Will the Supreme Court Side With Abigail Fisher in Affirmative Action Case?

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Evette Dionne from Clutch Magazine believes that Fisher v. UT is simply based on white privilege. This means that despite policies to promote diversity and equality within post-secondary education, that “white means might”:

You (Fisher) might not be aware of white privilege because it isn’t analyzed in grade school, but it appears subliminally in westernized culture. The errant thought that the University of Texas at Austin is obligated to grant you admission because you were underqualified, white and the spawn of alum is a manifestation of privilege. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an infallible plan.

I agree with Dionne that many view affirmative action as simply a weapon to enforce political correctness, choosing to see it as a mechanism of stripping away the rights of white people. But the courts in California seem to agree with Abigail Fisher.

In April of this year, a Federal judge in California rejected the attempt to lift a ban on preferential treatment based on race in relation to college admissions for the University of California, Proposition 209. The Grutter v. Bollinger decision, along with a drop in admissions of Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans since the proposition was passed, were cited as reason to uphold the ban. One of the issues that is interesting about Proposition 209 is that it does give preferential treatment to military veterans, athletes and children of alumni. Will the Supreme Court decision affect California at all?

From Understandingprejudice.org, the myths that based on population demographics (and common sense) these myths are statistically untrue:

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, there are 2.6 million unemployed Black civilians and 114 million employed White civilians (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2011). Thus, even if every unemployed Black worker in the United States were to displace a White worker, only 2% of Whites would be affected.

In Canada, students (and parents) are not concerned about these precious slots being given to the undeserving Hispanics and Blacks, the concern focuses on Asians. There are no enforced Affirmative-Action-type policies at Canadian universities, but there are provisions made for First Nations / Aboriginal students in the majority of post-secondary schools. In 2010, Macleans Magazine ran an ill-advised article originally entitled, “Too Asian?” but quickly changed to The Enrollment Controversy.  The magazine interviewed a number of white university students who were concerned that ‘Asians’ who excelled academically, avoided beer pongs and promiscuous sex, were ‘taking over,’ which caused some kids to avoid applying to certain, high-ranked universities:

Indeed, Rachel, Alexandra and her brother belong to a growing cohort of student that’s eschewing some big-name schools over perceptions that they’re “too Asian.” It’s a term being used in some U.S. academic circles to describe a phenomenon that’s become such a cause for concern to university admissions officers and high school guidance counsellors that several elite universities to the south have faced scandals in recent years over limiting Asian applicants and keeping the numbers of white students artificially high.

Soo... affirmative action for white people is okay?

I really enjoyed my four years at my alma mater, York University, which is not considered an elite school, but is known for its socially and politically innovative curriculum, extremely culturally diverse student population and its well-respected law school. York is one of the few in Canada that consider the backgrounds of the students, such as single mothers, mature students or people who have not been able to complete their high school studies, and offers special programs which can lead to full-time enrollment. The school is also located north of Toronto and is in walking distance of a very low-income, undesirable neighbourhood.

After my first year, my mother told me about what an acquaintance had said when she told him her daughter was attending York. “Too many immigrants,” the man said, adding that the education given must be sub-par. “Why would she want to go there and be surrounded?” So while Americans might be more forthright with their bigotry, in Canada, we tend to be passive-aggressive. We don’t go in front of our Parliament to demand changes, we just wait until we are asked, and then we openly share how we really feel.

The reality is that even in a democratic society, there are social and racial injustices that will always hinder some from educational and employment opportunities. While it would be easy to position Fisher as a privileged, whiny brat who didn’t get her own way, this case goes much deeper than one woman’s experience. Based on the race-tinged, fear-mongering tactics used in both the 2008 and 2012 American presidential election, the politics of race are widespread in society.

The Supreme Court is not expected to announce a decision on this case until early 2013. But in a few weeks, Americans will go to the polls to pick the next President of the United States, who will be responsible for -- among other things-- appointing justices to the Supreme Court. Will voters be thinking about affirmative action as they head to the polls?


Laina Dawes, Race & Ethnicity Section

Website: Writing is Fighting

My Book (Out this Fall): What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal

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