Should We Still Use “Race” To Get Past “Race”?

A major ruling is coming soon. Will be controversial either way.

A major ruling is coming soon. Will be controversial either way.

I have to admit, I am still not sure which side of this debate I fall on. Honestly, I see the arguments on both sides as having merit.

Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court set the terms for boosting college admissions of African Americans and other minorities, the court may be about to issue a ruling that could restrict universities’ use of race in deciding who is awarded places.
The case before the justices was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white suburban Houston student who asserted she was wrongly rejected by the University of Texas at Austin while minority students with similar grades and test scores were admitted.
The ruling is the only one the court has yet to issue following oral arguments in cases heard in October and November, the opening months of the court’s annual term which lasts until the early summer. A decision might come as early as Monday, before the start of a two-week recess.
As hard as it is to predict when a ruling will be announced, it is more difficult to say how it might change the law. Still, even a small move in the Texas case could mark the beginning of a new chapter limiting college administrators’ discretion in using race in deciding on admissions.

I do believe that there are other criteria, other than “race” that can be used to ensure diverse student populations – family income, high school being located in an impoverished area, first in family to attend college, class ranking regarding of school, etc. Using those factors will naturally lead to minority students in a lot of cases even if ignoring culture or ethnicity. I also believe a middle class or upper middle class hispanic or black student should not necessarily get preference over a white kid who went to poor schools or comes from a poor family.

But I certainly believe it is critical that universities be diverse and reflective of our changing demographics and world. It is critical to our future. So I will be paying close attention to this ruling and what happens in the aftermath. It is a tough question, should we continue to pay attention to color in order to get past color? The answer is not so simple.

Read the rest of the article reference above here.

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8 thoughts on “Should We Still Use “Race” To Get Past “Race”?

  1. ctfranklin28 says:

    This is a really good post and one that I think our country has no definite answer to. Part of it is historical, another part is psychological, another part sociological, and the rest is something else?

    America, as described in the Founding Documents, was founded on the assumption that any individual should have the right to pursue their right to happiness, whatever that may be.

    The problem? Society (at that time and now) was not set up that way.

    So I can entertain the thought that using purely race as a category for accepting someone into a college can be seen as prejudicial.

    However, here are my two cautions with that:

    Psychologically, humans are biased in their thinking, hiring, and recruiting. The reason that affirmative action was put into place was because people were not seeking to diversify their ranks even though potential candidates met the requirements. The only thing that stopped them was something (either race, gender, etc.) Especially with universities, there is a tendency of some schools to only recruit from certain communities, which leads to more of the same. I, therefore, would argue that affirmative action is required. That being the case, implementing affirmative action and equal opportunity policies will be a hard thing to do. How do you make sure a university makes a “reasonable effort” to diversify their ranks? Does using a quote actually help or hurt?

    Sociologically, affirmative actions have both a good and a bad side. On one hand, it helps because the process of equalizing society starts. More people have an opportunity to join in their pursuit of the ‘American Dream” which is what this country is all about. On the other hand, merely saying “You need to get more Black/Hispanic/Asian/name your category people” can backfire. What if there are more candidates for a business, but a quota is reached? Does the organization have the impetus to hire more? The people that are accepted may suffer from jealousy of other people (“You were hired for your race”) and a lack of networking with people of their own category.

    In addition, our society is diverse, but not integrated as it can be for affirmative action to really be effective. Affirmative action policies assume that everyone is just the same and the only criteria that blocks them from opportunity is one category. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Beside all of the above, there is just something wrong with the argument. Why do we need a Supreme Court to tell people to hire people who are otherwise qualified except for a category or that you need to be aware that we live in a multi-faceted and diverse world?

    Well, because we are still in a society in learning.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      Excellent comment my friend. You have captured well why I admittedly am straddling the fence on this one. There are very good arguments on both sides of this issue. I was even thinking, as I posted the piece, that my stance, being somewhat in support of a focus on ethnic or cultural make-up in college admissions, seemed counter to the stated purpose of my blog in the heading, “getting beyond race.” And of course not surprisingly I have been hit with that from some commenters over time, that I focus too much on “race.” But the thing is I agree with what I heard someone say once, that racism is like a disease or illness, and any medical person or scientist will tell you that the only way to come up with a remedy for an illness is to focus on it, to understand it, which is the only way to come up with a medicine that cures it. So I think we have to do the same with this concept of race. We have to dig into it, to root it out. Which is why I write about it in a blog that has the goal of helping people get over it.

      So with college admissions, and jobs in some cases, yes, I agree that to reach the goal of a school or environment that reflects the make-up of our country, or at least acknowledges that some do not have the same chance to succeed or excel, then we have to at least acknowledge ethnic, historical and cultural situations that cause some groups to be less represented. And yet as you say, when does that stop? And how do we also acknowledge that individuals within all groups have certain historical, economic or cultural barriers that they faced?

      It is an interesting and important problem. But one that deserves intelligent, respectful discussion like this one. Thanks for your insight.

  2. ericjbaker says:

    After centuries of institutionalized and systematic oppression against African Americans, it’s just for that same perpetrating government to provide a small measure of educational assistance to the formerly oppressed class. Education is the equalizer, but we’re not there yet. Somehow I doubt the student from Houston can’t go to college at all because of Affirmative Action. Her life isn’t ruined. How about applying to one of the other dozens of universities in Texas? Anyway, people are rejected all the time for a number of reasons.

    Anyone who graduates with high honors in high school will be accepted to a university, regardless of ethnicity, so if people are willing to put the work in during those years, the issue is moot.

  3. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, government jobs are supposed to hire a mixture of people to match the percentage of diversity in the community. Shouldn’t the same reasoning apply to colleges?

  4. Is there a reason that a wealthy country like the US does not enable everyone to go to college? Oh yeah, they need some college age people to feed the military industrial complex and the prisons for profits.

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