HEMPSTEAD, NY – On February 27, 2013 Obama’s second term plans for affirmative action did not seem to satisfy the panelists at the Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Hofstra Chapter’s event entitled Affirmative Action under President Obama 2.0.
Dr. Johnathan Lightfoot, Hofstra professor, opened up the panelist discussion with a personal testimony of how affirmative action has affected his life. He recalled being an undergraduate at Cornell University receiving a non-verbal message from faculty and students that he was “not welcomed.” Lightfoot also told the audience about a former conversation he had with a Caucasian male, which resulted in the phrase, “you’re not like those other blacks”. As he prepared to pass the floor to the two panelists who eagerly waited to give their input, he posed a question to them: “What suggestions would you send Obama and his officials”?
Christina Vargas, Stony Brook Diversity and Affirmative Action Director, started off her segment by painting a mental picture of the various demographics of workers in modern society; “What do the CEO’s of big firms look like and what does the person sitting at the desk look like?” She also brought to the attention of the usage of quotas and how it is used unjustly in various cases. “You cannot use a quota to select the people to hire,” she began, “You need statistics to back it up!” Vargas ended her point by pointing out Obama’s new agenda for affirmative action focuses on veterans and people with disabilities. In terms of veterans she said, “It’s like the second wave of the G.I. bill.”
Elaine Gross, President of a non-profit organization named, ERASE Racism, hit home by presenting several statistical views of Long Island, which pertained to housing and schooling. When relating to schools on Long Island and how a certain population of minority students only have access to the high-need schools she stated, “It doesn’t read like Jim Crow segregation, but it looks a lot like it”. In terms of housing, Gross added that people often “discredit the evidence around housing discrimination” and she believes that equal housing would help provide a solution for failed cases of affirmative action.
As she continued to drive her point home, a group of students from University Heights High School sat among the audience to listen in. One of the high school students later said, “I completely agreed with Ms. Gross. I am afraid that my limited resources at my school and community with stop me from going to a good college”.
A Hofstra student in the audience asked the panelist a question that caused them once again to revisit the initial question posed by Dr. Lightfoot, “As a citizen being led by Obama through his second term, where do [we] start for a change?” Gross said we start with location and Vargas added to that by stating we start with resources and opportunities.
– Shannon N. Alomar