It’s interesting and ironic that using race to make up for the race based discrimination of the past is deemed wrong and worse yet racist, yet that has become a very popular view. Before affirmative action, race was used to keep people of color and women from benefiting from college educations and limited their ability to increase their personal and family wealth. Sure there were colleges specifically for people of color and women, yet should anyone be limited to the offerings at a few colleges? Of course not!
The student in the case before the Supreme Court, Fisher vs. the University of Texas of Austin, was not accepted to the college of her choice, yet she was not denied her ability to attend college by a pervasive exclusion from all colleges. Her ability to increase her personal and family wealth were not denied. In fact, in all the news stories I have heard and read, it isn’t particularly clear that affirmative action was the sole reason she was rejected by the university.
If nothing else, as a white woman she belongs the chief group benefiting from affirmative action. Also according to The New York Times, “her father and sister had attended” the University of Texas of Austin, so at many schools she would have received a preference over other applying students. In the college’s multi-faceted decision process she would have benefited from affirmative action, so she must have been denied because she did not meet the overall requirements of the university. I hope someone on the Supreme Court notices this gaping hole in her argument of reverse discrimination!
In the PBS documentary “The Jewish Americans,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg discusses the quotas the were used decades ago to limit the number of Jewish students on college campuses to 10% of the overall student body. Historian Harold Wechsler adds that there were also quotas to restrict the number of Catholics at colleges and a quota of “zero for African Americans on a number of campuses.” While these quotas to limit diversity on college campuses did not thwart the success of all groups, they did hinder the ability of many people of color and women to improve their social economic standing and political power in society.
People of color and women were also denied the opportunity to network and establish relationships beneficial for their careers. You can’t be told of opportunities for career advancement or be recommended for these opportunities if you aren’t in the loop. Outside the networks established in college, people of color and women were unable to advance in a way that many white people take for granted. These limitations reverberate until this day, yet opponents of affirmative action like to deny this reality.
And if affirmative action were eliminated as a factor in college admissions, it wouldn’t even benefit white students because “their acceptance rate would rise by merely 0.5 percentage points.” Rather, a The New York Times article on the book “The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions.” states that Asian students would benefit if affirmative action was eliminated because “more Asian students apply to elite schools than other underrepresented minorities.”
This same article also reported findings that:
…the more selective the college, the more likely were blacks who attended it to graduate, obtain advanced degrees and earn high salaries.
…after graduation…these students achieve notable successes. They earn advanced degrees at rates identical to those of their white classmates...And they become more active than their white classmates in civic and community activities.
It is for these reasons that the Supreme Court should vigorously uphold affirmative action. If all segments of the United States have an opportunity to attend college, it benefits the everyone!
As people of color become a majority in the country, a return to racially biases quotas or all out exclusion by a dwindling majority will be like cutting off our nose to spite our face.