Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Supreme Court: Affirmative Action Returns

In 2003, the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative-action policy was upheld by the Supreme Court. Immediately afterwards, a referendum campaign against the policy in higher education was launched, overwhelmingly approved in 2006, and finally amended in the state constitution of Michigan. As a result, minority enrollment dropped staggeringly low, fueling a federal appeal that ultimately ruled that the referendum itself was discriminatory. On October 15th, the Supreme Court will once again face the issue of affirmative-action but will instead focus on whether voters can ban such programs through a referendum.

 Introduced in the early 1960's, affirmative action was used to combat racial discrimination in the hiring process by giving establishments of education and employment a quota of diversity to uphold and maintain. In a place like Michigan, which is predominantly white— such quotas are helpful in ensuring that minorities are fairly represented. Though the article itself addressed the referendum being constitutional, what must first be discussed is why affirmative action is necessary in the first place.

While reading through a number of people’s opinions, I became acutely aware, once again, of how countless opponents (largely white Americans) view the policy. They believe that through it, they themselves are being discriminated against because, "college admissions should not be determined by skin color". Or that, "I worked hardest, so I should be allowed into the college". 

And by that comment alone, we are able to observe the privilege that minorities just don't have.

See, the goal of affirmative action is not to refuse people on account of race. The idea is to balance the weaknesses in earlier stages of the system that are systemic rather than a deficiency on the part of the student. Minority populations have lower average incomes and are often in school districts with tax bases that are correspondingly weaker. The schools, therefore, have fewer resources and that makes it difficult for a student in that district to assemble a competitive application for a university.

Affirmative action attempts to rectify this by including race as a factor in admissions to try and identify able students who could succeed at the university but would otherwise never be given the chance.

Affirmative action is flawed, but until the educational system can be repaired at its very source, it is the best way to ensure a fair representation. A ruling that the 2006 referendum was unconstitutional would make great progress in returning that same representation or even fueling efforts to make a more efficient system.

The idea is to try to balance at the collegiate level weaknesses in earlier stages of education that are systemic rather than a deficiency on the part of the student.
Additionally, at the college level this sort of intervention is almost too late. The problem is occuring early in the educational system and involves poor distribution of resources and opportunities in primary and secondary education. If those disparities can be addressed, then affirmative action should become unnecessary.

No comments:

Post a Comment