Is Affirmative Action Still Relevant?

img_20160621_090553The 10|100 vision has started some intriguing conversations. I have received many emails about how race and power mix in America.

Here is a question from one of our supporters:

“…As a black man, what do you think of affirmative action?
For example, should a less qualified black person be admitted to a university in lieu of a qualified white candidate?”
This is what I think:

Policies are good when they give people access into forums they were previously barred from through systematic discrimination.

Some questions to consider are how long the policy should last, and how much negative impact on non-discriminated groups should be allowed.

In general, I don’t think that giving less qualified people the spot of more qualified people because of a genetic trait is right. In many ways, the playing field has been leveled in our modern era. Many underrepresented groups have access to the same opportunities that the “majority” does. What still challenges me, is that a little over a generation ago what we experience as normal was illegal.

Black voting was legally suppressed. (Voting Rights Act, 1965). 

Interracial marriage was illegal. (Loving v. Virginia, 1967). 

School segregation was legal. (Brown v. Board, 1954). 

img_20160825_121904These things were literally illegal when our parents were kids! Just because a law changes doesn’t mean that people’s minds change. Just because it became illegal to give racial and gender minorities substandard education, work, travel, living, and other opportunities, didn’t mean that people followed the law and the disparity suddenly disappeared.

Unfortunately, it took additional policy and TIME to begin to give blacks access to the same privileges that whites were accustomed to. Affirmative action is the collection of those policies.

Do I think that all of those policies are necessary today? No.

Do I think that racial disparities still exist as a result of generational back-filling? Yes.

img_20160409_165107What I mean by ‘generational back-filling’ is this. According to an article in The Guardian, 4.8% of attorneys in the US are black. You can see from the article that 4.8% is a disproportionately low number not only compared to the population of African-Americans, but also juxtaposed to the high ratio of blacks involved in the criminal justice system. Part of this glut is caused by a lack of generational back-filling. African American’s don’t have generations of attorney’s in their family who can give the moral & financial support to help them get through school and have a successful career. Many are the first to go to college, let alone become a successful attorney. This happens in almost every professional field and venue. When you’re at an event, look around and count the number of people of color, the number of women, and the number of people under fifty. The lack of diversity is a result of poor generational backfilling.

As a result, we need pathways of inclusion for all minority groups to catch up to what the majority population has achieved. One of the tools within that pathway are affirmative action policies.

Affirmative action policies should be adjusted as our society changes, and as suppressed groups close the disparity gap.

What do you think?