On Oct. 31, the U.S. Supreme Court began to hear arguments in cases challenging affirmative action in college admissions. Affirmative action legally originated in a series of executive orders placed since 1941. A prominent President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 that aimed to end racial, religious and ethnic discrimination. Broadly speaking, affirmative action acts as a safeguard protecting the rights of the people to be free of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, or national origin. Its purpose connects to policies and practices to increase opportunities for underrepresented populations in the U.S.
In its application to education, it means colleges and universities can’t deny the acceptance of a student based on any of the previous criteria. Something I wish to make clear, from where I’m standing as a white woman from suburban N.H., racism is far from gone in this country and it continues to pose as a serious issue our culture faces today. I am aware that I am in a much easier position in life compared to my peers who are people of color and who still face adversity in more ways than one.
The goal of affirmative action is to make sure that the racism that plagues society doesn’t take away from the opportunities available for people in underrepresented communities.
Affirmative action has been something that multiple populations have benefited from when it comes to job opportunities and higher education, but the playing field is far from level.
I’ve heard personal anecdotes from friends who have faced racist, homophobic and sexist comments in multiple scenarios in their social and professional lives. I myself still hear some mind-blowing sexism from my peers and elders that prove to me that women are far from holding a spot on a level playing field.
Being white, I have never and will never experience racism. As I see in the combination of the current social and political climate, as well as the hurricane of opinion the internet and social media hosts, racism is not something we’ve evolved past. Affirmative action is in place to ensure that if there are people in decision-making positions at jobs or educational institutions, that their personal prejudices don’t interfere with the access to opportunities. Unfortunately, we still live in a time of prejudice and hate, and affirmative action should remain to aid in countering that. Affirmative action was implemented in a time when this country saw insane acts of inhumanity against minorities and the denial of equal treatment for women, and we like to think those things have gone away in modern contexts. This all applies to religious persecution as well, with headlines about threats against synagogues in New Jersey hitting the FBI’s radar on Friday, Nov. 4. We have not outgrown or moved past the need for affirmative action like some like to believe. Although great bounds have been made towards equity and equality for all, there are still pressing prejudices some people align with.
In order for there to be continued support and opportunity access for underrepresented groups, we need to keep policies like affirmative action in place.
Abby Provencal can be contacted at