Blog 14- Strategies to Build Affirmative Action Globally

While only certain workshops were highlighted in the blogs, summaries from each workshop group were presented at the last session. From the social movement group, culture can hinder efforts toward building a coalition for affirmative action. In India, for example, the very nature of the Hindu religion goes against equality. One is born into one’s caste due to one’s past deed, which makes gaining the support of the religious community difficult. Religious figures assert it is the individual’s responsibility to do well in order to be reborn into a better life.   

Young people, however, can be reached through education and help bridge the growing gap between the grassroots and academics.  In addition, learning lessons from other global movements, like AIDS/HIV education can help affirmative action activists develop a larger coalition.

In terms of concrete steps, one participant noted that they had hard time developing ideas for this. Although the participants agreed that a media clearinghouse for resources affirmative action is needed and translatable to other countries, they were not able to come up with how and where this should happen.  

The group on mobilization sought a way to see how race, caste and class intersect as well as how to unite their efforts in a social justice setting. Not all countries had to deal with all three issues. India, for example, deals mainly with class and caste with race not being an issue.  Other points of contention were whether race should be separate from class in order to fight for social equality and whether affirmative action should play that role.  

Ultimately, the group agreed that a legal primer on affirmative action would be helpful for transnational organizing. The primer could expand on the policies beneficiaries, rhetoric and legal constraints. 

The date gathering group presented the need for mixed variable surveys in order to see how race and caste related to the existing social hierarchy.  France was on the extreme end with no data collected on race due the nature of their constitution being “colorblind.”  

Affirmative action and social transformation was the next group’s topic. They began their presentation by discussing the reification of identities and how that varies within countries. The group moved on to defining what social transformation means in the affirmative action context. They agreed that it meant not taking on the role of the oppressor. So social transformation works toward a progressively egalitarian society where distinctions based on class and race are phased away. Ultimately, that would require transforming social consciousness in the larger society. 

The group that discussed ideology explained that they sought to deconstruct what these universal principles entail. For example, how does one explain meritocracy or how to frame these ideas with in their national context?  The group also noted the need to be able to take universal claims and situate them in a specific country context.  In addition, they also noted the need to bring the affirmative action debate to the university setting by changing the curriculum. Another issue they brought up was a communication strategy. How can activists diffuse the concept of affirmative action effectively?  

This group helped conclude the overall conference by coming full circle to defining the concept of affirmative action in each country as the earlier sessions established. With a successful ten days spent discussing and debating the various aspects of affirmative action in a global perspective, the participants ended the conference anticipating a growing dialogue between these countries and much needed action taken in the name of social inclusion and justice.

 

 

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