American Education and the Fate of Affirmative Action

By Sophia Weinberg

The Supreme Court is making a decision on the use of Affirmative Action in higher education. It will likely be banned, as conservatives are known to dislike it and out of the nine Supreme Court judges, six are right-leaning. American Civil Liberties Union defines Affirmative Action in higher education as a “race-conscious policy, aimed to address racial discrimination by recognizing and responding to the structural barriers that have denied underrepresented students access to higher education.” The policy is intended to help schools create a diverse student body and equitable application process.  Affirmative Action is not the perfect solution to an imperfect system, however, the Supreme Court justices are about to ban the policy for the wrong reason: their intention is to undermine the system meant to support and provide equity for students of color, rather than fix the systematic racism that creates a need for the policy in the first place. 

Many Americans believe the policy gives an unfair advantage to minority groups, specifically African Americans and Latino Americans. Universities often want to meet a certain racial quota, meaning they want a specific number of students per race to have a diverse campus. 

Kylie Frame is a Tam alumni and attends Vanderbilt University, which actively practices Affirmative Action, and sees her university community as much more diverse. “ Everyone has a different perspective depending on their background, it has helped me challenge myself both in and out of the classroom and develop my own individuality. If I had been stuck in the bubble of Mill Valley, where everyone thinks the same, I would never be able to learn to my full potential,” Frame said. 

History’s racial barriers, such as the segregation of schools, have had lasting effects and there are still many racial barriers in today’s society and how it interacts with the nation’s education systems. The only way to get rid of the institutionalized inequity in this system is to integrate underrepresented minorities into America’s higher education so that they may resolve these barriers as they break them.

According to Brookings Education, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family. A family with less money has less access to private resources like books, tutors, and better-funded public schools that exist in wealthier areas. 

If the conservative-majority Supreme Court follows through on its intentions to ban the policy, Black and Latino student enrollment at top universities will drop at extreme rates because they will be competing with students who have had years of advantages and more access to resources. In 1998, California public schools banned affirmative action and the results prove why the policy should not be banned nationwide. A document brief that was shared with the Supreme Court said that since the ballot went into effect, freshmen minority groups dropped by 50 percent or higher at the University of California’s most selective campuses. 

A notable argument against Affirmative Action is that top colleges seem to appear harsher and more selective with Asian applicants. The central reasoning for this is that colleges are required to maintain a diverse student body and they receive numerous qualified Asian applicants, a reality that is supported by their SAT scores and academic qualifications. Asian Americans score the highest average SAT score when scores are disaggregated by race. Although they score the highest, they have comparatively the lowest acceptance rate at competitive colleges, simply because there is a larger pool of highly qualified Asian Americans, and universities want to prevent a single race from representing their entire student body. 

While this is true for white applicants as well, the argument that Affirmative Action is unfair to Asian American applicants differs from the argument that it is unfair to white students. This is because Asian American academic success is often not the product of years of racial privilege. Violence and discrimination against Asians has grown exponentially and they do not share any of the racial privileges that white Americans have. 

The Lawsuit against Harvard University for its discriminatory policies on admitting Asian Americans is a case the Supreme Court is likely to weigh in its final decision. The lawsuit emphasizes the frustrations of Asian American students, who feel they are discriminated against in the college admissions process. The Supreme Court has been dominated by conservative judges, who have shown they will absolutely make nationally impactful decisions according to their own personal values, exemplified in their overturn of Roe V. Wade. 

In 2006, Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed an anti-abortion newspaper ad titled, “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe V. Wade.” This shows a clear bias towards the subject and the fact that she was not excluded from the decision proves that the Supreme Court will make national decisions based on their personal beliefs. 

These judges have never once shown support toward Asian Americans. 

Barrett, the same justice who exemplified acts of bias in the Roe V. Wade case, was accused of racially profiling Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

“She has demonstrated that she supports the racial profiling of Asian American and Pacific Islander women based on nothing more than disproven stereotypes about our communities,” National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow issued at an annual convention.

 The Supreme Court is using Asian Americans’ struggles as an excuse to further its agenda of keeping white privilege alive in the education system. Three of the Supreme Court justices were appointed by former President Donald Trump, and share many of the same values that ultimately discriminate against people of color. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has verbally condemned former laws that prohibited Chinese immigration to the United States. But if so many of the conservative Supreme Court justices have openly supported policies that discriminate against Asian Americans, why would they suddenly defend Asian students against education discrimination? What makes the justices think that discrimination against Asian Americans is okay in any other circumstance, but unacceptable when it comes to college? 

The answer to this is that the discrimination Asian Americans may experience in college acceptance gives the justices a reason to ban the policy without having to blatantly say they want white privilege in education to still exist. 

The belief of many Americans is that a person should only be judged by their content, not their skin color, which is why people are so inclined to ban universities from looking at race. In a perfect country, people would only be judged by their qualities, not by their appearance, however, America is not there yet. The United States does not give equal opportunities to all races and was founded upon systems that give advantages to people based on skin color. 

Affirmative Action should be banned, but only once America’s systematic racism is no longer prevalent in society. In order to reach this point in society, we need policies like Affirmative Action as a safeguard against already existent systematic racism.