Friday, April 04, 2008

Can we reclaim affirmative action? (by Suzie)

         In his speech on race, Barack Obama said some people have implied his “candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action.” Conservatives have done such a good job of equating “affirmative action” with “giving preference to minorities who are less qualified” that even a Democrat considered liberal wants no part of it.
         Affirmative action can take different forms, such as advertising a job opening in a publication aimed at Latinos or holding a science camp for girls. But most people seem to associate affirmative action with preferences for white women or people of color in employment or education. Ballot initiatives are underway in five states to ban such preferences.
         I’ve read articles that say women (or white women specifically) benefit the most from affirmative action. I’m not sure how that was determined, but, hey, good for women! Let’s launch a campaign in which we wear T-shirts proclaiming, “I benefited from affirmative action.”
         Let’s talk about why we want to diversify campuses and workplaces, and how "diversity" is not just code for "color." Diversity also applies to women (whatever their color) in positions or disciplines dominated by men.
        Let’s explain that we aren’t lowering standards; we’re changing them to better reflect what we value. Let’s remember the need for education, training and support.