Stem Cells and Affirmative Action

A good friend of mine, Jameelah, has a fascinating knack for science and political issues. Recently, she penned an amazing piece describing the relationship between Stem Cells and Affirmative Action. I was floored after reading this and I think you will be too. Thank you Jameelah, you are a true SuperSpade.

I was reading an article in the American Scientist Magazine titled “Sensitive Cells “, a review about a scientific study involving the ability of stem cells to change differentiation based upon the surface type of the Petri dish in which they are cultured.  Something as simple as a change in either a smooth or hard surface can have a profound effect on the fate of the cell’s development and growth. While reading this article you would think questions would arise in my head surrounding the physical and chemical properties that would make this phenomenon so, but for some reason, the only thing I could think about was affirmative action.


Strange, I know, but you see one of the strongest arguments against affirmative action or any sort of program to assist underrepresented groups is that we live in a time where everything is equal opportunity and despite one’s environment, everyone has the opportunity to achieve and be successful.  So let’s think about this for a moment, if a single cell can be altered by the shape and composition of it’s environment, how is it possible to say that an entire organism, comprised of a seemingly infinite number of cells, can somehow go against it’s environment as well? I rest my case, science and common sense have spoken.

If the environment can have such a significant role in development and growth, could it be that people who benefit from affirmative action programs, whose environment is unfortunately shaped by forces, powers, and regulations beyond their control,  are somehow in many cases disadvantaged, resource deprived, and systematically excluded? How in the world do you expect this cell, I mean person, to grow to become the successful tissue, I mean professional, he/she is intended to be without some sort of alteration in the environment towards its benefit to produce a specific outcome….


“A pair of recent reports shows that when scientists grow stem cells in the laboratory, the physical properties of the cells’ culture-dish homes influence when they will adopt a distinct path in life and what that path will be”- American Scientist, March-April 2007




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3 responses to “Stem Cells and Affirmative Action”

  1. rianaelyse says :

    VERY insightful, i will pass this along!

  2. Ed McDonald says :

    As a physician, a stem cell researcher, and an educated black man I find this analogy extremely intriguing. It is also interesting to point out that stem cells that have been damaged by signals from its environment can transform into ‘cancer stem cells’ and generate malignancies that can destroy an entire organism. Where does this concept fit with your analogy? Think about.

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