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  • Shamoria “Mori” Johnson

Affirmative Action Challenged Again in the Supreme Court. What Does That Mean for Black Students?

Stamping affirmative action as unconstitutional under the guise of “colorblindness” will be detrimental to Black students who are undeniably placed at a systemic disadvantage from the moment they are born.

Affirmative action, a practice used in college admissions that uses minority status as a special factor to allow disadvantaged students an equal opportunity for secondary education, is being challenged in the Supreme Court this year for the umpteenth time in American history. Since 1974, this seems to be the go-to move in the White Supremacy Playbook, and ignorance on the history and significance of the practice is allowing misinformed opinions to become general consensuses.

In 1974, a White male in his mid-thirties by the name of Allan Bakke after his twice rejection from The Medical School of the University of California at Davis on the basis of “present age” and unimpressive test scores decided to lawyer up and sue the university for racial discrimination.

In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the University of California described their lengthy admissions process where ⅙ of the applicants with a 2.5 GPA or above are given an interview then a rating on a scale from 1-100 based on a considerable amount of factors.

Though minority students have an opportunity to be evaluated by a special, separate committee with the 2.5 GPA requirement removed and their economic and/or educational disadvantages taken into consideration, still only ⅕ of the applicants were invited for an interview and ultimately only sixteen students were admitted to the University from this group.

In 1994, a White woman named Barbara Grutter was denied admission to the University of Michigan Law School and because she felt an acceptance was highly deserved from her 3.8 GPA and 161 LSAT, she sued the university on the basis of racial discrimination.

The University of Michigan Law School had an almost identical general admissions policy to UC-Davis’, though they specified the use of multiple “soft variables” including the quality of an essay describing how the student will improve the law school’s student life and diversity.

Their policy does not limit diversity to the basis of race, though they express the importance of including African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American students to “contribute to the law school’s character and to the legal profession” by acknowledging that there would be a lack of representation if this is not done.

In 1997, Texas passed a law that required the University of Texas to automatically accept in-state students that have graduated in the top-10% of their high school class. Abigail Fisher, a White Texan female who did not graduate within the top-10% of her class was evaluated alongside the rest of the applicants and denied admissions to the University of Texas in 2008.

Fisher, with the help of a White male named Edward Blum, took her case to the Supreme Court arguing that the use of race as a consideration for admission was unfair. In 2015, Blum, founder of Students for Fair Admissions, announced their need for an Asian-American student to be the face of their cause following Fisher’s loss against the University of Texas.

Today, Edward Blum, along with Fisher and her father, lead the Students for Fair Admissions against both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina on the basis of discrimination against White and, you guessed it, Asian-American students.

All of the cases presented were filed by privileged White people who decided to blame the minority applicants for their rejection instead of accepting that they got rejected from their dream school like plenty of others. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that affirmative action does not violate the Equal Protection Clause and therefore is a constitutional practice as these policies are clearly in place to facilitate diversity, not discriminate against White students.

It is undeniable that as an African-American, you are, as author Ibram X. Kendi so eloquently put it, stamped from the beginning. Critical race theory tells us that although race is a social construct, racism exists far beyond individual biases and is deeply embedded into almost every aspect of American life.

In our romances, friendships, careers, and most important laws, race is a factor and racism (including “softer” forms of it that are commonly dismissed, such as microaggressions) is something to be found. To deny this, in an attempt of “color-blindness”, only perpetuates the broken system.

Affirmative action exists for one reason: to allow disadvantaged students the opportunity to receive secondary education. Being a disadvantaged minority does not equate to being stupid, and that is what racists fail to understand. Despite the decline in poverty rates from Black people, according to the US Census Bureau, they are almost three times as likely to be in poverty than their White counterparts.

It is a reality for these students to attend poorly funded schools in their low-income neighborhood where they are very limited to the resources available to them, and go home to parents that are unable to bring in much income and therefore are unable to provide their children with those extra resources they are not receiving in school.

The cycle only continues as these students tend to test lower and are unable to meet admission requirements for a major university. This is why most predominantly white institutions (PWIs) may accept a “disadvantaged” or minority applicant despite them having lower test scores or GPAs.

The removal of such a practice will prove to be detrimental to minority students and the overall diversity on college campuses across America. The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that affirmative action in college admissions to facilitate diversity is indeed constitutional, and therefore should stop entertaining cases such as these in an attempt to backtrack a historically significant practice while there is an opportunity.

The media should stop portraying the possible removal of the practice from college admissions as a positive move; just because it is not a perfect solution doesn’t mean it isn’t a working solution. Instead of calling for the removal of affirmative action on the grounds of it being unsuccessful in its goal of providing equality, one should re-evaluate the system as a whole and understand that a racist system cannot be race-blind.

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