Amidst the drizzle of the early morning, protesters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. rallied peacefully for a chance to enter the building. They were there to show Congress the collective effort of people who believed in keeping a basic civil right alive.
On April 1, a group comprised mostly of students from the Ethnic Student Alliance assembled with the mass of 50,000 people that came from California, Michigan, Massachusetts and many more states across the nation to speak out in support for affirmative action.
According to the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office, affirmative action is the term used to describe special efforts to recruit and employ groups (minorities and women) who have been discriminated in the past. It is not designed to prefer minorities or exclude other groups. Affirmative action is a strategy used to select qualified persons that come from an undervalued pool.
Loudspeakers boomed from points within the multitude of men, women, and children informing the people that affirmative action is not about “reverse racism”, the continuing inequality of education and standards which fluctuate into the huge misunderstanding about college admissions. Among the persons who addressed the crowd were the Rev. Jesse Jackson, National Public Radio personality, Travis Smiley, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Justice Greg Mathis.
Speeches were made in English and Spanish, spoken by male and female, Native American, Latino, African American people. Of the many points that were raised, one that stood out was that standards should be raised for minorities, women, the disabled, in order to make our universities better reflect what our country looks like.
Justice Mathis congratulated the fact that the young people were demonstrating social justice as it was meant to be. “The media should be celebrating the young leaders and champions who make things like today’s rally happen,” Mathis said. He found it ironic that over half the military was made up of blacks, Hispanics, and women and they were being pushed over by the notions of getting rid of affirmative action. He urged the people to show those who opposed affirmative action to not make race, gender, or disability a factor in selection for college admissions, job openings, real estate, and so forth. The crowd yelled wildly in support.
“I feel that diversity in a campus community is important to cultivate a well-rounded student. You don’t fully get what college is about if you don’t have that,” Omar Gonzalez, a freshman from Boston College said. “The number of college graduates will drop because of the absence of affirmative action. As a Latino, I have to say that without strength in numbers, we can’t advance.”
“I don’t think [affirmative action] is perfect. We have to take a positive look at it and see how we can change it,” Kymber Lovett, resident director of Woodcrest Hall and adviser of the E.S.A., said. “Removing it from our social structure is not the answer. I think our trip gained a little more awareness. It makes them ask questions. These are not my words but I think that they express the movement, ‘Inequality creates a moral tumor. There is an inability to achieve equality.'”
“I thought it was very effective. I thought it’d be more militant,” Brittany Edwards, freshman said. “We weren’t able to participate as much as I wished to. We should have had more information. Maybe if there had been a bigger group from Cabrini, it would have been better. We could have represented with a bigger voice.”
Posted to the web by Paul Williams