How Race Neutrality and Diversity Undermined Affirmative Action

I miss the days of affirmative action. Without it, I would have never received a college scholarship. Back in the affirmative action day, people of color and women received special consideration in employment, college admissions and federal contract competition.

The thinking behind affirmative action was based on the rectification of historic wrongs perpetuated against people of color and women like slavery, genocide, forced assimilation, segregation and overt discrimination. It was essentially a good faith effort to promote people of color and women to a level playing field with White people when it comes to social and economic equality. It confirmed the historical facts that people color students do not have the same opportunities as most White students due to racial discrimination in labor, housing and education. Since people of color attend subpar schools with a history of lower academic achievements that result in low grades and poor test scores, their cognitive development lags behind the progress of White students.

Unfortunately, affirmative action received a mortal blow in in 1978 when the Supreme Court challenged affirmative action in higher education with the case of University of California at Davis vs. Bakke. The Supreme Court held that a white US military veteran named Allan Bakke was discriminated against after being rejected twice for admission to medical school. Bakke claimed he was wronged because his grades were higher than the people color applicants who benefited from affirmative action.

Although the Supreme Court struck down the affirmative action program at the University of California at Davis, they upheld the constitutionality of the consideration of race as a factor in creating a diverse student body.

While the demise of affirmative action was a crushing blow to the civil rights movement, I think the promotion of diversity as something good for society was just as shortsighted. I don’t mean to say it was mean spirited. I do think that is ushered in an era of “race neutrality through diversity” that our country has not yet recovered from.

Diversity and race neutrality do not resolve the historic wrongs perpetrated against people of color and women from the perspective of righting inequality and the extension of reparations. Injustice in the past is still injustice in the present.

If race-neutral admission policies reduce the entrance of the very groups of people that bring the most differences to the table, how does that enrich the diversity experience for anyone?

Race neutrality and diversity have led to the myth of color blindness in this country. Racism does not exist anymore since Obama’s election. The new racial narrative is race is invisible.

The fact of the matter is a new kind of racism has been born through race neutrality and diversity. You can call it a new and improved version in the form of bias that hides behind the fiction of universal acceptance.

The weakening of affirmative action has created the false assumption that we are all equal; that those terrible things our country did to people of color and women are things of the past.

We are all equal on paper at least according to the Bill of Rights. And yet with the continued chipping away of affirmative action, that equality we all search for is just as elusive today as it was 240 years ago.

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