“I’m hoping that . . . everyone will be able to get into any school that they want no matter what race they are but solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it,” Said Abigail Fisher, a 22 year old white female student who recently applied for admission at the University of Texas (The Times)
Abigail Fisher and her attorney, Bert Rein (The Times)
October 2012 began Fisher v. University of Texas, a recent supreme court case that will re-examine the 2003 case (Grutter v. Bollinger) on Affirmative Action in education. Abigail Fisher, a white female student from Texas, filed a suit against the University of Texas for discriminatory policies ingrained in their race-based admission approach. The University decides admission decision first on merit, awarding the top 10% of Texas high school graduates automatic admission to the college, then considering a wide variety of factors from extracurricular activities to the essays applicants submit – and since 2005, race.
Fisher’s argument holds true to an increasingly popular belief that the United States is currently in a post-racial society, where race is no longer a factor in economic status, education level, social norms, and other social-political aspects. Therefore, policies like affirmative action would constitute what Fisher, amongst others, call Reverse Racism, where policies that “favor” minorities ultimately discriminate against white individuals.
What exactly are the policies that the University uses that Fisher claims to be discriminatory?
“Race is only one modest factor among many others weighed . . . and admissions officers do not know an applicant’s race when they decide (who) to admit,” the university’s court brief reads.(The Times) After the acceptance of the top 10 percent of Texas high school students, admission officers then look at a variety of other factors including essays, extracurricular activities, interviews, and others to determine acceptance. It is not until they decide which applicants are qualified for enrollment when they consider race as an additional factor.
However, affirmative action, while traditionally thought of as a purely race-based policy, is aimed to help additional target groups including those with disabilities,LGBTQ students, and women. In fact, recent studies have discovered that white women are actually the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action policies; nearly 6 million women are in higher-level occupations than before (North Carolina State University). Even with affirmative action policies, students of color are disproportionately under-represented in the college atmosphere.
This figure represents the percentage of people of color with bachelors degrees, masters degrees, or Ph.Ds in 2009-2010 (Catalyst). Compared to the 36% of the U.S. populations that people of color account for, minority races are significantly under-represented in higher level education, Blacks and Latinos being the most disproportionate. (Hartford Guardian)
Likewise, minorities are under-represented in the labor force, white men holding 90% of the top jobs in media, 96% of CEO positions, and 86% law firm partnerships. (Catalyst)
So if there still exists an inherently unequal distribution of education and wealth, and white women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, will the Reverse Racism argument hold in court? What do you think?