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.
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: