Racial Neutrality Does Not Exist: Why Affirmative Action Actually Benefits ALL of Us
This opinion editorial was written by Angelique Power, president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation; Ric DeVore, president of Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan; Rip Rapson, president & CEO of The Kresge Foundation; and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. It was originally posted by The Detroit News.
As leaders of foundations committed to the pursuit of a truly equal and inclusive society, we are greatly concerned about the recent decision made by the United States Supreme Court to ban colleges and universities from considering race in their admissions processes. In doing so, we risk creating homogenous learning environments that do not adequately reflect the diverse tapestry of our society or prepare young people to thrive within it. The pursuit of diversity is not about compromising merit but rather about leveling the playing field and growing our country’s collective prosperity and well-being.
If Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native students have less access to the best colleges, they will have exponentially less access to wealth and power, even as our country continues to become more diverse.
Let’s face it, it isn’t a fair ball game if some are starting at third base. Pretending it is fair doesn’t make it so. It just invalidates the entire sport. The Supreme Court’s decision asks us all to accept a story of our country that is untrue and reinforces a narrative that every child has the same opportunity for success.
Those of us who work in foundations are inundated with evidence that proves this theory not only wrong but foolish. For example, advanced placement courses prepare young people for the rigors of college, but Black and Latino students have less access to them. A 2020 report from The Education Trust found that Black students make up 15% of high schoolers in the U.S., but only 9% are enrolled in at least one AP class. For Latino students, who make up a quarter of high schoolers, only 21% are enrolled in AP courses.
The truth is that students of certain races, of certain poverty levels, of certain disabilities, all have the deck stacked against them. Acknowledging this isn’t acknowledging defeat – it’s delivering a clear-eyed analysis of the reality that allows for clear-eyed solutions of how to remember the issue.
Within the education system, decades of research shows that students educated among diverse peers develop stronger analytical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration skills. The kind of skills essential for our economy and our democracy.
This goes double for outside of our education systems. Studies continually show that workplace outcomes, board rooms, health results, and neighborhoods are more productive when diversity is considered and celebrated. Not ignored and stifled.
Here’s the thing: holding privilege in place holds our country back.
When you put a stranglehold on who gets opportunity, our communities, our workplaces, our democracy, and our humanity withers.
Refusing to acknowledge race doesn’t make the exquisite design of racism disappear. It makes it take hold even stronger.
As foundations rooted in the beautiful racial richness of America, we will remain steadfast in our collective mission to create a more equitable nation within the bounds of the law. To forge ahead, we will continue to advocate for the human dignity of all people with renewed vigor and commitment — not regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin but in full-throated support of these attributes as positive considerations to take into account.
Our nation’s future prosperity, vitality, and unity depend upon America becoming a true multiracial democracy — an aspiration that requires racial equity and diversity in higher education and beyond. Despite today’s ruling, our foundations will not waver in our commitment to those making the nation’s high ideals a reality for all communities and all people.
Angelique Power, President & CEO, The Skillman Foundation
Ric DeVore, President, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
Rip Rapson, President & CEO, The Kresge Foundation
Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation
Michelle Morales, President, Woods Fund Chicago