Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 3

Diversity Digest
Volume 7,
Number 3
(2003)

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Diversity News
Diversity and Democracy:
the Unfinished Work
Dimensions of Diversity: Legal Lessons from the Decisions
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Longhorn Scholars and the Opportunity Scholarship Program
Bridging the Gap: The ACE Program in Arizona
Aimed for Success: Meyerhoff Scholars Program
Campus Community Involvement
UCLA’s Success in Reaching Out
Student Experience
Rallying for Affirmative Action:
A Student Perspective
Research
The Class is Half Empty: Report Supports Class-based Affirmative Action
Resources
Affirmative Action Resources

Rallying for Affirmative Action: A Student’s Perspective

By Minnie Dano Yuen, program intern, Wellesley College, Office of Diversity, Equity and Global Initiatives, AAC&U

Rally for Affirmative Action, April 1,2003, outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rally for Affirmative Action, April 1,2003, outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

We traveled from across the United States: Michigan. New York. California. Massachusetts. Nebraska. Illinois. DC. Texas. Some of us spent days on a bus before arriving in Washington, DC. We were students, steelworkers, teachers, and business professionals. We were gay, straight, transgendered, women, men, Latino/a, black, Asian, white, and multiracial. And we all arrived in the capital on April 1, 2003, for the same reason: to demonstrate our unwavering support for affirmative action.

It was 10 a.m. Inside the Supreme Court building, three white plaintiffs were arguing before the Supreme Court that they had been denied admission to the University of Michigan (Grutter vs. Bollinger and Gratz vs. Bollinger) because of their race. Outside, I stood with the thousands of others who filled First Street in front of the building.

Rally participants held up signs that were distributed by BAMN (By Any Means Necessary, the group that organized the march), the NAACP, or personalized signs that they chose to create. Some of them read, “White Parents of White Males Who Support Affirmative Action” or “Still Waiting for My Forty Acres and a Mule” or “Legacy is Affirmative Action Too.”

Student speakers echoed the sentiments of their peers as they affirmed the value of diversity and the need to expand opportunity so that every person can receive the best education. People proclaimed that we were at the beginning of a new civil rights movement that was inciting the imaginations of students too young to attend the 1963 March on Washington that also concluded at the Lincoln Memorial—some forty years ago.

Demonstrators then marched down Constitution Avenue to the Lincoln Memorial, continuing chants and keeping the energy alive. University of Michigan student, R.J. Quiambao ’05, recounts, “It was just amazing walking down Constitution Avenue to the rally. It was like I was a part of history. Just like all the civil rights marches in the past. This is our civil rights march.”

At the Lincoln Memorial, a rally began featuring speakers from every walk of life. Student speakers echoed the sentiments of their peers as they affirmed the value of diversity and the need to expand opportunity so that every person can receive the best education. People proclaimed that we were at the beginning of a new civil rights movement that was inciting the imaginations of students too young to attend the 1963 March on Washington that also concluded at the Lincoln Memorial—some forty years ago.

As the march came to an end, students like myself felt uplifted by the number of people who attended, but unsure of what the future would bring. (There are conflicting reports about the number of demonstrators, ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 demonstrators.) While our efforts certainly energized and motivated us, we wondered if our efforts would be heard and recognized by the Justices. For many, our journey back to our schools—whether by bus, car, plane, or train— was a time for reflection of the day’s events, but also a time where we began to envision what our next steps would be.

In a time when Title IX, the rights of immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and even civil liberties (via the Patriot Act) are being called into question or, in some instances revoked, this historic march sent an important message to all who participated or witnessed it: This generation is ready to fight. We are committed to battle for the rights for which past generations have fought for—and above all, the underlying principles of equality, diversity, and justice.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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