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Race still matters

| Thursday, April 24, 2014

It was with great distaste that I heard the verdict on one of the Supreme Court’s recent rulings. The decision in Schuette v. BAMN, the aforementioned case, concluded that there is no authority in the Constitution of the United States that prohibits the cumulative voter’s determination, in the state of Michigan, to ban the use of race-sensitive policies in respect to admissions, otherwise known as Affirmative Action, into public universities and colleges within the state of Michigan. The upholding of Michigan’s amendment to ban affirmative action gives leeway to the rest of the states to ban affirmative action without fearing its federal unconstitutionality.

Now, I don’t claim to know much about constitutional law, so I will not argue with the court’s decision nor do I wish to pointlessly try to rally any sort of coalition explicitly against the ruling, but I do wish to shed some light on concerns pertaining to this unfortunate ruling.

In the dissent of the ruling authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the associate justices raise the question of why, of all types of holistic judgment taken into account in the admissions process, should race be the only one to be eliminated.

Justice Sotomayor points out, “a citizen who is a University of Michigan alumnus, for instance, can advocate for an admissions policy that considers an applicant’s legacy status … [and the] same options are available to … policies that consider athleticism, geography, area of study, [however], the one and only policy a Michigan citizen may not seek through this long-established process is a race-sensitive admissions policy that considers race in an individualized manner … to achieve diversity.” Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg are trying to point out to the court and their readers that holistic judgment, or qualities to which a numerical value cannot be given such as life experiences, life struggles, and ultimately things that the student cannot control, is taken into account in the admissions process except for the consideration of race.

In other words, a minority student’s decision to be a minority is as defining as a legacy student’s say in where their parents went to school: nonexistent. So why should this near nepotistic practice be allowed and not race-conscious criteria? I fail to see how this isn’t some form of ongoing institutionalized affirmative action where the majority of beneficiaries happen to be ethnic white students.

Additionally, the truth is that generally, though not subject to always, the average white student has a radically different time growing up than the average urban youth of color and affirmative action is the federal government’s way of closing the giant gap between the majority and minority in America. The truth is that as social minorities living in this country our lives are radically different, and we cannot hope to be completely understood by the entire majority. We cannot change, and we will not change these inherent differences, but given them we should be rejoicing in each other’s diversity. Why are we not doing this? Is it perhaps that people seem to be more comfortable in hiding our differences and act like nothing is really wrong?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, “race matters because of persistent racial inequality in society — inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities.” Ignoring the fact that America’s low income and low performing schools are over-enrolled with minority students, high school graduation rates for minorities are tanking and that minority students are still not gaining higher education in higher proportions is worrying. Not acknowledging this is turning a blind eye to injustice and turning a blind eye is living in ignorance.

Chief Justice John Roberts is hesitant to believe such race-sensitive admissions policies are effective. He believes that we live in a society where minorities are not discriminated against anymore and that the affirmative action laws enacted after the civil rights movements are futile, because we’re not living in those times of such (apparent) social inequality. Chief Justice Roberts believes that race-sensitive admissions polices might “do more harm than good.” However, Mr. Chief Justice, do you really think this is the solution? Not giving the opportunity to a huge portion of the minority’s ability to attain a higher education by closing the gaps inherently created by uncontrollable things like race and culture.

Do you think turning a blind eye is the way to go, Mr. Chief Justice? After all, affirmative action is not about allowing less qualified and mentally incapable students into any universities. Affirmative action does not make minorities immune to rejections from universities. It never has and it never will. Affirmative action has never been about allowing the less qualified in, but about giving the students of ethnic minority groups the chance to gain an education that they might never have been able to receive due to impediments created by differences in class and cultural backgrounds.

Do you believe, Mr. Chief Justice, given all the statistics of the horrendous results of some universities that have banned affirmative action policies, that this is the right step for the country? Do you believe minorities are truly equal now?


Cesar Hernandez


Fisher Hall

April 23

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Johnny Whichard

    What part of the Constitution does the recent ruling violate? Last I heard, NOTHING in the Constitution talks about race. With regards to legacies and athletes, etc…I agree with you. But there is NOTHING but racism backing up racially based affirmative action. Skin color shouldn’t matter…and it troubles me that you think it should. Any defender of race-based affirmative action is an inherent racist. They would rather a poor black kid get into college than a poor white kid etc. That logic is inherently racist. Economic status should be the only source of affirmative action. If you want to help those who struggle to get in college, do it through economic status…not based on how a human being physically appears.

    • nah

      Nothing in the Constitution about race? …have you heard of the three-fifths compromise?

      Christ almighty you need to take some history classes.

      • nah

        I mean yes it was rendered moot but to act as though once it was overridden all talk about race became obsolete is just… stunningly ignorant. Racism, at least as it should be used in common parlance, cannot really operate against a majority. There is no structural or institutional “racism” against white people in the United States. The concept of racism is nuanced, and it needs to be discussed with nuance. You can’t run around, like you seem to love to do, screaming that any acknowledgement of race is “racist.” It makes you seem incredibly narrow minded and uneducated. Find a professor to talk to you about this. I am not an educator. But I honestly believe you need one right now. I’m not trying to be rude or dismissive, although it might seem like I am. Don’t just listen to talking points from the right and people who talk about “reverse racism” like it is an actual thing. Open your mind.

        • Johnny Whichard

          It has been moot for generations. Maybe we should still talk about Jewish slaves in Egypt…Way to talk down to me like, captain ad hominem.

          • nah

            Are you denying the existence of institutional and systemic racism in the United States?

          • Johnny Whichard

            I’m saying that the color of one’s skin is no longer a damning barrier to living the American dream. There are poor and disadvantaged people of all colors in this nation. If you think Affirmative Action is a good idea, you should make it based on economic status.

          • nah

            Notable that you didn’t actually answer my question. Your assertion definitely hinges on what sort of barriers you consider “damning,” but it’s pretty subjective. But I don’t know, maybe look into some social science behind America’s racism problem?

            And I think universities should take socioeconomic status into account, as well as race. It is not an either/or proposition.

          • smh

            Johnny, I’m praying for you. You are living in your own world. Hopefully, one day you will wake up.

          • J.

            Yes, we should still talk about Jewish slaves in Egypt. And yes, we should still talk about slaves in the Constitution and in the US. How convenient it must be for you to forget all that as if it never happened and has no effect on the present day. What privilege you have. As if there are no lingering effects. What a way you have of talking down to people, as if your experience completely proves that we live in a post-racial society….

    • K

      Johnny Whichard— wow. at it again…. Have you ever read the Constitution? Remember the part about African slaves

      • Johnny Whichard

        I thought we were talking about the relevant modern and amended Constitution?

  • Matt

    Let’s get something straight, here. You’ve pointed out that poverty is an issue with urban minorities, and nobody is going to argue with that. Why, then, are you not going for the real problem with getting poor urban people in college? Your concern should be economic status, not race. Let’s be real, here–there are A LOT of minority students that get into Ivy League schools that do not face the repressive background that affirmative action is supposed to combat. It would be accurate to say that those students do not need affirmative action’s help if they are already in a healthy economic environment. If you’re so concerned about underprivileged people, then advocate policies that give poor kids a better chance.

    • Errrrr

      Economic status is a huge barrier to getting into good colleges. However, it’s not the “real problem”, as if people only face economic obstacles and never face racial obstacles. Racism still exists in America and is a factor that can’t be ignored. Shoot, it’s happening at your own school; just check out the “I, Too, Am Notre Dame” page (http://itooamnotredame.tumblr.com/). Do you know what challenges minorities go through that white people just don’t face? Who are you to decide whose minority experiences don’t count?

      • stop

        How? Why is it harder for a poor black kid to get into a good college than a poor white kid if they are from identical socioeconomic backgrounds? Are they not allowed to take the same classes as the white student? Are they banned from taking SAT practice tests? I understand that minorities are more likely to face racist comments or attitudes, but please explain how that is directly relevant to the ability of a child to get into college.

  • rogerclegg

    The author wants to use race as a proxy for social disadvantage, which makes no sense because there are many blacks and Latinos who are not disadvantaged and many whites and Asians who are. So the justices on the Court have long rejected this argument. What’s more, the author ignores the many, heavy, and undeniable costs of using racial preferences: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it mismatches African Americans and Latinos with institutions, setting them up for failure; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school and encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership – an untenable legal regime as America becomes an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic society and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic (starting with our president).

    • nah

      How do you define “better qualified?”

  • MB

    For the commentators, If race no longer matters in the college admission process, why does gender? The rates of women entering college is rising, why should we consider gender in the application process?

  • Student

    Are you daft? Women today are where they are thanks to women who benefitted from affirmative action given to them.

    How do you expect to let a people stand up for themselves if you don’t allow the government to provide a form of academic welfare for them to be able to get themselves out of this great inequality.