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Scholar Says Race-Neutral Approach Needed for Affirmative Action



Sheryll Cashin, a professor of law at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. advocates for "place-based" affirmative action policies in education. (Freddie Allen/NNPA)

Sheryll Cashin, a professor of law at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. advocates for “place-based” affirmative action policies in education. (Freddie Allen/NNPA)

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In the wake of unrelenting law suits seeking to abolish affirmative action coupled with nearly half of all universities dropping consideration of race as a factor in college admissions, it is time to shift gears and devise a less objectionable race-neutral approach that will diversify higher education, says a noted Black law professor.

During a recent discussion on affirmative action at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Sheryll Cashin, a professor of law at Georgetown University and author of Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America, said that as long as race-conscious affirmative action remains a factor in college admission, there will always be White students challenging affirmative action.

Cashin, who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, said “that law or politics will render race-based affirmative action extinct” and argued that it makes “sense to get started on race-neutral reforms that have the potential to create diversity and more social cohesion.”

She said that the percentage of four-year colleges that consider racial, ethnic or gender status in admissions has fallen from about 60 percent to 35 percent.

Others, however, do not favor a switch to de-emphasizing race and point to race-neutral affirmative programs in Texas and California that have not achieved the same results as previous race-conscious approaches. Even Texas’ 10 Percent Plan that guarantees the top 10 percent of each high school graduating class in Texas will be accepted at the University of Texas, the flagship campus, was challenged by a White applicant who had been rejected.

Backed by the Edward Blum’s Project for Fair Representation, a nonprofit group that wants to ban race-, gender- and ethnic-conscious affirmative action, Abigail Fisher a White woman, alleged that the University of Texas at Austin refused to accept her, because she was White, while Black and Latino students that she outperformed were admitted

Admission officials look at factors in addition to grade to determine the composition of an incoming class, not just grades.

In its “Brief of Opposition,” the university said: “The undisputed evidence demonstrated that Fisher would not have been offered fall admission in 2008 even if she had scored a perfect ‘6’ on her PAI – the portion of the admissions process where race is considered as ‘a factor of a factor of a factor.’”

Investigating Fisher’s claims, Pro Publica reported that 42 White students with less impressive grades than Fisher got in compared to just five Black and Latino students with similar academic achievement. Meanwhile, almost 170 Black and Latino students with the same or better grades as Fisher were also turned away.

In the 2012 term, the Supreme Court punted in Fisher v. University of Texas, sending the case back to the lower court for reconsideration. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 7-1 majority, said: “…Strict scrutiny imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.”

In other words, the university had the burden of showing that show that gender- ethnicity- and race-conscious affirmative action admission policies are the only way to effectively achieve diversity on campus.

After the case was remanded, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit again ruled in favor of the University of Texas.

In 2003, the Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings involving University of Michigan that many thought had settled the issue.

By a vote of 6-3, the justices outlawed an undergraduate admissions process that, among other things, automatically awarded 20 points to people of color. But on a 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled that race could still be a factor in admissions as long as it is not given too much weight.

However, led by anti-affirmative action foe Ward Connerly, in 2006, Michigan voters banned the use of race in public education and employment, a state constitutional amendment that was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

In the May/June 2014 issue of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) journal, Cashin, who is also a PRRAC board member, wrote that “place rather than race in diversity programming will better approximate the structural disadvantages many children of color actually endure, while enhancing the possibility that we might one day move past the racial resentment affirmative action engenders.”

Cashin said that when college graduates sequester themselves it can lead to a phenomenon known as “opportunity hoarding,” when a well-resourced, educated ingroup sanctions practices that exclude outgroups.

“And the exclusion does not have to be intentional,” said Cashin.

Cashin said that place, or where you live, locks in advantages and disadvantages that are reinforced over time.

“What has happened increasingly is the affluent and the highly educated are separated from everyone else and that often determines who has access to high quality elementary and secondary education,” said Cashin.

“And when you have geographic concentration of highly educated affluent people in direct horizontal competition with people from lower-income impoverished settings for finite public resources you get savage inequality in the allocation of public resources,” said Cashin. “College-bound students from middle- and low-income environments, particularly African Americans students, disproportionately attend segregated schools and they have to be superhuman to overcome the structural disadvantages of place.”

In Cashin’s article on affirmative action published in the PRRAC journal, she concedes that, “Fewer African Americans may enter elite institutions under an affirmative action system based on structural disadvantage rather than under race-based affirmative action.” However, she argued that the social costs of racial-conscious programs outweigh any marginal benefits when race-neutral alternatives are available.

Lia Epperson, a law professor at the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C., said that addressing racial disparities is not about totally abandoning policies that use race. She said it’s about the robust enforcement of laws that bar discrimination and inequality, existing compliance reviews that have proven helpful at the elementary and secondary education levels and expanding the role of data collection and the dissemination of data.

“The reality is that we are in a time that is difficult, because we do have this societal indecision with respect to matters of race,” said Epperson, who formerly led the education law and policy group of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The reality is also that we have a Constitution that supports remedying a history of slavery and Jim Crow. We have to expand our political imagination beyond the reality of the moment.”

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute said on the panel:
“There’s no doubt that we need to pretend to be colorblind in the current legal climate, but it’s also very important to realize that we have a separate challenge from the challenge of enhancing equity. And that is the challenge of increasing justice.”

Rothstein added, “We have a constitutional obligation to undue centuries of slavery, segregation and exploitation. As recent events have demonstrated to everybody, we have made very little progress in undoing that unconstitutional placement of African Americans in a caste system in this society.”


Black History

DeBoraha Akin-Townson: Trailblazing Cowgirl

According to the Texas State Historical Association, weekend rodeos featuring Black cowboys began in the late 1940s, thanks to the formation of the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association in 1947.



Rodeo is a sport in which cowboys and cowgirls showcase their skills in riding and roping. Its storied history has deep roots among many Blacks and Native Americans in the Midwest and South. 

Developed during the second half of the 19th century, events mainly took place in northern Mexico, the U.S., and western Canada. Despite the numbers of Black cowboys at that time, none were able to compete.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, weekend rodeos featuring Black cowboys began in the late 1940s, thanks to the formation of the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association in 1947. Many from this organization would eventually pass the torch to DeBoraha Akin-Townson.
Quickly rising in the sport, Townson not only picked up the torch but made history by becoming the 1989 International Professional Rodeo Association Western Region Champion and, in 1990, the first Black cowgirl to compete in the International Professional Rodeo finals in Tulsa, Okla. 

She is also the only Black woman to compete with a professional card in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events throughout the U.S.
Very little has been recorded about Townson’s life. What is known is that she is of Native American heritage (Cherokee and Arkansas Indian) and was born in Rockford, Ill. She is about 62 years old and still married to her long-time husband, Stewart Townson. Her all-time hero, she told Indian Rodeo News, is her “maternal grandmother, who taught me to please God first through obedience and discipline. She was a true Proverbs 31 woman, and I try with all that I am to model myself after the godly example that she showed me.”
In 1980, Townson attended her first rodeo in Hemet, Calif. That’s when her interest in participating in the sport’s professional ranks was piqued.
Her event of choice was ‘barrels,’ something she had enjoyed since she was a child. In this event, a horse and rider attempt to run a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. 

Participants in this women-only event are known for quick turns and high speeds. The winner is determined by thousandths of a second, and Townson was fast. Yet she joked about a time when her horse finished the race before she did.
“It wasn’t so funny when it happened,” she told Indian Rodeo News, “but it became something that I could laugh about later. I fell off the back of my horse trying to pick up the third barrel. My horse finished the pattern without me with the fastest time of the rodeo. The barrel was up, but since I wasn’t on him when he crossed the finish line, it was a [disqualification].”
Today Townson works as a horse-racing instructor and has passed her love of the rodeo down to her children. She advises all youth to “dare to not just dream but dream big and find a rodeo mentor to advise you and spur you on.”

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Journalist Describes Getting COVID-19 Vaccine in Taiwan

Taiwan’s office of foreign affairs contacted me to ask if I would be interested in receiving the Covid vaccine.



Greg Taylor in Taiwan gymnasium where he received the first shot of the Moderna vaccine.

Taiwan’s office of foreign affairs contacted me to ask if I would be interested in receiving the Covid vaccine. I was told to go online and make an appointment stipulating that I worked as a foreign journalist.

This dispensation granted me full and unfettered access to the Moderna vaccine. However, I think this access had more to do with President Joe Biden’s campaign of 80 million doses dispensed around the world that sent 2.5 million doses of Moderna to Taiwan.

On the 14th of July, as instructed, I showed up at a designated gymnasium to receive the first of two shots. This was indeed an exception extended to the foreign press in Taiwan. I saw no other foreigners in the entire gymnasium while I was there; and I learned on the 15th of July, that most Southeast Asian foreign workers were to receive AZ (AstraZeneca)—a debated lesser vaccine in the Pfizer, Moderna, J&J regimen.

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New Strain of COVID-19 Proving Fatal to Unvaccinated People

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. 



Technician holding tube of blood test identified with the label Covid-19 DELTA Variant. Doctor with a positive blood sample for the new variant detected of the coronavirus strain called DELTA/ Shutterstock

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. 

According to medical doctors, the U.S. is currently dealing with a new strain of the virus, the Delta variant, which is more lethal and virulent than previous strains. The Delta variant originated in India toward the end of last year and was first identified in America in March.
The Los Angeles County Health Department is so worried about a new outbreak, it told residents to mask up again.
“Since the Delta variant is more infectious than other variants, Public Health recommends wearing a mask around others in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status,” said the LA County Department of Health in a tweet.
Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles, has already seen signs of the new strain in the Los Angeles community. He said medical professionals are already gearing up for what he called the “fifth wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s already in L.A.,” he said. “We assume the rates will go back up.”
Like other viruses, COVID-19 is constantly mutating. When the virus encounters new hosts (particularly unvaccinated bodies,) it changes and gets stronger. The best way to eliminate the disease is to vaccinate about 70% of residents in a community (herd immunity,) so the virus doesn’t have any places to grow and survive.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Wash., D.C., emphasized this point during a recent Ethnic Media Services virtual briefing on the efficacy of continued mask use.
“The more warm bodies the virus has, the more opportunity it will have to mutate,” said Feigl-Deing, who is also the Chief Health Economist for Microclinic International, a San Francisco-based non-profit that bills itself as an organization that revolutionize how deadly diseases are prevented and managed worldwide.” 

 “If you let it spread, it will mutate,” he warned.
Feigl-Ding added that, at this stage, reaching herd immunity is not realistic, and we need to look at alternative solutions to contain the virus, such as continued mask usage, ventilation, hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and air purification devices.
But over the last year, the debate about vaccinations became political. A large number of people who supported former Pres. Donald Trump downplayed the virus and accused Democrats of overstating the severity of the pandemic. A lot of those skeptics even refused to take the vaccines. 

Some say they don’t trust the science. Others do it to resist what they see as pressure coming from liberals. But health experts say refusing to take one of the three vaccines approved to fight COVID-19 in the U.S. is dangerous and only allows the virus to thrive. 

Data is beginning to show the effects of politicizing public health. Deaths and infections are going up in red states, while the numbers have been steadily declining in blue states.
Medical data shows that 99% of recent COVID-19 deaths were unvaccinated people, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading virologist and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Abraham is a big proponent of vaccination and estimates his clinic has given about 300,000 inoculations to people in the South Los Angeles area. But he still sees worrying trends. According to Abraham, only about 40% of Black men in the area are vaccinated.
Abraham also warned the situation would worsen during the fall when it gets colder, and people spend more time inside. “It’s not a matter of if,” said Abraham.

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