Wednesday, December 8, 2015
Vice President Breana Ross’ Speech at the National Action Network Rally for Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity
My name is Breana Ross and I am the Vice President of the United States Student Association, the nation’s oldest and largest education justice organization representing over 1.5 million students. Affirmative action plays a crucial role in the history of our organization and it is our mission to push for free higher education and the recruitment and retention of students of color on college campuses.
Today I am going to talk about the importance of affirmative action and how it provides equal opportunity for all applicants. We are in a State of Emergency! Where six decades after Brown v. Board students of color and disproportionately Black and Brown students still have limited access to colleges and universities. This is a result of a few factors:
- Extreme segregation and underfunding of public schools
- Supreme court rulings that ban race as a factor in college submissions in conjunction with the termination of desegregation plans
- A lack of support and retention programs for students of color
While having a dialogue about affirmative action we must realize the political climate we are in. From the uprising of the Black Lives Matter Movement, responding to anti-blackness and state sanctioned violence and death threats to Black students on college campuses, the endless attacks on the progression of communities of color reaffirm that institutional racism is alive and well and that we do not live in a post-racial society. It is crucial that we expand opportunity to communities of color and other underrepresented groups who have difficulty making it to and through the education system. Many are pushed out of the system or forced to drop out due to the expense of higher education. Affirmative action is an opportunity to level the playing field.
Second, we must actively promote the benefits of diversity and how it is absolutely necessary to engage with people from different cultures and backgrounds while also having an ethnic studies curriculum that complements this campus culture.
Third we must focus on preventing the racial isolation caused by predominantly white institutions, echoed by the repeated racist incidents from the University of Missouri to the University of California Los Angeles. We must create a climate where students of color can survive and thrive.
Lastly “Why do we have to choose between our redcuation and our safety? Why do we continue to be dismissed and told that we’re overreacting as we watch our communities die? When will will our experience be not just about surviving but thriving?”