Don't Believe The Hype!

Abolishing affirmative action will lead to the resegregation of higher education

By Karen Salazar
Published on LatinoLA: January 20, 2003

Don't Believe The Hype!

Recently, President George Bush announced his administration's disapproval of affirmative action and that it would file a brief with the Supreme Court in favor of the plaintiffs in the University of Michigan case. Before I go into the numerous inaccuracies, falsities, and otherwise misleading statements in his announcement, let's back up a bit and answer some of the questions on affirmative action.

Q. What is affirmative action?

A. Depending on who you ask, it can mean a lot of different things. In its contemporary form, AA is a set of programs or policies that provide previously denied opportunities to womyn and people of color in the academic, employment, and contracting fields after having been underrepresented and discriminated against since the birth of this nation. Historically, however, AA has not been recognized as having existed because instead of benefiting womyn and people of color, it has benefited Whitened males. Programs and policies such as the 1790 Naturalization Act (which stated that only "Whites" could become citizens and thus entitled to full rights), Federal Housing Agency Regulations (which redlined neighborhoods with Blacks and other people of color and wouldn't loan mortgages for them), and the GI Bill (which gave WWII veterans advantages in various social sectors, but womyn weren't eligible because their jobs weren't considered part of the army and Blacks were dispropotionately dishonorably discharged and thus not eligible either) have been around for hundreds of years.

Q. What is Brown v. Board of Education?

A. The monumental Brown case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1954, and effectively overturned a previous Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, which stated that facilities that were "separate but equal" were constitutional. The Brown case led to the desegregation of schools throughout the nation, though the process was neither carried out immediately nor without a fight from devout segregationists. A report released by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard a few months ago, however, shows that our schools continue to be segregated, some more so than in pre-Brown days.

Q. What is Proposition 209?

A. Prop 209 is a citizen's initiative passed in 1996 by Californian voters after being misled at the polls (NOWHERE in the text of the prop did it say that a "yes" vote meant a vote against AA). Its passage signaled the end of AA programs in the state, and because of it, many other states followed with initiatives of their own ending AA.

Back to Bush ....Mr Bush begins his address with his claim that he supports diversity of all kinds, yet his entire address shows otherwise. Throughout his speech, he refers to affirmative action as a "quota system" but the fact of the matter is that quotas were found to be unconstitutional in the Bakke case, and have not been used since. Justice Powell, who wrote the Court's decision, also made it clear however, that diveristy IS a compelling state interest that merits policies to ensure its achievement. Setting goals in terms of diversity and timelines by when they want to achieve them, is a far cry from a set number of minority students that MUST be admitted.

He goes on to talk about how unfair it is that the admissions process weigh race so heavily, yet fails to mention that race alone is NOT a deciding factor as to whether or not an applicant will be admitted or not -- other requirements must be met as well, no unqualified candidate will be admitted over a qualified one. He also fails to mention that there is another factor that weighs even more than race in many private schools ... a factor that helped HIM get into Yale -- legacy. Legacy students are those whose parents or grandparents are alumnis of the school and therefore receive special consideration. Studies have shown that admitted legacy students on average had lower test scores and GPAs than other admitted students. Hmm, that kinda sounds like the very "preferential treatment" Mr Bush is so against ...

Bush then cites the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that declares that all citizens shall be given equal protection and due process under the law to support his argument for the admissions process to treat everyone equally. But again, what about legacy students? Shouldn't they be treated just like everybody else? What about athletes? Furthermore, how can all students be treated equally in admissions processes when not all have had the same educational opportunities? Students of color are more likely to come from schools that have little to no access to required college prep courses (i.e. California's A-G), updated textbooks, quality teachers, etc. We have more students enrolled in JROTC than in AP and honors courses! Where's the equal protection of the right to an education??? Furthermore, he praises himself for having passed the No Child Left Behind Act which in theory helps the schools and districts who need the most help, but in reality (as recent studies have shown), schools in districts with high populations of students of color have not benefited from this Act. Mr. Bush has left far too many of our students behind.

Moreover, Bush then has the audacity to cite California as a prime example of what ending affirmative action can do. He points to the fact that we've passed 209 and minority admittance numbers have increased even more. That's a lie, point blank. Looking at the number of Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians admitted to UCLA and UC-wide compared to the number of Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians enrolled in K-12, both pre-209 and post-209 in California, we see that while their populations have increased, their presence in the UCs have decreased.

Conversely, we see that while the White population has decreased, their numbers in the UCs have increased. Students of color continue to be underrepresented while Whites continue to be overrepresented. Shouldn't public institutions reflect the demographics of the public? The UCs are Taxation without Representation!


Total Number of Students in CA Public Schools K-12

1995 2002 Percent Change

Chicano/ Latino 2,002,261 2,717,602 + 34.4%
Black/African-American 465,219 512,996 + 10.3%
American Indian 46,115 53,314 + 15.6%
White 2,209,077 2,138,085 - 3.2%

Source: CA State Department of Education

Total Number of Admits to UCLA
1995 2002 Percent Change

Chicano/Latino 1,993 1,322 - 34%
Black/African-American 661 316 - 52%
American Indian 105 37 - 65%
White 2,839 2,859 + 0.7%

Source: UCOP

Total Number of Admits UC Wide
1995 2002 Percent Change

Chicano/Latino 6050 7316 + 21%
Black/African-American 1683 1620 - 3.7%
American Indian 392 292 - 25.6%
White 15,606 18,500 + 19%
Source: UCOP

(1995 is the year before Proposition 209 was passed by California?s majority Anglo electorate -- the same state that brought you Prop 187, 184, 22, 21, 227, and soon to come, Ward Connerly?s ?Racial Privacy? Initiative, it will become illegal to ask for your race/ethnicity on applications for colleges and employment)

While it may seem like a 21% increase in Latino admission is a lot, it is important to remember that the numbers have decreased in the flagship schools of Berkeley and Los Angeles. Basically segregation is occurring - minority students are being sent to schools like Riverside and being denied access to the flagship ones that carry more prestige. If all states followed California's example like Bush wants them to, our schools will resegregate ... legally!!!

The most ironic aspect of this Univ. of Mich. case is that the two plaintiffs are FEMALES and thus fall under affirmative action. They claim they were rejected into the school because they were discriminated against because of their race, but fail to acknowledge that if affirmative action was the sole deciding factor in their admittance or rejection, as womyn they would have been admitted. Nowhere in his address did Mr Bush mention this. This case should have been thrown out from the git, if you ask me.

My peoples, don't believe the hype!!! Join the fight to defend affirmative action -- for ways to get involved, feel free to contact me. In the meantime, if anyone knows where I can find the format of how to write an amicus brief, please let me know ... at the Community Programs Office, we want to file a brief in favor of the Univ. of Mich.'s use of affirmative action in its admission policy. Again, don't believe the hype!!!

About Karen Salazar:
Karen Salazar is an undergraduate at the Univeristy of California, Los Angeles.

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