"You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair." - Lyndon Johnson, 1965.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case many court watchers believe may end of affirmative action in higher education. Victor Goode wrote a great article detailing the origin of affirmative action and the subsequent court cases that have slowly eroded its power. Julianne Hing wrote an equally thorough and well-researched article explaining how those who seek to preserve affirmative action are no longer able to use the equity argument to defend it in court. They must now rely on the argument that being part of a diverse student body benefits all students, and even that argument is becoming less and less admissible. As both writers noted, affirmative action has been under attack for a long time, but this time it seems to be on its last legs, and the Supreme Court may be perched to deal the final death blow. These latest threats to affirmative action inspired a flurry of comments from readers of Colorlines.com. Here's what you had to say.
During the turbulent times of the civil rights movement MLK brought the attention needed but it was Johnson that used his influence & legislative pull in congress to pass these long overdue laws.
Kirsten Kim Loutzenhiser:
I don't look forward to the watering down or the destruction of affirmative action. I believe that positive steps related to social justice and equity are critical, and that many of the steps are little understood. I think we need a long and thoughtful discussion. While I would like to see decisions from the Supreme Court be without political or religious influence, my thoughts and prayers will be on this hearing.
What is the point of affirmative action if those who receive it cannot compete with the other students and ending up dropping out of school? I think minority students need to realize what is required to compete successfully at the top colleges and prepare accordingly. The days of race based affirmative action may be over.
I think people forget who has been the benefactor of affirmative action: white women. And in my opinion affirmative action doesn't mean putting a person of color in place. It means putting a person of color in place who is qualified. Why do people think Black unemployment is so high? It's certainly not because we are unqualified, it has everything to do with tribalism.
From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of White students fell from 83 percent to 61 percent. One could possibly blame that decline in enrollment on Affirmative Action, but of course it's more complex than that. Because another interesting statistic is that white people, as a population, are older - almost 10 years older than Black and Latino folks. This was in 2001, and the disparity may be greater now when we consider the disproportionate numbers of people of color killed by law enforcement, in prison, due to unequal healthcare, and disproportionate military recruitment.
How can they possibly even consider this case without looking at the wider ramifications of the law, as opposed to one particular university's policies and enrollment? Affirmative action hasn't shown any significant increase in employment numbers (last I checked, black unemployment was double that of white folks), or college attendance amongst people of color (this number has increased, but can we say it's because of affirmative action? Not really).
That sucks, for many people it's their way out of the hood.