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A Student Speaks Out on the Affirmative Action Decision

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By Mary Pearce

I was informed, educated and downright outraged on the issue of taking affirmative action out of higher education. I am a junior at Wilberforce University, a private predominantly Black college in Wilberforce, Ohio. Because I attend a predominantly Black institution people asked me why was I concerned with the affirmative action case as if it did not concern me?

I was concerned because affirmative action was implemented to enforce diversity. Contrary to what people may think affirmative action does not secure inferior minorities a spot in college. Affirmative action only opens up the door. Once we get to college we still have to compete with everyone else or face expulsion.

I was also concerned because upon graduating from Wilberforce University I don’t plan to attend another predominantly Black institution for graduate school and I would like to have a chance to get into a predominantly white institution.

Another reason for my passion behind this issue is for the future of my siblings. Without affirmative action, diversity will not be enforced, if the person over admission wants to pass up your application because your name reads Shame Jenkins or Tyrone Thompson from Compton it will be to their discretion.

The opposing argument was to go with a percentage plan instead of affirmative action. The percentage plan guarantees that the top-tier students from each high school will be admitted to public universities regardless of race. This has good qualities and bad because it does not include private institutions.

It also puts more pressure on high school students, because the mass majority of students are not in the top-tier. Because I was so deeply concerned I decided to be a part of the solution. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at my school was preparing a trip to Washington DC on April 1, 2003 for Black Tuesday, a march from the Supreme Court to Lincoln Memorial.

Upon arrival we marched from the court to Lincoln Memorial where everyone was given a chance to voice their opinion on the issue. There were about 50,000 people present. I marched along side a man that was holding a sign that read, “I was here marching for equal rights 49 years ago”.

He went on to tell our generation that at least we can march in peace without guns, police, dogs, and angry mobs. He concluded by saying we can now stop at restrooms and food stands, which was not the case 49 years ago because the locals resented Blacks marching through their town. I was deeply touched by his presence and words.

When I arrived back at school I gave a presentation in my African American Literature class to share my experience at the march, and also to educate those who did not fully understand the issue.

Am I happy with the decision? I thought I would be overjoyed if they voted in our favor and liable to kick over the television if they did not. I am happy but I know that this issue is not yet closed and it will be challenged again.

Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council of Education, an umbrella group representing many U.S. universities said in Newsday.com, “ In a country that graduates 44,000 lawyers per year and a litigious society, everything is subject to challenge”. A different judge at a later date may decide that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism and not a means to establish diversity.

At that point it will be left in the hands of the heads of admissions like it was 49 years ago to accept or deny us.

Wilberforce University English major Mary Pearce lives in Moreno Valley and is a Black Voice News summer intern.

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