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"Diversity is important, but the most compelling reason for race-conscious admissions is justice."
ATLANTA, GA, July 16, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In his role as founding Senior Director of the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech and Director of STEM Education Strategy at Google, Dr. Kamau Bobb has become a leading advocate for greater equity in U.S. education. He is speaking out against the recent SCOTUS ruling rejecting race-conscious admissions in higher education, claiming the court's arguments miss the true reason for affirmative action: justice for the country's long history of racial discrimination and ongoing segregation in education.
The Supreme Court based many of its recent affirmative action case arguments on the 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke ruling. But Dr. Bobb argued that the Bakke case's emphasis on diversity as the end goal of affirmative action misses the mark. "The conservative side is willing, if not seeking, to disavow the reality of, and the national responsibility for, the lingering chains of two and half centuries of slavery and another hundred years of Jim Crow. They want a magic meritocratic America that has only ever been an idea, not a real place. While diversity is the ideological basis of affirmative action dating back to the 1978 Bakke case, and is dominating the public discussion now, it is a secondary goal. Justice is first."
Dr. Bobb said that in spite of the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education case making it illegal to separate kids in public schools on the basis of race, racial segregation continues in education, demanding greater justice. "In Atlanta, there are 10 traditional public high schools in the Atlanta Public School System. In seven of those schools there isn't a single white student. As of October 2022, all of the nearly 2,000 white students attend only three of the schools, without exception. The other seven serve students of color only. Almost 70 years after Brown, these schools remain "for colored students only". If we hold to the tenets of the Brown decision, these segregated schools are inherently unequal. Black students who succeed at the highest levels often do so despite public education, not because of it. Race is a factor in their education every step of the way."
Dr. Bobb said that these inequities are evident at the highest levels of education. "The College of Computing at Georgia Tech, where I am on the faculty, is one of the premier public institutions in the country. Over the last seven years, of all the students earning degrees in computer science at all levels – B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. – only 3 percent have been Black. That, in a city and state that are 50% and 33% Black respectively."
Dr. Bobb said that while diversity is a noble goal, it is not the primary reason affirmative action is worth pursuing. "Excellent educational institutions like Georgia Tech and those named in the recent Supreme Court case, Harvard and UNC, will continue to do well regardless of their diversity. Diversity is important, but the most compelling reason for race-conscious admissions is justice. The country has not come to terms with its past. The magic meritocracy is untethered from reality and historical truth. Confrontation with the fullness of the American past is the only path to justice. Diversity is merely a derivative of that."
Dr. Bobb said that in spite of the Supreme Court's recent blow to the movement for greater racial justice in U.S. education, he will continue his life's work of advocating for greater equity in education.
Dr. Bobb holds a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Policy from Georgia Tech and an M.S. and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Bobb served as a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation, overseeing $30 million of annual investments earmarked to improve computing and STEM education. In that role, he helped structure the national research agenda for effectively delivering equitable and quality computational education to all students.
Working with members of the Office and Science and Technology Policy in the Obama Administration, Dr. Bobb helped shape the national strategy for STEM education for both post-secondary and secondary schools. He was selected as a member of President Obama's My Brother's Keeper STEM + Entrepreneurship Taskforce, which helped engage young men and boys of color in STEM opportunities.
To learn more about Dr. Bobb or his work to achieve greater justice and equity in the U.S. education system, visit www.kamaubobb.com.
Kamau Bobb is the Director of STEM Education Strategy at Google and the founding Senior Director of the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech.
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