I’m not really surprised. There are a few more people against affirmative action than for it, and then there are a select few who either don’t know, don’t care or are too scared to say. Then we have one study that says diversity as a result of affirmative action is good and another that says it is bad. When you hear about something repeatedly, no matter how germane the topic, it gets boring. But it’s here and pretty soon it’ll be all over, but I still have a feeling of resignation towards it all.
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide on the chimera of whether diversity in higher education is a compelling state interest. However noble that argument may be, it is tantamount to a smokescreen because diversity is not the goal here. Diversity doesn’t matter, it wasn’t the purpose of affirmative action nor should it ever be. JFK didn’t authorize affirmative action in 1961 because he wanted a social identity mixer.
Affirmative action, regardless of its beneficiary, has always been about opportunity, availability and righting institutional discrimination. What is desired is a solution to a problem that exists in our society, this being that certain groups of people are disproportionately excluded from benefits and privileges that others have unlimited access to. The way the University sees as best to rectify the disparity between the opportunities of lower education is to offer an admission policy where certain social identities afford you benefits in the process. It worked well enough for women to bring them to a level of equality in higher education where they no longer need it.
Diversity, openness, inclusiveness are all political terms to appease the Constitution wavers but they are not feasible goals within a university setting. A few scattered percentages of assorted minorities do not constitute diversity. While there are those that argue diversity may provide inherent educational benefits in a classroom and university setting, I say these benefits are only benevolent side effects. If diversity is improperly recreated as the basis of affirmative action, – and it seems to have been – when diversity is not found to be of interest to the state, those who changed its purpose must not be confused.
Diversity is a faulty goal because it has no real definition or effect in the personal realm. Since the implementation of affirmative action and the subsequent decades of active pursuit of minorities in higher education, college campuses appear more diverse than ever, but that in no way is a sign of actual connection of students across racial identities. If you have the fortune of experiencing diversity in your classroom, I guarantee it’s not going much further than that. Even in the classroom, the effects are negative – and at best intangible – because many times students can become the sole representative for their entire identity, creating pressure to present an idealized view to the class, and leaving little room for individualism and charging them with the unnecessary burden to educate when they should be learning. The worst case being a campus where the racial tension is palpable, and the student population fragments into ethnic or interest groups. This school is not too hard to imagine.
At best there will be a class where the material is purely empirical and personal experiences will have no weight. In biology it doesn’t matter who you are, just as long as you know how many cells are in an electron (four I think). I doubt anyone has walked into a class and said, “One, two, uh, three black people, and a Latino! Sweet dude, I’m staying in this discussion!” Why is this? Because people don’t care. With the exception of maybe five kids in East Quad, no one associates with people too far from his comfort zone. The way affirmative action is applied, diversity brings in more minorities so that once they are in school everyone can splinter off into their respective groups and meet at class or dance shows. Possibly it is the University’s responsibility to try to get students to reach out, or maybe it is the students’ duty. I don’t know.
I do know that the country is falling to the right – made evident by Republican control and that things do not look good. In the summer, when the white man, led by Clarence Thomas, shuts down affirmative action (I’m calling 5-4), the backlash will be immeasurable. When the minority population disappears, no one will even notice. The dichotomy between belief and reality will be shown. Do you support diversity? Sure. But who do you hang out with? Indeed.
Rahim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.