No more affirmative action
The Supreme Court is hearing a case regarding affirmative action for the first time in nine years. In the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court ruled that public colleges and universities could take race into account in vague ways to ensure academic diversity. Now, Abigail Fisher, a white student, is suing the University of Texas on the grounds that she was denied admission based on her race. A ruling for or against is not expected to do away with or firmly establish affirmative action in public education, but it will hopefully be an important step forward in the practice’s abolition.
The practice of affirmative action is especially offensive in Texas, where by law, the top 10 percent of students from each high school must be admitted into the state’s university system. Since Texan high schools are very racially homogenous, this results in large numbers of minority students being instantly admitted into college, higher numbers than would be seen if the top 10 percent of the general population of Texas high school students were admitted. Students who are not in the 90th percentile or above in their high schools, must apply via different means if they wish to attend a state school, using a process in which race also plays a significant role. Abigail Fisher was just shy of the top 10 percent in her high school.
The top 10 percent law should probably be done away with, but it is not the subject of this lawsuit, and is not explicitly pro-affirmative action legislation. That racial discrimination is practiced for all other applicants, however, is wildly unfair. Sugar Land, Abigail Fisher’s hometown, is one of the most affluent and fastest-growing cities in the state of Texas and has an excellent public school system. If Abigail Fisher was indeed only marginally below the 90th percentile, she should, if Texas follows national trends, still have been head and shoulders above many students who were automatically accepted, and certainly far above many of the round two applicants who were not in the top 10 percent. She was, it is safe to say, more qualified than the vast majority of competitive applicants, and judging solely on academics, deserved acceptance.
Of course, universities take into account many factors that are not academic. Extracurricular activities play an important role, as do cases in which an applicant has had to overcome adversity—being a Vietnamese orphan who lost his legs after stepping on an old land mine, for instance—but race is completely beyond a person’s power to control, and does not necessarily speak to having overcome obstacles to achieve. Affirmative action has been repeatedly shown to benefit richer, better-educated minorities, not those from the inner city, and even if this reverse discrimination did what it was supposed to do, it would not be justified. Racism is morally reprehensible in all its forms, be it demanding that blacks sit in the back of the bus, or barring whites from admission to the college of their choice.
Abigail Fisher wanted to go to a Texas state school, and by all measurements, she was a qualified applicant, more so than many who were accepted. That she was not speaks to the unfair discrimination that is affirmative action. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an oft-quoted speech, remarked that he wanted his children to live in a nation “where they will be judged not by the color of their skin,” and the Supreme Court in its decision should recognize the racial injustice of the Texas application progress.