Affirmative Action, a policy designed to address racial and gender inequalities in American society, was first introduced by President Kennedy in 1961. More than six decades later, its demise following a ruling by the Federal Court has sent shockwaves through the nation. The predictable consequences of this move, the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action, and ways to ensure equity and inclusion are points that need careful consideration.
Striking Down Affirmative Action: The Predictable Consequences
One immediate impact of eliminating Affirmative Action is the potential shift in college and university demographics. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the overwhelming majority of college campus students were White. While ethnic diversity had been increasing gradually over the years, largely due to Affirmative Action, the trend could reverse without this policy in place.
For instance, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) showed that Affirmative Action bans led to a significant decrease in the enrollment of underrepresented students at selective colleges. The striking down of Affirmative Action could exacerbate this disparity, making elite education inaccessible to marginalized communities.
Beyond educational institutions, the impact will reverberate in the job market as well. Affirmative Action has been a significant tool for promoting diversity and inclusion in workplaces. Its absence could possibly lead to a decline in diversity hiring, affecting both racial minorities and women.
The Number One Beneficiaries: White Women
Though commonly associated with racial minorities, the most significant beneficiaries of Affirmative Action have, surprisingly, been White women. A report from the National Women's Law Center found that since the implementation of Affirmative Action, the number of women in the workforce has nearly doubled, and the wage gap has narrowed significantly. However, the elimination of Affirmative Action, in this instance, left those protections in for women and solely targeted race. Thus leaving Black and African Americans without the protection of law, which opened the door for qualified applicants an opportunity to advance since 1961.
The Roadmap: Ensuring Equity and Inclusion
In spite of the ruling, individuals, communities, and businesses can take significant steps to ensure equity and inclusion.
1. Education and Awareness: Understand the issues surrounding racial and gender disparities. It's important to recognize how systemic inequality works and why policies like Affirmative Action existed.
2. Advocacy: Advocate for policies that promote diversity and inclusion at your workplace, school, or community. This could include support for scholarships targeting underrepresented groups, or lobbying for diversity hiring practices.
1. Support System: Develop community support systems for underrepresented groups, offering mentorship, networking opportunities, and resources.
2. Local Policies: Advocate for local policies that promote diversity and inclusion, such as implementing diversity training in schools and businesses.
1. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Businesses can independently adopt diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as the "Rooney Rule" implemented by some companies, which requires considering at least one underrepresented candidate for every job opening.
2. Scholarships and Sponsorships: Offer scholarships or sponsorships for underrepresented individuals to pursue higher education or professional training.
3. Partnering with Minority-serving Institutions: Partner with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or other minority-serving institutions for recruitment.
The striking down of Affirmative Action has potential to cause significant shifts in educational and professional landscapes. However, this doesn't need to signal the end of the fight for equity and inclusion. By taking proactive measures, individuals, communities, and businesses can continue to drive the progress that Affirmative Action once catalyzed. Despite changes in legislation, our collective action can ensure that opportunities are not confined to the privileged few, but are, indeed, afforded to all.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Race/ethnicity of college faculty. US Department of Education. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=61
U.S. Department of Labor. (1995). Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination Obligations of Contractors and Subcontractors. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/executive-order-11246
Carnevale, A. P., & Strohl, J. (2013). Separate and Unequal. Georgetown Public Policy Institute. https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/separate-unequal/
Ryan, C. L., & Bauman, K. (2016). Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015. US Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p20-578.html
Harrison, C. (2013). The No-Win Situation for Women in the Workplace. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2013/10/31/78736/the-no-win-situation-for-women-in-the-workplace/
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Gordon, E. W., & Yowell, C. (2019). Community-Based Support for College Success. Future of Children. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26895374
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