By: Ariana Ceballos
Dating back to the Kennedy administration, Affirmative action sets courses of action that help in limiting unlawful discrimination practices against marginalized groups, particularly in education and employment. Best summarized by Harmeet Kaur for CNN, affirmative action was “put forward in the midst of the civil rights movement.” Kaur goes on to say, “Affirmative action was intended as a way to remedy historic injustices. When you compete for things like jobs and education, you’re not starting on a level playing field.”
Affirmative action is back in the spotlight after several Supreme Court cases which addressed concerns that this process discriminates against white students due to a consideration of race in higher education admissions. This claim was described by many, including Kaur, as a “violation of the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act (of 1964).”
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that race is allowed to be considered in college admissions under limited conditions. These conditions include when “one if race is one of a number of factors and second diversity rationale, which says that race can be considered if the university argues that racial diversity contributes to the educational experience for students.”
As of October 31, 2022, the two cases bringing affirmative action into the light are Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v University of North Carolina. However, the current belief is that the country is likely to see decades-long precedents come to an end, leading to a massive shift in the landscape for higher education admissions. In considering the race and gender of applicants these institutions consider the barriers many of these people have faced allowing them the equal opportunity to share their experiences.
According to Fabiola Cineas and Ian Millhiser from Vox, today’s cases challenging affirmative action are against the schools. The case surrounding Harvard University claims that “the school’s race-conscious selection process discriminates against Asian American applicants violating Title VI of the 14th amendment,” claiming they are less likely to get in than Black, Hispanic, and White applicants.
As for the case against the University of North Carolina plaintiffs argue that the school admission process gives favor to contenders of underrepresented groups, discriminating against Asian and White students. As the writers of Vox summarize the cases, “both argue the schools ignore race-neutral alternatives that might help them science their diversity goals.”
It should be noted that Students for Fair Admissions’s headfirst is Edward Blum, and since the early 1990s has filed lawsuits against affirmative action practices. He is not a student and he is aided, “by millions in funding from conservative donors, and he’s known for recurring plaintiffs to challenge race-based policies he deems unfair.”
Liliana M. Graces for The Hill adds about the cases “the fight is over preserving a small modicum of dignity for students of color in the much larger battle over racial justice and equity.” Ultimately, she believes that what’s at stake is applicants of color and ‘’their experiences not being considered alongside those of white applicants.”
At the end of the day, applicants and students will be hit the hardest if affirmative action is ended. Sarah Zhang the founder of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill pro-affirmative action organization, states “We’ve all experienced racism, and we know what it’s like to feel isolated in our hometowns and in our classrooms…but it’s important to note that we’re doing this because we love our campus and want to continue cultivating this space for diversity at Carolina.”
Sruthi Kumar, an Indian American student at Harvard, adds in support of affirmative action that the “world I walked into freshman year might not be the reality for incoming classes…that really scares me.” Without affirmative action, diversity in many landscapes of the country will be altered because, at the end of the day, it will be the people on the other side of the court who will witness and experience the repercussions.
Many of these institutions were not built with the intent of allowing marginalized communities to attend, despite the diversity that has happened since their establishment their integration to many communities is fairly new. In eliminating affirmative action many people will be silenced as their struggles will go unheard and dismissed.