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"Realize The Imminence And Importance
Of This Issue"

A Letter about Affirmative Action

by Brock Martinez
Madison, Wisconsin

Dear. Dr. Noguera
Co-Editor -- Education Rights
In Motion Magazine

Going out on a Friday or Saturday night in one of the most social atmospheres in the country, I’ve answered this question quite often: “what’s your last name, Brock?” My reply, “Martinez,” elicits a remarkable homogenous response. Despite the questioning party’s initial intentions, a common retort tends to follow: “You’re a Mexican?” While I couldn’t be prouder of my Hispanic heritage, this belittling question tends to trigger a somewhat sheepish and cowering affirmation. It makes me worried about a lot of things -- what are potential employers going to think when seeing the name on the resume? How am I going to convince my future wife to take my last name? What am I going to name my kids so that they aren’t judged as they grow up? This is not equality. Rather, this is a prime example of the country’s intrinsic hegemonic dominance and power. In an attempt to restructure these common ideologies and to make good on its promise of being “the land of opportunity”, the government has taken initiative and implemented a series of Affirmative Action regulations in both our education system and employment market. While these policies have been a step in the right direction, regulatory actions such as prop. 209 have hindered the minority public’s socioeconomic growth. In the United States, there is a need for continued expansion -- particularly in our education system -- in order to account for the social injustices still being wrought upon fellow Americans.

I write this letter in strong support of your cause. Affirmative action is not a way for minorities to “get back at ‘The Man.’” It only makes sense that as our country diversifies and the consumer market becomes more segmented, those who take part in business transactions and activities should be representative of the target public. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education states that the business people of today see the trend of a growing minority population. By the year 2050, whites will be in the numerical minority, and businesses are relying on colleges to begin accommodating this new phenomenon. One market which could be extremely beneficial of more extensive educational affirmative action would be the sports industry. It is often the case that upper-class white males dominate behind the scenes in a minority-dominated culture. Most notably, the sports agent pool has become more and more homogenized and elitist. With the majority of our athletic entertainment coming from the African American and Latino community, the lack of communication and trust between players and agents, agents and owners, and players and owners has become anything but copasetic. Relating more comfortably to one’s own community is simply human nature -- but the lack of diversity in league front offices has created a dog-eat-dog atmosphere. Owners and executives come into power either by means of certain “ins” or by being educated in the American System -- this is where the assimilation of minorities into our universities comes into play.

It’s very hard for me to understand why the state of California, one of the most diverse in all of America, would institute a rule such as prop. 209. According to Angela Barrian, professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, prop. 209 and its banning of the use of race in admissions has caused minority enrollment to plummet. At the University of California-Berkely, admission and enrollment data sheets have shown a significant depression in both the African-American and Chicano admittance rates. In 1995, of the 1,129 African-Americans who applied, 566 were admitted (50%); of the 1,833 Chicanos who applied, 1,128 were admitted (62%). After Prop 209 was implemented in 1996, these admittance rates began on a downward turn that is absolutely unacceptable. In 2003, of the 1,564 African-Americans who applied, only 302 were admitted (19%). Of the 3,302 Chicanos who applied, only 766 were admitted (23%). How is it that a university can make the claim of being diverse, while telling potential minority students that they only have roughly a 1 in 5 chance of becoming a part of the community?

We are in a time of change. By looking at the growth in applicants to universities by minorities, we can see the new wave of business men and women that will take over the market. While our educational system has made a few decent strides, we still are miles away from proportional equality. A study done by the U.S. department of Education showed that even though the percentages of minorities on campuses had risen from the years of 1976-1995 (4.1% to 9.3%), it didn’t even come close being proportional with their population -- almost a quarter of the population (Jost 157). Soon, these minorities will become the majority, and we need to be able to educate them so that they can maintain efficiency and stability in our economy.

Aside from our prospective future as a nation, I feel that our nation is deeply indebted to members of our minority communities. The internal battles I eluded to in my introduction can only be a sliver of what many have gone through in the past and will go through in the future. Nathan Glazer, a distinguished professor of education at Harvard University, shared the same sentiment about African-Americans in a 1998 article in The New Republic: “I believe the main reasons we have to continue racial preferences for blacks are, first, because this country has a special obligation to blacks that has not been fully discharged…” (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, summer 1998) The misgivings of a hegemonic society have for years put minorities, namely African-Americans, into a severely disadvantaged category. I suggest that we address this issue first and foremost, but soon thereafter focus on the other aforementioned hurting community -- Hispanics.

The Hispanic community has been harboring some of the same sentiments as the African-American population. Obstacles such as stereotypes and language barriers have made for a rocky assimilation process. Often we are looked at as immigrants, foreigners who serve no purpose in this country but to take unwanted, laborious, low-wage jobs. A population that is so dedicated to being a part of the American society that they would sacrifice themselves to these positions ought to be rewarded for their efforts. Putting Hispanics on the back burner begins in the earliest stage of education. In the Journal of Politics, Luis Fraga claims that segregation begins at a very early age: “assignment systems based on assessments of language deficiencies or other individual needs, which were on their face not based exclusively upon race or ethnicity, were used to separate Hispanics from Anglos.” (852) If these children were faced with an entirely different curriculum growing up, there is no way that they should be expected to succeed when taking standardized tests in the future. These tests are geared towards suburban, white, middle-class students who, for the moment, dominate our colleges and universities. In order for the nation’s business market to exist with proportionality, we must first find better alternatives to educating our fastest-growing minorities.

I don’t write this letter in an effort to propose any new sort of bill or ideas; I cannot legitimately say that I am qualified to make any such claim. I simply come with the intention of being one small voice in a large chorus. What is clear to me, however, is that current legislation is simply not keeping up with the changing demographic of the United States. Setbacks such as prop. 209 have hindered the minority community’s ability to become educated, and eventually lead this country. If someday we can gain government and market leadership representative of this population, society will undoubtedly flow at a more comfortable and acceptable pace. Instead of simply coasting through another decade of subordination and uneasiness, we must be able to challenge the way things have been done in the past and realize the imminence and importance of this issue. Please help this country become what it claims to be -- a diverse melting pot of ideas, beliefs, and values representative of its many races, cultures, and ethnicities.

Brock Martinez


  • Barian, Angela. Lecture. Madison. 5 Mar. 2007.

  • Fraga, Luis R., Kenneth J. Meier, and Robert E. England. "Hispanic Americans and Educational Policy: Limits to Equal Access." The Journal of Politics 48 (1986): 850-876. JSTOR. 25 Mar. 2007.

  • Jost, Kenneth. "Affirmative Action." CQ Weekly (2004): 99-119. 26 Mar. 2007.

  • "The Affirmative Action Conversion of Nathan Glazer." The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 20 (1998): 32. 25 Mar. 2007.

  • "University of California Application, Admissions, and Enrollment of California Resident Freshmen for Fall 1995 Thru 2003." University of California. 27 Mar. 2007>

  • "Where are the College Presidents Now That Affirmative Action Needs Them Most?" The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 12 (1996): 6-8. JSTOR. 25 Mar. 2007.

Published in In Motion Magazine April 15, 2007.

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