Things That Matter

This Is What You Need To Know About Affirmative Action

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Since the birth of affirmative action, a set of procedures intended to correct the effects of historical discriminations, in the 1960s, there have been many cases aimed at weakening the policy. Most recently: an ongoing lawsuit arguing that Harvard’s admissions office discriminates against Asian-Americans.

The case, which follows years of conservatives casting Asians as victims of the policy with the goal of having it outlawed, is currently being weighed by a federal judge in Massachusetts.

Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by conservative Edward Blum, is suing Harvard for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American applicants, particularly through its use of “personal ratings,” which takes into account traits like kindness, leadership and courage.

A decision in the case by federal Judge Allison Burroughs is expected in the next few months.

Regardless of the decision, however, those who have historically been opposed to the policy hope the case will make it to the conservative-majority Supreme Court, where affirmative action could be killed.

With the policy in the spotlight, again, we wanted to demystify what affirmative action is and what you need to know about its history and potential fate.

The Birth of Affirmative Action:

Even after the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that the “separate but equal” doctrine violated the Constitution, communities of color continued to face discrimination in education and the workplace. To undo this historic inequity, President Kennedy created the Council on Equal Opportunity in an Executive Order in 1961. This required government employers to “not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin.”

Racial Quotas:

Since its inception, affirmative action has received pushback from conservatives who claim the policy is a form of reverse discrimination against whites. Opponents’ first big win came in 1978, when the Supreme Court ruled in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that colleges could not use racial quotas, as doing so violates the Equal Protection Clause. This means employers can’t hire “less qualified” applicants to fill an identity quota.

Diversity:

In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that, while admissions officials can’t consider race as a way to undo the effects of historical discrimination, schools could consider race as one factor among many to ensure a diverse student body in the case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

Affirmative Action Bans:

Despite affirmative action, people of color remain a disproportionate minority in higher education. In fact, while the percentage of Black and Latinx college student increased between 2000 and 2014, they still just account for 14.5 percent and 16.5 percent of college students, respectively. College diversity shrinks even more in states that ban race-based affirmative action. Currently, states like California, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and New Hampshire have bans. In some, like California, Florida and Texas, there are percentage plans that guarantee the top 10 percent of high school graduates a spot in any state university.

A Future Without Affirmative Action:

With colleges no longer allowed to consider race in applications as a way to undo the effects of historical discrimination, many, like Harvard, now argue that diversity is good for everyone. However, if Students for Fair Admissions’ case makes it to the Conservative-majority Supreme Court, they may soon no longer be able to make even that justification, regardless of its accuracy. This could lead to elite schools like it, where Blacks and Latinxs already account for just 1 in 4 students, to have even fewer scholars of color, leading to less career and financial opportunities for Black and brown folk.

Read: The SATs Have A History Of Racism, But The ‘Adversity Rating’ Should Help

Trump Attacks AOC And Other Freshman Congresswomen Of Color In Racist Twitter Rant Telling Them To Go Back To Their Country

Things That Matter

Trump Attacks AOC And Other Freshman Congresswomen Of Color In Racist Twitter Rant Telling Them To Go Back To Their Country

We think it’s safe to say that the president of the United States is an unrepentant bigot. For example, the Muslim Ban and the internment of South American migrants at the borders are both works of pure xenophobia. Also, we can recall those rumors of an infamous recording that allegedly has the business-man-turned-politician dropping the N-word.

So, it’s no surprise when Trump goes off on racist tangents about Black and brown people pretty regularly. In his latest bigoted explosion, the president’s target is Congressional women of color.

Sunday morning, the president went on a racist Twitter rant aimed at Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman congresswomen of color

Twitter / @realDonaldTrump

In the tweets, Trump condemned what he called “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen.” These tweets are directed at Representative Ocasio-Cortez as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley. Recently, these freshmen congresswomen have spoken out against the racism that is prevalent in our political systems.

This past week, the women came under fire from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. After she made disparaging comments in an interview about the group’s Twitter presence, AOC and the other congresswomen pushed back against Pelosi. In response, the Speaker of the House scolded the group during a caucus meeting on July 10th.

“You got a complaint?,” the Speaker said during her time on the floor. “You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay.”

In response, AOC and the other congresswomen ⁠— often referred to as “the Squad” ⁠— responded to what they saw was a targeted assault on women of color in the Congress. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez spoke about the disharmony with the Washington Post, calling it a “persistent singling out.” She further explained, “It got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

Trump was quick to defend Pelosi ⁠— someone who he regularly attacks ⁠— against claims of racism.

However, that set up his own racist and, frankly, inaccurate Sunday morning strike on the congresswomen.

Twitter / @realDonaldTrump

The president tweeted:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat congresswomen, who originally come from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, the most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all) now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”

There’s a lot to unpack with this run-on sentence but let’s start with the inaccuracies.

AOC was born in the Bronx, New York, a community that the congresswomen now represents. Rep. Tlaib was born in and represents Detroit. Rep. Pressley was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. She now represents Boston, Massachusetts. As a child, Rep. Omar and her family were forced to flee Somalia and received asylum in the US. She became a US citizen in the year 2000 and serves as congresswomen to Minneapolis.

All four are American citizens and are sworn to serve the United States as congresswomen. The only “corrupt and inept” country that they have alliance to is American and they are working to call out the dysfunction of our system no matter who attacks them.

Democrats were quick to respond to Trump’s ridiculous tweet storm.

Twitter / @ewarren

Presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren called out the president words as the “racist and xenophobic attack” that it is. She concluded her response by promising these congresswomen will receive the respect they deserve ⁠— the respect not granted by Trump ⁠— when she becomes president.

Even Nancy Pelosi, an instigator in this conflict, condemned the president’s words.

Twitter / @SpeakerPelosi

The Speaker claimed that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign has “always been about making America white again.” Pelosi goes on to announce that it is our diversity that gives us strength, unity and power as a nation.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez went on to answer the president’s vile tweets with ones of her own and showed that she is not backing down in the face of bigotry.

Twitter / @AOC

In the thread that contained her response, the representative went on to challenge Trump in his racism and fear-mongering. She pointed out that the issue that vexes the president and people like him is that AOC and people like her do not fear them. She and her fellow freshman congresswomen will continue to serve the communities they were elected to. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her Squad know there isn’t much the president can do in response to this besides have another tweet tantrum and they don’t plan to let that stop their push for a more inclusive system.

Researchers At A University Really Did Just Take The Time To See How Racist White People Can Be

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Researchers At A University Really Did Just Take The Time To See How Racist White People Can Be

Delmaine Donson \ Getty Images

It’s something we’ve long suspected and finally confirmed. A new study revealed what many people of color probably already know – that white people are more likely to not be able to differentiate people outside their race. For the study, scientists used MRI tests to understand how nonpeople of color register Black faces. The scientists examined the MRI brain results of 20 people around 20 years old while they looked at images of faces of black people and white people that gradually changed from looking identical to different. 

What they discovered was that the face recognition part of the brain showed increased activity even when presented with the smallest change in the white faces proving they noted a difference.

Meanwhile, the changes in the black faces elicited a slower response indicating they were more likely to view them as similar despite the same changes that were used on the white faces. 

Essentially, the study found that all of the images of black faces appeared the same to the white participants, despite the fact that they were different. 

“Here, we show that race biases extend as far down as our sensory processes, such that what our senses pick up isn’t necessarily a perfectly accurate representation of the world around us,” Brent Hughes, from the University of California, Riverside said, as reported by Cosmos Magazine. 

These tendencies can have serious real-world consequences in situations like identifying someone in a police lineup or describing an attacker to the police. “If we quite literally ‘see’ other race individuals as more similar to each other, this may serve as an early mechanism of stereotyping,” Hughes added. 

The research journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), recently published “Neural Adaptation to Faces Reveals Racial Outgroup Homogeneity Effects in Early Perception,” by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of California, Riverside.

During the study, scientists investigated “the tendency to view members of social outgroups as interchangeable.”

“What it tells us is that our tendency to see members of our own [racial] group as individuals and de-individuate members of other racial groups, that is something that happens on sight,” Nick Camp, a co-author from Stanford, told The Guardian.

There were additional experiments that didn’t include technology including one where participants had to rate how different they thought a series of faces for a certain race actually were, whether a pair of faces were different, and if they had seen a certain face before. 

What they found was that the participants believed all the black faces looked like each other or they had seen them before, more so than the white faces even though both races had been created to be equally similar. 

 It’s important to note the limitations of the study since it was a small test group since there were only 20 participants who were all white and were only shown black and white faces.

They also didn’t take into account how diverse the social groups of the participants which could potentially influence their views. 

The idea that people of a certain racial or ethnic group all look the same is not new, though this study provides scientific backing for long-standing assumptions. The cross-race effect, as it is known, is when an individual is more likely to recognize faces of a race they’re most familiar with, presumably their own. 

In a 2001 study, 231 witnesses participated in cross-race versus same-race photographic line-ups identifications, in the former, 45 percent were identified correctly versus 60 percent in the latter.

“The problem is not that we can’t code the details of cross-race faces–it’s that we don’t,” Daniel Levin, a cognitive psychologist at Kent State University explained to the American Psychological Association Forbes reported. 

In cross-race effects studies, there are two types of facial recognition processes: featural, literally a person’s features, and holistic, which extends beyond what a person’s face looks like.

This study seems to show that the white participants used holistic processes due to familiarity when looking at white faces and featural with the black faces. 

 In the PNAS study, they state that the results also suggest that biases for the faces of other races likely begin during the earliest stages of sensory processing, which can have an influence on “intergroup perceptions.” 

 “Individuals should not be let off the hook for their prejudicial attitudes just because we see evidence of biases in visual perception,” Hughes added. “To the contrary, these race biases in perception are malleable and subject to individual motivations and goals, and as such are subject to change.”

 To put it plainly, saying “I don’t see race” can now be scientifically debunked but it also can’t be used as an excuse for prejudice.

The ultimate takeaway? Get your babies around people who don’t look like everyone in their family folks, and you’ll build a better world.

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