AAPF Updates

Affirmative Action at South African Universities

Monday, December 13 10:12 pm EST

The principles behind affirmative action are pretty basic: Certain people have been kept from enjoying the bounties of society and as a result we need to have policies to provide redress for those inequities. But of course in order to provide that redress certain people are going to feel as if they are going to be denied what they have earned and they are going to cast blame on the affirmative action policy. Even ardent defenders of affirmative action recognize the potential clash of fairness and even its detractors have to recognize that equality of opportunity is meaningless without a way to make that opportunity realistic for people who have been denied it.

(I’ll reveal my own prejudices here as well — affirmative action detractors also have to get over their sense of entitlement — anyone who does not get into the college of their choice did not miss out by one slot given the nature of admissions yields. To fill a class of 100 at even elite colleges requires many, many hundreds more to be given admission — if you did not get in to that pool you were not 1001st in the admissions process, you were hundreds of slots lower, behind plenty of folks who did not get in because of affirmative action.)

Thus in South Africa affirmative action will continue to be a contentious issue. This debate will flare nowhere more prominently than in university admissions. One of the issues in South Africa, as in the United States is that it tends to recognize race but not class so that an elite group of black beneficiaries emerges while masses of poor blacks remain outside the system looking in. There are few easy answers, but it is hard to take seriously arguments about “merit” in a system where those claiming merit were also the chief beneficiaries of the disparities of apartheid. And yes, those entering college today grew up in the post-apartheid era, but their parents and grandparents created, supported, and upheld that system and it is difficult to take seriously arguments that 1994 represented instant equality whereby all South Africans were on equal ground, an argument that just happens to redound to the benefit of a tiny slice of white South Africans.

*Posted on africa.foreignpolicyblogs.com

Affirmative Action in the US and Abroad

In Africa, the University of Cape Town had a student population of predominately white students and a very low admission rate of black or mixed-race students. For the lucky few who were accepted, they could not attend medical school or live in campus dormitories. Since the apartheid ended, the school's student population has become multiracial due to affirmative action. The question that is being raised by black students is whether or not their admission is based on their race or level of intelligence. One student actually finds affirmative action offensive. This may be due to not understanding that affirmative action is a policy in which the minority is given access to the same opportunities that the privileged have gained from discrimination. Although affirmative action is emplaced the ratio of white students to black students is two to one while the populational ratio of whites to blacks is nine percent to seventy-nine percent. The disadvantage the blacks face in getting an education is apparent since, only over half of the students are able to graduate in five years. In comparison to the white students graduation ratio of four out of five.

As a African American female, I used to share the concern of whether or not I was granted acceptance into a school due to my merit or race. What I've come to realize is that I don't have access to certain privileges. The Affirmative Action policy is my secret door way to gaining the access I deserve. As we can see, regardless of the policy there are more white students than black students. I'm glad the school is aware that blacks need the extra help and aren't ashamed to accept it. I had to put my pride aside and come to terms that I was born with a disadvantage. So, I take full advantage of any help entitled to me to insure I achieve my aspirations.

- Divinda

For more info, check out this article: "Campus That Apartheid Ruled Faces a Policy Rift" by Celia W. Dugger (New York Times) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/world/africa/23safrica.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=affirmative_action

The voting may be over...

Susan Burton,  founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, is one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes for 2010. Burton’s life speaks volumes to both the tragedy of punitive approaches to drug addition and to the ability of the human spirit to transcend lifes’ circumstances to become a beacon of hope for others.

Although voting for CNN Hero of the Year Award for 2010 is over, Susan’s story still serves as inspiration for making change to prison policy, as a compelling example of the specific challenges that women of color face during reentry and as a narrative for understanding criminal justice through an intersectional lens.

Check out more interviews, videos and information about Susan, A New Way of Life and challenges for women of color here.

Susan Burton - Letter to friends!

Use the following letter to ask your friends, family and colleagues to support Susan Burton as CNN Hero of the Year nominee!

Dear Friend:

I'm excited.

There's not a lot of good news for those of us concerned about the staggering social consequences of mass incarceration. For so long, there seemed to be no traction in the popular media to get out the message that mass incarceration destroys families, lives and entire communities.

But now we all have a unique opportunity to draw attention to courageous women and men who are dedicating their lives toward reversing the devastating consequences of mass incarceration.

Susan Burton, founder of a New Way of Life, is one of ten finalists for the CNN Hero of the Year Award. Burton's life speaks volumes to both the tragedy of punitive approaches to drug addition and to the ability of the human spirit to transcend lifes' circumstances to become a beacon of hope for others. Having cycled in and out of prison for an addiction she developed in the aftermath of the accidental death of her 5 year old son, Burton not only recovered but committed her life to providing the support that so many women lack upon their release: a safe place to live, a loving support system, and guidance through the maze of re-entry challenges. Susan's story is about more than the 500 women she has helped. When Susan wins the Hero of the Year Award, attention will be turned to the needs of hundreds of thousands of women, men and children who struggle under the weight of incarceration long after prison terms have ended. Voices like Susan's can bring sanity to this headlong rush into inhumane and counterproductive social policies.

But Susan's voice can't be heard unless we all take a few minutes to lift up our own voices in support of Susan Burton.

Please take this moment to do to things. Vote for Susan Burton ten times right here: http://heroes.cnn.com/vote.aspx. Please do it today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next, until voting ends November 18th at 6am ET.

Second, please reach out to ten friends who will commit to doing the same. Use the 10 Reasons Fact sheet below to introduce your friends to Susan Burton and to let everyone know why this is such an important opportunity not only for Susan and the women she serves, but for all of us.

Does Race (Still) Matter? Reconsidering Affirmative Action in the US and Brazil

The U.S. and Brazil appear to be approaching a temporal crossroad on race and affirmative action. While the myth of racial democracy has loosened its grip in Brazil and opened up unprecedented opportunities for Afro-Brazilians, post-racialism is becoming a powerful force in the US, undermining the future of social inclusion programs.  What can advocates for racial equality in the two countries learn from each other?  How can transnational cooperation between governments and civil society advance racial justice in the two Americas?  Come hear leading voices in the Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial discrimination (“JAPER”) in the US and Brazil.

A panel discussion with:

Daniel Teixeria Staff Lawyer and Projects Coordinator at the Research Center on Labor Relations and Inequality; former Co-Chair for the Civil Society (JAPER) “Demystifying Racial Democracy in Brazil”

Maria Aparecida Silva Bento Executive Director of the Research Center on Labor Relations and Inequality; Associate Researcher at the University of Sao Paulo; “Quantifying Employment Discrimination in Brazilian Banks”

Clarence Lusane Professor of Political Science in the School of International Service at American University; Co-Chair for the Civil Society (JAPER) “Afro-Brazilians and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Equality”

Kimberlé Crenshaw Professor of Law at Columbia & UCLA Law School; former Fulbright Chair for Latin America; Co-Chair for the Civil Society (JAPER) “Framing Joint Action in the Matrix of Colorblindness and Racial Democracy”

Monday, September 27th, 2010 ∙ 6pm Columbia Law School ∙ Greene Hall, Room 103 Reception to Follow: Columbia Law School ∙ Case Lounge ∙ 7:30pm

Sponsored by: African American Policy Forum ∙ Institute for Research in African American Studies Center for Brazilian Studies ∙ Latin American Law Students Association