Affirmative action remains one hot potato

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If an issue at hand has anything to do with a political campaign – job selection, political appointment, court decisions, police action, etc. – the vast majority of candidates are prone to say whatever best serves their personal agenda.

After all, speaking the truth about race has the potential to jeopardize jobs, careers, and even families. One wrong word on public record, and quick as tomorrow’s headline, you’re a beer-swilling, skinhead “racist.”

These days, I suppose we could say that discussing race is so sensitive it is metaphorically akin to holding a hot potato: You’d better handle with care or you’ll get burned.

So, realizing the potential heat, I’m going to do my best to handle with care the subject of racial diversity, which not only is headline news but has managed to become culturally voguish.

Of current interest is a case involving affirmative action and admissions policies at the University of Texas at Austin. On Wednesday, the case was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiff Abigail Fisher, who is white, applied to the university and was denied admission.

Fisher filed suit, alleging that the university had discriminated against her on the basis of her ethnicity, in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Lawyers for the University of Texas at Austin argue that, like many other institutions, it seeks to assemble a student body that is diverse in innumerable ways, including race.

Still, there is the 2003 landmark case of Grutter v. Bollinger.

Barbara Grutter, who is white, applied for admission to the University of Michigan Law School, and she was denied.

Grutter, a Michigan resident with a 3.8 grade point average, scored a 161 on the law school admission test. Later, she found out that black students with lower GPAs and scores had been admitted ahead of her.

Grutter filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan and Lee Bollinger, who served as president of the school at the time.

The Supreme Court upheld the affirmative actions of the University of Michigan Law School, stating, that the institution had a compelling interest in promoting class diversity.

“The policy aspires to achieve that diversity, which has the potential to enrich everyone’s education, and thus make a law school (University of Michigan) class stronger than the sum of its parts,” wrote Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, who authored the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision.

I won’t be foolish enough to attempt to argue the findings of the Supreme Court, a collection of our nation’s best legal minds. However, I will venture out and recall my younger days in an attempt to establish what I feel is an obvious contradiction with so-called racial diversity.

Back in the day, whether it was basketball or football, the best talent available were the ones who made the teams. Oh, sure, politics and favoritism came into play from time to time, but not all that often. And while on the subject of sports.

Here’s a thought I’d like to toss at administrative decision-makers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan: African-Americans make up approximately 80 percent of the football and basketball rosters at both these prestigious universities. Caucasian students constitute nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population. From an angle of statistical racial diversity, the numbers are way off.

I reckon what would happen if someone at either of these universities publicly stated, for the sake of racial diversity, both institutions needed to add more white students to the football and basketball rosters?

A plausible rebuttal could be that black students tend to be better at football and basketball than do whites; therefore the rosters are justified.

My closing question is: If racial diversity is required in one area, then why not all aspects of education?

What say you, Supreme Court justices?
Read more from:
Abigail Fisher, Affirmative Action, Education, History, Politics, Race, Supreme Court, Voices
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Members Opinions:
October 14, 2012 at 8:53am
Affirmative action today seems to be another way of saying "handicapped". At the time it was implemented it was needed.It was intended to level the playing field for Blacks. Given the opportunities available to everyone today and the fact that immigrants are not generally included in affirmative action,it is time to throw away the crutches.
October 15, 2012 at 1:48pm
Extremely brave article by writer Vinson. Most times, when a white defends what could be reverse discrimination he is automatically attacked for being a racist. But in this case Vinson put his thoughts together so well, hedidn't give attackers any chance to attack. I agree, if the University of Michigan law school can bump a white student with superior scores and allow in a black student with lesser scores, then why can't the university bump a black player from the football or basketball team for the sake of racial diversity? Very Strong article!
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