The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. The case deals with Abigail Fisher, her failure to get into the University of Texas due to affirmative action and the school’s admission policy of considering race as part of the application. It is expected that this case will make a larger decision on the use of affirmative action in general.
A CBS News poll from 2009 shows that 50 percent of the people surveyed support affirmative action, and 41 percent oppose it. It was 55 percent to 39 percent in 1997. It’s understandable that support for affirmative action would waver over time – the program was meant to create equal opportunities, not allow for a permanent advantage or disadvantage to any group or groups. So the question is, has equality of opportunity been created, and if not, will affirmative action ever create it?
I am a senior in high school currently in the middle of college applications, and I hear many people say they “wish they were black so they could get into college more easily.” I find this offensive. With all due respect, these people do not wish they were African-American, they wish they could have all the benefits of being white combined with all the benefits of being a minority. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. If everything was equal among all races, there would be no reason for affirmative action, but sadly it is not.
If affirmative action is as advantageous as people claimed, then the majority of Harvard University graduates and Fortune 500 CEOs would be minorities. The fact that the opposite is true seems to me enough to show that affirmative action is not creating a disadvantage for Caucasians.
So, is affirmative action creating equality? I believe it is. Coming from about 400 years of slavery and 60 years of Jim Crow laws, I think that there would be much more inequality without affirmative action, although it’s difficult to assess its success with nothing to compare it to other than projections.
How long does affirmative action need to stay in place? In terms of schools, I believe it can be replaced right now. A better system would be income-based affirmative action. The income inequality in America has created a situation where people with low income don’t have the same educational opportunities as those with higher incomes, and children can’t control their incomes. Without good primary education, it is much more difficult to get into a college or university. The 2009 CBS poll showed that 80 percent of the people surveyed would support this policy, and only 15 percent would oppose it.
As for employment, which the Fisher v. University of Texas case may not touch, I think affirmative action based on race is still necessary, as studies have shown that with equal resumés, race tends to be a negative factor for employment, most likely due to subconscious prejudice in employers.
I have confidence that schools care more about credentials than race, as schools are more likely to figure that they will be paid no matter who they accept. An employer may not have this same thought process. I could be wrong about this, but I feel the two situations are separate and require separate decisions.
The conservative-leaning Supreme Court is not likely to uphold affirmative action as is, and it is my hope that if they decide to completely strike it down, they would replace it with a system that favored those with low incomes.
Justin Smith is a senior at Williamsville North High School.
If everything was equal among all races, there would be no reason for affirmative action, but sadly it is not.