As a high school student taking Honors classes and earning straight A’s, I was discouraged from taking advanced math classes. My teacher told me that most Latinas don’t go into math and science, and I wouldn’t need it. Intimidated – with little knowledge of the California university system, living remotely on a ranch, with no college graduates in my family to mentor me – I went in another direction.
Did my teacher break the law by discouraging me?
Did he have a right to say what he did?
Did he realize that, right then and there, he virtually eliminated my chance of becoming a doctor or a scientist?
California eliminated affirmative action in college admissions in the 90’s and the numbers of African American, Latino, Hispanic, and Native American students plummeted. Since then, public universities have been scrambling to defend accusations that they practice bias in admissions.
At that time, some feared that “as goes California, so goes the nation”. And since the 90’s, we have seen a slow and steady national retreat from a policy that was intended to level the playing field for all students. Pundits argue that state and federal laws already protect the people of the land against race based discrimination.
But looking deeper into the practice of affirmative action, we see a different story.
In an ideal world we would not need affirmative action laws to ensure that all students get a fair chance to be admitted to a public university. In California’s urgent efforts to rebalance demographics in post-affirmative action college admissions, the states and the Supreme Court would be wise to not roll back progress any further.
We have today a “minority majority” in California, and soon that will be the case across the United States. We cannot retreat from fair consideration of our new majority of students, lest we add to the nouveau segregation that is already occurring across the country.
This week affirmative action in college admissions got a reprieve when the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the states, but the issue and the future of affirmative action in the United States is far from over.
On affirmative action, let’s fix the provision, not eliminate it. The future of our nation’s children hangs in the balance.
First generation Mexican American
First generation college graduate
Program Officer, The San Francisco Foundation