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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial: Administrative silence on affirmative action speaks volumes

The Scarlet & Black staff finds it necessary to take a firm stance on the events surrounding affirmative action and race that have taken place during the Trump administration. Recent events such as Charlottesville have indicated how racists have become further emboldened in the United States. The Department of Justice’s recent decision to divert resources away from civil rights cases towards investigation of race-based affirmative action in college admissions represents harmful policies biased against people of color. Furthermore, Grinnell College’s policies regarding affirmative action and race deserve scrutiny, considering administrative silence on both specific measures to replace the Posse program as well as the Department of Justice’s efforts to challenge race-based admissions policies.

In our journalistic obligation to provide truthful and accurate information, The S&B has deemed it necessary to clarify affirmative action policies. Like the racist violence that has plagued America for centuries, modern perceptions of affirmative action are rooted in ignorance, stereotyping and myth. Affirmative action was designed to help ameliorate discrepancies in education and employment on the basis of identity. These policies attempt to place disadvantaged people on equal footing with privileged people who have comparable statistics. Though Black and Latinx students are often considered the sole recipients of affirmative action benefits, this is not the case. Race is only one of several identities considered alongside gender, sexuality and ability, among others. In fact, scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw writes in the University of Michigan Law Review that white women benefit the most from affirmative action policies given their preexisting racial privilege.

Nevertheless, the phrase itself has become a dog whistle, conjuring thoughts of the undeserving getting into college on the basis of their race rather than legitimate effort. This could not be further from the truth. In specifically targeting race-based admissions, the Department of Justice’s investigation is only perpetuating false stereotypes about affirmative action. This contributes to the current firestorm of racism in America. Furthermore, it is a myth that people of color get into college on the basis of their identity, rather than through intelligence or hard work. The most extreme of these misconceptions is that people of color are automatically admitted to college because of their race, even if they are totally undeserving otherwise. The S&B condemns the efforts of the Department of Justice as not only misguided, but racially motivated. In investigating affirmative action policies, the Department is closing the door on many students of color by denying them educational opportunities. The Department’s choice to divert resources from civil rights cases demonstrates the Trump administration’s callousness in matters of race.

Marches of torch-bearing racists, most notably in Charlottesville, have turned violent. White supremacists have taken to the streets, emboldened by the open hostility of this administration towards marginalized groups and the normalization of hatred by government officials.  Reprehensible attacks on peaceful counter-protesters have left blood not only on the hands of marchers, but those of the presidential administration as well. Donald Trump has stood idly by, offering ham-fisted condemnations of racist violence but also condemning counter-protesters as the truly violent participants. In any other contemporary administration, this kind of blatant racism would be shocking. Nevertheless, this forgiveness of racist violence is integral to the Trump administration, given its already appalling record on race both on the campaign trail and in office.

But even with a president that condones racism, some of the most concerning biases in politics and policy continue to be insidious rather than explicit. Hate groups have strengthened while policy changes designed to hurt people of color have become more robust. Donald Trump’s decision to challenge affirmative action rather than white supremacy demonstrates this administration’s priorities regarding racial justice. In any just world, these actions must receive the highest condemnation.

The S&B feels it is imperative to address these issues both in a national as well as a local context. Despite its self-proclaimed progressive values, even our own institution has issues with race. In 2015, Grinnell College signed onto a Supreme Court amicus brief in support of the University of Texas’s affirmative action program. However, on April 13, 2016, Grinnell announced the end of its 14-year relationship with the Posse Foundation, bringing an important program for overlooked youth to a close.

In an email from April 13, 2016, the College administration wrote that Posse “helped us to pursue our goals for diversity and student success and grow as a diverse institution.” This is a misrepresentation of Posse’s purpose as an organization. Posse’s mission statement describes its role as assisting students of “extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes.” Contrary to Grinnell’s statement, Posse does not exist to promote racial diversity for its own sake. Rather, it is an organization to promote educational opportunities and justice in university admissions.

Grinnell’s profound misunderstanding of Posse reflects a deep lack of concern for these issues. Though an email from SGA on April 14, 2016 stated that the administration “[would] begin to shape new campus-wide programs in collaboration with the college” to replace Posse, no known actions have been taken that would serve as an improvement or even satisfactory replacement to the program. Ultimately, the administration’s silence on the matter speaks volumes to its commitment to finding alternative solutions to Posse and similar programs. The S&B calls on the administration and all proper authorities to be more transparent in their policies regarding affirmative action and a suitable replacement for Posse in the name of social justice.

Like the rest of the country, Grinnell College stands at a crossroads. It can either be committed to justice and transparency in its affirmative action policies, or continue to keep its students and faculty in the dark about policy changes and maintain its silence on the Trump administration’s actions. We request an official statement on the College’s commitment to affirmative action after the Department of Justice’s announcement. Additionally, we call for updates regarding the replacement of the Posse program. We at the S&B hope that our community makes the right choice.

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    Man with the AxeAug 28, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    You wrote: “Reprehensible attacks on peaceful counter-protesters have left blood…on the hands of marchers…” Have you not seen countless videos of counter-protesters, i.e., Antifa, committing acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators for free speech, Trump supporters, and others in Berkeley, Boston, Charlottesville, and elsewhere? The white supremacists are awful, but they are not the only threat to peace and order.

    If you want to convince anyone of your sincerity regarding violence, you must also condemn violence that comes from the left.