For decades people have pushed back against affirmative action laws. Those people rarely understood the letter or the spirit of affirmative action. I have been asked hundreds of times if affirmative action requires a quota, a set percentage of Black, indigenous, and other people of color or members of other underrepresented groups to be admitted to an academic institution. The answer is consistently ‘no’.
Organizations of all kinds continue to complain that they cannot find qualified members of underrepresented groups when they search for recruits either in academia or the workplace. This is why the laws requiring an effort were implemented in the first place.
Those organizations that implement inclusive strategies to achieve true diversity and equity do so with the understanding that inclusion takes work, action – affirmative action – just as any goal that one wants to achieve.
Resistance to diversity, equity and inclusion are not new in any sector. What is new is that a small minority group has effectively stripped our nation of successful strategies for achieving real diversity. They have flipped the dialogue on diversity and privilege – white privilege – claiming that institutional racism is not real. It is real. Institutional racism exists in organizations where people gain access and entry to elite educational institutions not based on their performance or merit, but an accident of birth. Legacy admissions to universities exist as they have for centuries. Legacy admissions are affirmative action. The result of the action is that a particular group of people’s privilege and access are consistently affirmed.
The school to work pipeline will not change because we wish it to be so. Diversity at all levels, at all institutions, will not occur as a result of positive thinking. The arduous process of making something a law does not occur without a cause. The effect of passing a law is the result of centuries of legal racial and other forms of discrimination.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its amendments were passed because there were and are those who do not believe the everyone should be entitled to the same access and opportunity. This has never been about anyone’s inability or refusal to work hard. This has never been about anyone’s inability to meet the intellectual standards of our greatest academic institutions. This has always been about intentional exclusion. Always.
Today is the perfect day to rededicate your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. Take affirmative action to assure that those who are qualified, motivated, and underrepresented get access and are included.
Wendy Amengual Wark
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
June 29, 2023