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18 July 2009

Affirmative Action's Next Generation

Sonia Sotomayor said she was an affirmative action baby. I was too, as was my husband. But what does that mean for my daughter?

Affirmative action was crafted to give those of us without privilege a bit of a leg up for opportunities. It should be a way for employers and admission committees to be made to look at my application carefully instead of dismissing it outright if my scores are a bit lower than others. It's not because I would had been a poorer student, but it's fairly well documented that standardized tests are biased against women and people of color. Of course things are better today because the tests have responded to the constructive criticism.

But as I listened to the hearings this past week and the praise that Sotomayor received for her struggle left me wondering where the babies of affirmative action babies stand.

My husband and I have three degrees, we have jobs that pay us more than the median household gets and we have a good network. When I was a kid and I was a budding science nrrd, my parents didn't know how to funnel that energy. So I spent summers with my nose stuck in books trying to teach myself anatomy, both human and dolphin, instead of at a science camp or internship. Both are good, but you know that camps and internships give you access that a book doesn't.

Our daughter isn't in need to affirmative action the way that we needed it. That said, racism persists and I believe always will. So what does that mean for my daughter and the children of other Latinos who pulled themselves up using affirmative action bootstraps? Do they need affirmative action?

I'm still mulling this over, but wanted to get it out there, hopefully for others to chime in and we can tackle this together.


Unknown said...

If I might be so forward as to suggest something as my non-parenting, white, non-american self hon ;)

I would say that due to the structural racism (and also very much individual racisms, still, unfortunately ... just look at Pat Buchanan on msnbc anytime), your amazing wee daughter probably DOES need affirmative action in order to compensate for such.

However, is it the same affirmative action that was necessary for you and your husband? I would say no. We live in a different time, as you say, with different issues, and racism has found new ways to maintain and enforce itself.

So, rather than it being a yes/no choice, maybe think of things in terms of both/and, and use this as a moment to think of what affirmative action can be for us in this new century.

I mean, the fact that we have ended up with role models of the quality of Sotomayor (you should put up a pic of her in your daughter's room! *smile*) shows the incredible value of affirmative action, and perhaps what we should be taking from it, in recasting it, for the problems of today.

Because honestly, I think, with racism still ever so present, the worst thing we can do is to think we can do without affirmative action to readdress such.

But just my thoughts from a non-parenting, white, non-american ;)


Veronica said...

Thanks. I think you're right. That's just about where I've found myself ending up over the past few weeks.


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