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Reply to "Black Women vs. White women:SHOSHANNA JOHNSON VS. JESSICA LYNCH!"

Affirmative action affects women, too
Posted on Fri, Jan. 24, 2003


Iam a white woman, and I support affirmative action -- because it is a women's issue, too. Although it is often framed solely in racial terms, it is a critical tool that expands opportunities for women. It's important to answer the opponents of affirmative action. Targeting affirmative action plays into existing racial prejudices and ignores the benefits of affirmative action to women. Such a strategy is calculated and divisive for two main reasons:

¥ÊThe strategy of using white women to challenge affirmative action pits white women against women of color by disregarding the fact that affirmative action has helped all women make enormous strides in higher education. After all, it was not so long ago that the schools in which some women claim a rightful spot did not admit any women at all.

¥ÊSuch a strategy also pits whites against people of color. Affirmative action does not give minorities slots that ''belong to'' white students; no person has a reserved spot. Instead, affirmative action ensures that qualified individuals of all races and both genders have equal opportunity to compete for positions. Affirmative action not only levels the playing field for women and minorities but also brings diverse viewpoints and experiences into fields that have been dominated by white men.

I can attest to the value of such diversity in an education setting. My class at Columbia University law school consisted of men and women of all races and ethnicities, with a mix of ideas, backgrounds and talents. This diverse learning environment allowed students to recognize and celebrate differences and was an invaluable part of my law-school experience.

DIFFERENT VIEWS ''Colorblind'' admissions ignore a crucial fact of life: Differences exist in people. We are not all the same, our history is not the same, and the talents we offer and experiences we bring are not the same. Affirmative action recognizes this -- standing alone, it cannot eliminate racial, ethnic and gender bias or education disparities. But it is a component of a larger strategy to achieve equal opportunity for all, and it is a tool worth preserving because it has made a difference.

I am not concerned that opportunities are being ''taken away'' from me by people of color. What I fear is a society that ignores a history of discrimination and does not prioritize the elimination of racial and gender inequality. Gretchen Borchelt is a women's law and public policy fellow at the National Partnership for Women & Families.

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Carl Gutiérrez-Jones,
Department of English
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106