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Underrepresented, Underprivileged, Underserved

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

As a Black man who has overcome numerous obstacles to achieve success in academia, I feel compelled to express my frustration and disappointment at the recent loss of affirmative action in college admissions. My journey began with an unexpected opportunity that forever altered the trajectory of my life. However, the cancellation of affirmative action threatens to slam shut the very door that allowed me to embark on this remarkable path.

Growing up, attending a private 100% boarding school in Virginia seemed like an unattainable dream for a young Black teenager like me. The educational disparities and systemic obstacles in place meant that such prestigious institutions were rarely accessible to students from marginalized backgrounds. Nevertheless, fate intervened, and I was granted admission to this boarding school, granting me access to an education that would change my life forever.

With unwavering determination and relentless hard work, I seized the opportunity and excelled academically. I realized that education held the key to unlock the doors that were otherwise closed to people like me. The boarding school experience instilled in me a profound sense of purpose, resilience, and the belief that I could overcome the limitations society had placed on me. It was there that my journey towards the College of William and Mary began.

Affirmative action ensured that individuals from marginalized communities, like myself, had a fighting chance to pursue higher education. It recognized the systemic disadvantages faced by underrepresented groups and sought to level the playing field by offering opportunities that would otherwise be denied to us.

The College of William and Mary became the next stepping stone in my journey. My academic abilities and personal growth were acknowledged, and I was awarded a full scholarship. Affirmative action made it possible for someone like me, who came from an underprivileged background, to compete on an equal footing with my peers. It was a testament to the power of a just and inclusive society.

However, the recent cancellation of affirmative action has cast a dark cloud of uncertainty over the future of students like me, my children, and others. The dismantling of these policies represents a regressive step, one that undermines the progress made in fostering diversity and equal representation in educational institutions.

Without affirmative action, students from marginalized backgrounds will once again face insurmountable barriers in their pursuit of higher education. It is disheartening to witness the systematic erosion of opportunities that were painstakingly fought for by those who recognized the need for a fair and inclusive society.

We must acknowledge that affirmative action was never about preferential treatment or handouts; it was about creating a level playing field. By embracing diversity, educational institutions enrich their intellectual landscape and foster an environment that mirrors the complexities of our society.

Instead of discarding affirmative action, we should be reinforcing and strengthening it. We must confront the systemic issues perpetuating educational inequalities and work towards solutions that uplift the underrepresented. Investment in early education, mentorship programs, and increased access to resources are just a few avenues to address these disparities.

As a Black man who has experienced firsthand the transformative power of affirmative action, the loss of this policy is deeply frustrating and disheartening. My journey from an unlikely boarding school student to an MBA graduate is a testament to the opportunities made possible through this policy. We must maintain the progress we have made toward a more inclusive society. We must fight for educational equity and ensure that doors remain open for those historically denied access. Only then can we truly embrace the promise of a fair and just society for all.

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