative action at schools everywhere. Oral arguments begin this week, and we young folks must be there to let the court and justices know what people in our generation and those after us think:  education cannot be just for the privileged.

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Next Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 11 a.m., the National Action Network (NAN) will be joining several civil rights groups, religious organizations, student groups, parents, teachers, and others as we stage a rally in support of affirmative action programs on the steps of the Supreme Court.

As the court begins to hear the Fisher v. University of Texas case, they must understand that there are many from all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds that strongly support the practice and the University of Texas in this case. They must understand that young folks are tired of watching minorities miss out on opportunities, they’re tired of walking in to a college classroom and being the only person of color (or one of a handful), and they’re tired of meeting well-meaning Whites who unfortunately only read about Black and Brown people in their textbooks.

Some try to argue that affirmative action is no longer needed and everybody should be judged just on their work, but it’s important to understand that affirmative action doesn’t replace a students’ academic achievements. No one is allowed in because of their skin color, and no one is denied just because of their skin color.

Colleges/universities have ALWAYS looked at extracurricular activities, GPAs, SAT scores, community service, and a bunch of other things together, and they look for a well-rounded diverse student.  Fisher, the plaintiff in this suit, is trying to say that the University of Texas discriminated against her after she wasn’t accepted. As my momma always taught me, just cause you don’t get what you want, you can’t look for excuses and you can’t blame others.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a place like N.Y.C. like me or if you’re in a small rural town, education and the prospect of advancement should be accessible to all.  And since we obviously still have unequal schools and an unequal society, if affirmative action tries to bring some balance, why would we ever want to remove it?

As study after study shows, everyone benefits from diversity in the classroom.  Young folks, make sure you join us on Wednesday in our nation’s capital for a “Day of Action for Opportunity.”  We will affirm our full support of higher ed for all.

Check the National Action Network for more details.

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