By: Aicha Sy
Aicha is in the first row and the second to last on the left
From a young age, I have attended schools with a majority white population for the sake of "higher and more challenging" education, with little to no initiative or strive towards diversity and valuing students of color, unless implemented by the small representation of African American students or teachers.
Affirmative Action was implemented to address historical inequalities and opportunities for marginalized groups, including women and people of color. As an initiative to increase and level the playing field by promoting diversity and inclusion in education and the workplace, you could assume that such a resource would be restorative for someone like myself. So, in the fight for its conservation, seeing it overturned has had a significant impact on me, not only as an African-American Muslim woman in Appalachia but on many others all around the United States.
My story begins in the first grade when I had just completed my school year. As it was around time to return to school and meet our teachers, my test results for the first grade came out exponentially higher than anyone in my grade and the second, which was predominantly African American, in a result of shock and amazement, they moved me up to the third grade. This accelerated skip allowed me to realize that my academics could really take me anywhere, even at a young age. At this elementary school, I felt celebrated and a part of a community, but myself and my family wanted more for my education, resulting in my moving to a more prestigious school with a majority white population. Although I was able to experience a higher level of education and make relationships just as all of the other children did, many times I would find my classmates referring to my past school and others like it as "the ghetto schools." During my transition, although I felt academically challenged and that my intellect was being valued and respected, I wondered why the same comforting and welcoming feeling of being different wasn’t present and why I never saw any teachers like me, proud of their diverse traits. This feeling has not once left me, and I see it even now as a high school student, sometimes even more living in West Virginia.
‘On June 27th, the affirmative action program was overturned at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.' I could feel the announcement in my gut, like something you can’t process in the first moment but sinks in after the next couple of gulps of stress and anxiety. At the moment, I did not understand the severity and impact that this overturning would have on me, but in reality, it is a decision that is going to impact the rest of my college admissions, college experience, and career.
By overturning affirmative action, the court has justified and implemented the fact that it will be harder for African-American women to attend prestigious universities since race will no longer be a factor to consider. When the University of California banned affirmative action in 1996, the number of Latinx applicants dropped drastically, and they have yet to regain the number of black or Latinx applicants since their ban. Many other women of color in my communities have made great progress and achievements to promote and represent diversity around us, through academics, athletics, and many other fields, and witnessing this decision is extremely unmotivating as we are beginning to realize that diversity initiatives are not as valued as they should definitely be. Through racial adversity during almost all of our years of schooling, we have continued to defy the stereotypes set for us.
College has always been a hope to be surrounded by intellectually and racially diverse people such as myself that I can rely on to speak about my experiences and persevere through social changes for people of color, but with this decision, there is no guarantee that diversity will be present on campuses or in my future workplaces. I plan to continue to speak of my experience and connect with youth in my community to provide them with someone who has gone through the same unfortunate events in childhood and to instill a sense of hope for them that the future will be better represented and that our representatives can provide us with the resources and platform we deserve to showcase our talents along with the color of our skin and the challenges we have faced.
Written by intern Aicha Sy