Today someone (a grown professional, educator…in an urban area, mom, graduate of a very well known Ivy) admitted she’s afraid of “the African-American community”. Her reasons we’re varied, based loosely on experience, but mostly on naïveté and perceptions. The intensity of her discomfort was palpable and it prompted me to think about how we value something like race in college admissions.
Many will disagree and the same number will agree, race does matter in college admission, but I’m not going to make a case for or against affirmative action. Instead, race matters because whether society likes it or not, it’s an integral part of the identities of so many people. It can be cultural or a symbol of community, pain, unity, class and access or simply something that “just is”. And contrary to the opinion of some, race doesn’t only matter to communities labeled as “of color” or “minority”. In a world that continues to be plagued by prejudice, fear and hatred based on racial, ethnic, religious and gender differences, just to name a few, if we ignore race (or any of the aforementioned) as part of an applicant’s identity, we risk suggesting that the most intimate parts of someone’s identity does not and should not matter. It also paves the way for college students not to explore these identities in an academic or personal setting, both of which can have a positive and profound impact in one’s life.
I’m not convinced the answer is requiring applicants to fill out even more check-boxes, but the more we attempt to ignore race or religion or sexual orientation (the list continues), the more we perpetuate the silence that leads to the unfounded fear so many carry with them.