Letter to the Editor 3/21/12

Letter to the Editor

default article imageThis letter is in response to your March 7, 2012, editorial entitled Making a Case Against Affirmative Action. I must first start out by stating that although I am appreciative of the Outlook’s coverage of the Leap Into Diversity event and the attention The Outlook staff places in covering and publicizing MU sponsored diversity events, I strongly disagree with much of the 3/7/12 editorial.

The editorial states “there is a better way to create more diversity without affirmative action.” The problem here is that there is no mention of this “better way.” Colleges and universities must always operate within the law to achieve a diverse student body. Regardless of how the Supreme Court decides the Fisher case, higher education institutions must continue to use creative and legal means to achieve racial diversity on their campuses. Diversity unfortunately does not just happen on its own. Diversity happens through hard work, institutional commitment, and specific targeted programs.

The editorial also states that Affirmative Action “was necessary during the civil rights movement, but not so much now.” This is incorrect. The United States in many ways remains a segregated nation. One look at many of our cities, schools, and neighborhoods reveals this. While it is true that progress toward racial equality has definitely been made, there is still a ways to go. The reason Affirmative Action was ever necessary is due to institutionalized racism and the vast chasm of imbalance in terms K-12 education.   Most African-Americans, Latinos, and in some cases lower income white children have no choice but to attend failing schools in sometimes dangerous neighborhoods. How can any child be properly educated under these conditions? Affirmative Action is an imperfect solution to a much larger problem.

The 3/7/12 editorial states that Affirmative Action “can lead to prejudice and hatred among the races.” I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. As an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan in 2003, when UM’s Affirmative Action admissions policy was in the process of being challenged in the Supreme Court, a small but vocal population of the student body tried mightily to spread the message that minority students such as myself were not “qualified” and had somehow “stolen” an undeserved place at the University. Not only did the university stand up against this type of inflammatory rhetoric, but also many students white and non-white. Only unchecked ignorance and fear lead to “prejudice and hatred.”

The editorial also cites to probably the most repeated myth about Dr. Martin Luther King, by stating that he would be “disappointed” by the use of Affirmative Action. This is wholly inaccurate. Dr. King openly advocated for racial quotas and set-aside programs and threatened boycotts of businesses that did not hire African-Americans in proportion to the overall population.   Dr. King’s words and actions reflect that he would have very much been in favor of Affirmative Action policies.

Lastly, I hope that the day will come when we will no longer need Affirmative Action policies. As the U.S. continues to become more diverse, the need for specific programs aimed at targeted groups will diminish. However that day has not yet arrived and despite progress, minorities are still in many ways judged in everyday life by race.

Julian R. Williams, Esq.


Office of Affirmative Action & Human Relations