Obama issued an executive order on Thursday that created an specific educational
initiative for African-Americans. Dubbed the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans,
the program aims to increase black children’s access to quality instructors and
educational programs from kindergarten to college.
While Obama’s professed goal of equal access to a quality education is certainly admirable, it
is unclear that the best way to accomplish this is with a program specifically
targeted to serve only students of a single race. After all, if “equitable
access” — and not “privileged access” — were really the goal, it would make
sense to try to assist all students of all races who lacked
access to quality educational programs. It is difficult to see why schools that
primarily serve African-Americans should be given specific priority.
It is one thing to attempt to ensure that all
students have the opportunity to attend a quality college, but it is another
entirely to attempt to extend this opportunity especially to students of a
certain race. Moreover, Obama’s new program might even hurt disadvantaged
students who do not happen to be black. The initiative will likely act as a
subsidy for colleges, universities, and other organizations that presumably
cater to blacks, diverting resources from institutions that serve other
communities–including other disadvantaged communities. A more general initiative
would avoid this problem. It would not rob real resources from colleges that
aim to educate people of all racial groups in order to strengthen those that
aim to educate people of only one.
Lucia Rafanelli is a rising senior at Cornell University.