Affirmative Action Victory Opens Doors

Defend Affirmative Action"The Supreme Court decision is a big, big, big victory for us. Now we are able to build the new civil rights movement," says 17-year-old college freshman Kevin Horton. Although Supreme Court Justice O'Connor hopes that affirmative action policies won't be necessary in 25 years, Kevin and other young people feel that in today's world, affirmative action is still important.

Kevin Horton, 17, Howard University:

We need affirmative action because we need equality. We need affirmative action because racism exists and things aren't equal, especially in education. When it comes to filling out a college application, race most definitely needs to be taken into consideration because race was taken into consideration when they were placed in under-funded school districts that don't have materials. White schools have everything compared to schools in urban areas.

Preserving affirmative action is basically preserving the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education -- our society is so segregated, especially in education -- preserving the promise that separate but equal can never be equal.

Applying to college for me wasn't about applying to a school because they had affirmative action. I worked hard in school. I worked hard to get my grades up and get involved in my community. I worked hard on my college resume so I could get in based on merit. But the truth is, merit isn't the only thing that could get me in because racism still exists.

Affirmative action recognizes the inequalities in the world. It recognizes that the things that are going on in the world aren't right. It recognizes the racism contributes to disenfranchised minorities.

The Supreme Court decision is a big, big, big victory for us. Now we are able to build the new civil rights movement. Now we have an open venue to address the inequalities in K-12 education. Now we are available to analyze and attack some of the things that have been against us. Now there is more room to grow and more room for the United States as a society to grow. Affirmative action is a major step against racism.

Darryl Watson, 18, Penn State:

"This isn’t just about affirmative action, it’s about total integration and total equality in American society." - Darryl Watson, 18

The first thing that comes out of people's mouth is "affirmative action" when I say I go to Penn State.

I laugh. It's just pure ignorance. They're trying to make me feel inferior. I hear it, and I know that they're saying it, but I don't let it get to me. I'll get through my five years and when I graduate they can just call me boss.

That's a giant part of my motivation. So many people say I can't do it. It makes me want to prove that I can. Not because of affirmative action, but because I can do it.

Even when minorities go to these universities we still feel like the odd man out. I go to Penn Sate. I feel so alone, like an island, I'm the only black face for miles. It can have a negative effect on the people admitted because of it because they feel so alone.

Penn State did all they could to make me feel like part of the university, to acclimate me to the climate, but just going up to state college I felt so out there, so different. I couldn't just go up to people and start a normal conversation, because the race issue would always come up. It put me at a distance because of the white people.

I believe the Supreme Court realizes that even though people say racism and segregation don't exist -- when you look into our public schools, urban areas and our rural areas -- that's not true. It's because the Supreme Court knows that minorities get a second-class education to their majority counterparts, and they understand that and its necessary for them to uphold affirmative action.

It's impossible for a university to be race blind because the education of the minority is inherently inferior to that of the majority, because they're under-funded and they're usually segregated.

Race should be a factor, but not the sole factor. Minorities usually go to public school systems where money is very scarce. There is an affluent school community next door [to mine] that spends $20,000 more on each child. We try to perform at their standards, their SAT scores can be higher because they have the money to do that and we don't. It's necessary to address that so that we can counterbalance things like lower test scores.

With problems at home, so many factors negatively influenced me [in] high school, but because of the affirmative action program they were able to talk to me individually to get to the root of my problems. They could determine that I'm not biologically inferior to my white counterparts.

This isn't just about affirmative action, it's about total integration and total equality in American society. We're trying to bring forth a new era of racial understanding and bring forth a new civil rights movement to win the games that were lost in the last civil rights movement.

Kurshida Bergum, 16, Hamtramck, Michigan:

It's like a huge stepping-stone for minorities, a stepping-stone to what we didn't have in the past and what we will do in our lives.

Gender, money and race, all three affect me though affirmative action. Statistics show that women earn less money then men, and I'm Bengali which means nothing to anybody I always have to explain that we were from East Pakistan, and my mother's a single mother.

When I'm applying to college, I will want to see diversity in that college. If the majority of that college is white, I'll feel intimidated.

I wouldn't think of affirmative action as a bonus. Yeah, it will help me out, but it still takes a large part of myself to help me through it.

I didn't just get in [to college] because of affirmative action. I had to work hard at it, I had to earn my GPA. Earn my grades. I had to work twice as hard because I am a minority. I feel a little disadvantaged. It's not fair. Because I'm left two steps behind, I have to work twice as hard.

Race often determines where you live. If I was better off, however that's defined in society, maybe I'd live in a nicer place. Someone may be paying $500 a week to send their child to music school and I may be stuck rubber banding my reed to my instrument trying to play. It's not fair.

Our nation is imperfect and society is not perfect, the school that I go to, everything is hush-hush and we cannot speak our minds. My high school is 65 percent Muslim, and [the rest are] Arabic, Bosnian, Bengali some are Albanian. We're really diverse. My high school is in a city that's only 2 by 2 square miles -- it's really small. Everything about affirmative action is hush-hush because my principal doesn't want us to know about it. We need to know, we have the right to know.

We're not allowed to discuss it in class, so from the beginning we were left behind. From the beginning we're underrepresented. We go to the crappiest schools and they say that we're under-qualified. I don't think anybody who says we're qualified or under-qualified can justify what is qualified exactly. Race is a concept. It shouldn't exist to begin with.

D'vaun Wells, 16, Renaissance High School:

I attend Renaissance High School in Detroit. It's a blue ribbon school in Detroit, the best in the city. But to me as a Black student, the [suburban] schools are far better in terms of resources and computers.

Detroit public schools are unequally funded compared to Southfield district, which is in a suburb. Our schools have more Black students. They don't have good computers. Our books are torn up or don't have covers. Our school board members are not voted in they are selected so parents can't even vote who's on the school board.

In a society where race is always noticed, it should be a factor in college admissions. People are always going to say, he's white or he's Black so it should be a factor. People are always conscious of race so it affects people's perspective.

Some people may come from a background where they haven't been given the opportunity, but they can perform at that level. They have the potential to become a successful person. But because of the resources they were presented with, they may not be able to perform, at that time, at the level of other people.

We have a lot we can learn from each other as a people. You'll be able to learn from white student, black students, Hispanics. Each one is going to know something another won't know because of their background and the experience in life that they've had.

I'm not going to rely on affirmative action to get in [to college]. Just to know that there are students who come from suburban schools where they have college prep classes or challenging classes or schools that actually try to prepare kids for college -- they will have the advantage.

These interviews were compiled by Maria Lucas, 9; Verena Prescher, 17; Shavonne Ward, 16; and Rasheeda Woolley, 12.

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