Supreme Court Ruling on Affirmative Action Shakes American Society

Disappointment and the Impact on Asian American Applicants

I am profoundly disappointed by today’s Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in college admissions. As the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines and Taiwan, my life has been shaped by the experiences of being an Asian American. My Harvard application essay, which highlighted my trip to Taiwan and the racism I faced during the pandemic, reflected the profound impact of my racial background on my identity and potential. Access to an elite institution like Harvard has provided me with invaluable support and a professional network. I have always recognized the complexities surrounding affirmative action and its impact on Asian American applicants like myself, but I firmly believe that it is necessary for promoting equal access and creating a fair society. Affirmative action not only opens doors but also ensures that everyone has a place at the table. This ruling will have far-reaching consequences, denying many students the opportunities that I have been fortunate to have. It undermines the principles of equity enshrined in the 14th Amendment and jeopardizes the intellectual and academic diversity that makes our nation great.

Insufficient Representation of Minority Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds

The Supreme Court’s recent decision addressed an affirmative action policy aimed at creating diverse college campuses. However, the policy has not effectively addressed the representation of minority students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Research shows that a significant portion of Black, Latino, and Native American students at elite colleges come from privileged socio-economic backgrounds. This raises questions about whether these students truly require preferential treatment in admissions. As a Cuban American who grew up in a well-resourced community with access to strong college support, I recognize that my experience is not representative of many Hispanic students. The achievement gap between Hispanics and other racial/ethnic groups in college readiness is significant. While considering race or ethnicity in admissions is important, it should not overshadow the need to support underrepresented students who lack resources. The Supreme Court’s decision serves as a wake-up call for colleges and universities to reevaluate their practices.

Setback to Progress for Black Americans and Undermining of Inclusiveness

The Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action is seen as a significant setback to the progress made in securing equal opportunities for Black Americans. It undermines decades of efforts to address the impacts of unequal access to economic and educational opportunities. The decision reflects a larger issue of racial privilege, class divisions, and hostility towards marginalized groups in America. It emboldens supporters of racial backlash and sends a chilling message throughout society. This ruling weakens previous attempts at inclusiveness, starting with the 1978 Bakke decision, and diminishes the achievements of the civil rights era. Coincidentally, this decision comes around the 10-year anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder decision, which also had detrimental effects on racial justice. The Court’s right-leaning shift reflects a larger failure of the Democratic Party to effectively communicate the court’s significance to the American people. However, this could serve as a wake-up call for pro-democracy forces in the country. It highlights the importance of recognizing the threat to democracy posed by extremism and emphasizes the ongoing influence of the Supreme Court.

Alignment with Previous Indications and Limited Duration of Affirmative Action

The recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action aligns with the court’s previous indications that race-based preferences in college admissions would diminish over time. In the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, the court stated that such preferences may no longer be necessary in 25 years. This week’s ruling validates that perspective, as proponents of affirmative action were unable to provide a clear timeline for when race would cease to be a factor in creating diverse student bodies. The court emphasized that colleges’ intentions to conduct periodic reviews implied an indefinite continuation of these practices beyond the 25-year window mentioned in Grutter. The decision is in line with the court’s belief that race-based preferences should have a limited duration. Furthermore, the majority of colleges and universities in the United States do not use race as a factor in admissions, and some populous states have already banned its consideration. While some may perceive this ruling as a significant departure from existing precedent with far-reaching consequences, the reality suggests otherwise.

Historical Pattern of Inequality and Weakening of the Nation

The recent Supreme Court decision gutting affirmative action in college admissions reflects a longstanding pattern in the United States, where laws and policies have perpetuated inequality for Black Americans. It highlights the nation’s failure to fulfill the dream of equality and justice for all. The historical context of President Andrew Johnson’s opposition to equal rights for Black citizens during the Reconstruction era resonates with the court’s ruling on college admissions today. The argument made by the group Students for Fair Admissions, representing Asian students, underscores the complexities of considering race in a holistic review of applicants. However, race is just one of many factors considered in admissions, including legacy status, nationality, talents, economic background, and disabilities, to promote diversity on campuses. Exploiting America’s racial divide, the focus on racism and targeting Black and Latino students became a potent argument for Students for Fair Admissions. This decision further deepens the divide and undermines efforts to address racism. While it may appear as a victory for Asian college students, in the long term, denying the impact of racism weakens the entire nation.

Potential Catalyst for Genuine Affirmative Action

While some headlines may claim that the recent Supreme Court decision marks the “end” of affirmative action, it can be seen as a potential catalyst for genuine affirmative action. For years, universities have employed a system of faux-diversity by categorizing applicants based on race and admitting a similar percentage from each group. However, the majority of students admitted under this system, including Black and Hispanic students, often came from privileged backgrounds. The court’s ruling deems such practices unconstitutional. Nevertheless, universities still have the legal freedom to consider individual disadvantages faced by applicants, such as growing up in low-income families or attending schools with limited advanced-placement courses. Universities can also enhance their efforts to identify talented students, for instance, by partnering with schools in economically disadvantaged areas to improve college readiness. A notable example is California, where voters passed an initiative to end racial preferences in 1996. Subsequently, the University of California embarked on what can be considered genuine affirmative action by implementing outreach programs for talented high school students. As a result, there was a significant increase in the number of black, Hispanic, and low-income applicants. The hope is that universities, in response to this ruling, will engage in the hard work of implementing meaningful affirmative action initiatives.

Conservative Majority Decision and Consequences on Admissions

In a 6-3 decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court sided with Ed Blum’s Students for Fair Admissions, effectively ending affirmative action in college admissions at Harvard, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and federally funded institutions nationwide. In California, where affirmative action was struck down by Proposition 209 in 1996, the consequences were evident in a significant decrease in admissions for Black and Hispanic students, particularly at selective schools within the University of California system. Only in recent years have initiatives like aggressive candidate recruitment started to address this imbalance. A comprehensive study conducted by Berkeley revealed the stark impact on California’s Black and Hispanic college-age population over the past 27 years. Applicants of color, especially Hispanics, earned an average of 5% less than they would have prior to the passage of Proposition 209. Meanwhile, Asian and White applicants saw minimal benefits, with slight increases in admission rates, partly because many of them were accepted to non-UC selective colleges. The focus on Asian American students by White conservative lawyers in their assault on affirmative action obscures larger educational issues, such as the severe underfunding of community colleges, where 4 in 10 Asian American college students, as well as a significant number of working-class, immigrant, and first-generation students, attend. It is a calculated strategy to exploit Asians as a perceived weak link in the coalition of people of color, serving the interests of those seeking to preserve white majorities in positions of power.

Focus on Asians and Exploitation of Perceived Weakness

On Thursday, the US Supreme Court ruled that considering race in college admissions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This decision disregarded the historical context and previous precedents, as noted in Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s dissent. It is expected that this ruling will lead to a continued decline in the representation of Black, Latinx, and Native American students in selective colleges, impacting the diversity of future leaders. However, college leaders should not overreact to this decision. Chief Justice John Roberts clarified that colleges can still consider applicants’ discussions of experiences with racism, and other diversity-related initiatives and programs should not be undermined. It is crucial to protect these policies and programs as opponents are already targeting them at the state and K-12 school levels. The chilling effect observed after the 2003 Grutter vs. Bollinger case, despite upholding race-conscious admissions, should not be repeated. College leaders who value diversity should resist giving opponents the satisfaction they seek.

Ruling’s Disregard of Historical Context and Protection of Diversity Initiatives

President Joe Biden’s statement that the Supreme Court’s decision on ending affirmative action in college admissions should not be the last word reflects the need to continue fighting for equity in higher education. The ruling dealt a significant blow to efforts towards equity, but it should serve as a starting point for reevaluating and reimagining higher education as a whole. The personal experience of witnessing increased diversity at the University of Minnesota demonstrates the benefits of a diverse environment and the positive impact it has had on the author’s education. While race has traditionally been a factor for promoting diversity, other holistic factors such as economic status, parental education, and upbringing should also be considered in admissions processes. However, the lack of enforcement remains a concern, as history has shown that discrimination can persist without clear rules and guidelines. Affirmative action has been an important tool globally to address underrepresentation, and colleges must now work to establish and codify policies that promote equity and reshape higher education to meet the needs of an evolving world.

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