Chief Justice John Roberts has famously noted “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”. In accordance to with logic, the Supreme Court provided us with a controversial decision on April 22nd. In a 6-to-2 ruling, the Court upheld an amendment in Michigan’s State Constitution that banned affirmative action when it came to its public university admissions.
It is easy to condemn this decision as cruel and racist. It is easy to say that it will deny many Hispanics or African Americans the opportunity to see the classrooms of higher education. And all of that is probably, and sadly, true.
But it misses the point. The reason why affirmative action is there in the first place is to ensure racial diversity in universities. A problem which it obviously and easily solves.
Racial diversity, however, is nothing but a buzzword for universities to use on their leaflets. It doesn’t mean much unless accompanied by other buzzwords, such as acceptance and respect. Words that have a real meaning to real people who struggle with racial discrimination every day. Affirmative action may get them through the door but it doesn’t make the indoors much friendlier.
Those admitted because of their race are looked down upon and considered unworthy of attending. They have to prove themselves on a daily basis, even if they didn’t need their respective quota to grant them
admission. This hinders the organic process of integration; it stigmatizes and divides. It gives the “criminally white” a good excuse to bully or dismiss minorities.
More importantly, it defines racial identity as a criterion for intelligence or worth. When people are split into quotas according to their skin colour and those falling on the darker end of the spectrum are given an easier time, the message isn’t that of equality. It tells, both them and everyone else, that they need special treatment; they need to be propped up in order to achieve what the racial majority is achieving without any help. It entertains and perpetuates the idea that race is somehow linked to your skill set. Splitting up a country into blocs and treating them with respect to their race sounds a lot like what the Civil War fought to end.
We need a new approach regarding race sensitivity. This isn’t the 1950s anymore. There are people of all races in the US who are massively accomplished. Just look at Sonia Sotomayor, the Hispanic Justice in the Supreme Court. What we need is more of these people, whose success acts as proof that your race doesn’t matter.
Things may be much better for the average person as well, but the lingering thought in the back of the “majority’s” head is still there. The image of a “Consuela” or a “Cleveland” that Seth McFarlane depicted is the little thing that causes big problems for racial minorities in the US. Simply put, minorities need a fair playing field to prove their being equal, not an unfair advantage that makes their background seem more important than their actual abilities and work.
At the end of the day, if racial minorities don’t have the SAT scores of other student, that doesn’t speak of their falling behind but of a failing public school system. A system that isn’t capable of giving its all of its pupils the means to enter higher education.
In my opinion, in a country where ethnic minorities are as common and populous as the US, affirmative action is an out-dated measure. A measure that now hinders progress since it promotes the notion that minorities need special treatment, when what they need is to be rid of labels.