Affirmative Action is necessary and Fisher v. University of Texas proved why

On June 23rd, 2016 the Supreme Court of The United States literally threw out Abigail Fisher’s a young Caucasian woman’s argument that she was rejected from the University of Texas due to her race and ethnicity under affirmative action.

Now, before we get into the this subject. We need an understanding of what affirmative action is. A common misconception of affirmative action is that “it makes it easier for minority students to get into college programs compared to their white-counterparts’. Being a student of color, I have heard this argument multiple times. Affirmative action is not a policy that states “you must x amount of students of each ethnicity” it is a well-designed process that attempts to close the racial-gap that still exists in America until this day. The process first involves reaching out to underrepresented groups at schools in attempts to get them to apply, and once accepted-offering financial assistance and educational assistance such as (EOF-educational opportunity fund) in order to increase educational success. The whole point of the policy is to endorse diversity in the student body since many minorities have been underrepresented in higher education until affirmative action was put in place. Diversity is an important aspect of any educational institution especially since the population of America in generally is a melting-pot.

Here’s a short video to explain affirmative action more: Affirmative Action

Why do we need this policy? America has a long history of racial, social and economic oppression. Due to this, students of lower socioeconomic status have less resources to receive higher education. And who falls under these brackets? Typically minorities. Now this does not automatically “discriminate” against Caucasians since anyone can qualify for need-based assistance (such as EOF) when attaining higher education – affirmative action is just an extra step that attempts to close the gap and allow minorities to be able to have the same opportunities as well. Having this policy in place ensures social equity which is defined as having equal access to social goods and services. Equality is good but it does not take into account all of the years of oppression many minorities have faced in this country, having programs that ensure equity do.

weaving-social-equity-into-the-urban-planning-process-8-638

Arguments against affirmative action: Of course policies such as these are going to be faced with some critics. People who are against affirmative action typically do not understand what it is all about. Arguments tend to have similar themes that affirmative action promotes discrimination when in-fact the whole point of the policy is to prevent discriminatory practices from happening. In the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas, Abigail Fisher laid out a story of how she was victimized by this system. She claimed that this policy discriminated against her and ultimately led to her denial from the university. Fisher claimed that the policy was in violation of the Fourteenth admendment along with the Equal Protection Clause. This is not the first time a case like this has worked it’s way up the courts. There has been other cases that fought against the ‘quotas’ in affirmative action which was proven to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has agreed multiple times though that affirmative action is constitutional as long as it does NOT have quotas, promotes diversity in education and the workplace AND that it’s use is limited. In the case of Fischer v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court Justices ruled 4-3 agaisnt Fisher. Their explanation? The justices explained that educational diversity is important and school’s may have such policies – as long as it is not a quota – to build a diverse body of students that has a concrete and precise goal focused on diversity.

Why is this important to social workers? One of social workers main values in our Code of Ethics is social justice. It is part of our responsibility to fight against policies that further oppress vulnerable individuals. Making sure that affirmative action is protected in the future is something all social workers should fight for. Having this policy in place assists students of disadvantage backgrounds get higher education – many of which we will come across in our work. Making sure our clients have equal access to resources such as education is an important right that every person in the United States should have as an opportunity. It is up to us – and other professions – to make sure that it continues.

For more information on affirmative action and Fisher v The University of Texas please see the following links:

CNN Supreme Court decision

Fisher v University of Texas

Fast Facts on Affirmative Action

Supreme Court Decision

ACLU – Who Supports Affirmative Action

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8 thoughts on “Affirmative Action is necessary and Fisher v. University of Texas proved why

  1. Affirmative action is an interesting policy because people who are generally against it seem to believe that it is simultaneously giving advantages to one group while take benefits away from another. Thanks for breaking it down and showing that that is not what it’s about.

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  2. Thank you for this brilliant breakdown of Affirmative Action, and its dire importance today! It is surprising (but also not surprising at all) how quickly our long history of racial injustice is forgotten and white people cry discrimination.

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  3. This was a great read. I think you did such a good job explaining why Affirmative Action is important and why it’s not what many people make it out to be (discriminating against whites to be fair towards minorities). I loved the equality vs equity picture too. I remember seeing it somewhere but it fit so well in this piece.
    As a minority, I was completely baffled by this case and it just made no sense to me. And to blame it on race?… For your (Fisher’s) academic shortcomings? Ridiculous.

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  4. Ashley, in short my response is simply YAS. I really appreciate how you broke down what affirmative action is…and is not. I think there are a lot of misconceptions that exist and you do a really excellent job breaking it down. You wrote eloquently about it, you shared a great video and a wonderful image. I think it’s important to share information in a number of ways and you totally nail this. Excellent blog!

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  5. Thanks for a great blog post with videos and external resources so I could learn more about this issue! I agree with a lot of other comments that affirmative action is woefully misunderstood and people usually interpret it as a direct threat to themselves. I often take for granted the great social work/social justice spaces I am in and forget that as a social worker I need to be educating people beyond my political bubble about the importance of affirmative action (and so many other issues!!). I think people look at affirmative action like immigration–“they are taking X away from me”. People don’t see that there are enough seats at the table if we distribute resources equitably.

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  6. Thank you for this well written post, Ashley! I think Affirmative Action is a very interesting topic that should continue to be discussed. Personally, I think it is a double edged sword. I believe that there should be equal opportunity for all races, sexes, etc. However, I can understand why people feel like reverse discrimination happens because of it, thus making it a complex issue. If I’m up against a male for a position, I don’t want to get hired just so that they can meet a quota, especially if he is more qualified. I don’t see how that is fair. I don’t think that everyone who opposes affirmative action is racist or sexist–I just think they want to ensure that they are not accepted or rejected based on race or sex. Just to clarify, I am not discounting the need for equal opportunity–just throwing in another perspective. Your post inspired me to examine this issue further, so thank you! Sorry for the lengthy response.

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  7. Ashley, I appreciate the structure of your argument. It was both logical (your reasoning) and engaging (your personal voice). I personally agree that diversity is beneficial to U.S. societies because it has the potential to inform through basic symbolic interactionism. Such exchanges may diminish (albeit gradually) the miscommunication between populations which has arguably been caused by implicit segregation and media authoritativeness. However, I do wonder if affirmative action is beneficial temporarily or permanently.

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