Supreme Court takes new look at race priority
Affirmative action — where race is used in hiring and admissions to colleges — has been a hot-button issue in America for decades, and the U.S. Supreme Court has looked at whether it is constitutional or not a number of times over the years.
It will do so again Wednesday, and there is speculation the court may change its past rulings supporting the practice.
Affirmative action is an outcome of the civil rights era where injustices against minorities, especially blacks, over the years were brought to the attention of Americans and attempts were instituted to provide a more “level playing field” for minorities.
One way this was done was to provide preferences for minorities in hiring and admissions so there would be more representation of minorities at all levels of society. It was controversial from the start because many whites felt it “unleveled” the system for them, preventing them from getting jobs and being admitted to colleges that they were otherwise qualified for.
That feeling has not diminished, and the Supreme Court will now consider an admissions case from the University of Texas from a white student who says she was not admitted because of the college's racial preference policies.
The question is whether in our more diverse society of today these artificial preferences are still needed.
Opponents of affirmative action say no because there are other ways to achieve racial diversity. A number of states, including Arizona, have banned racial preferences in admissions. A recent study of these states found that alternatives were working.
But supporters of the policy say it is still needed and the study supporting alternatives is flawed. The only way to achieve diversity, they say, is through affirmative action.
There is no doubt the practice has worked. We have much more diversity in workplaces and society in general. Our own president received a high-quality education in part due to the practice, although his own intelligence and innate talents are what allowed him to stay.
Affirmative action was never intended to be a permanent policy. It was intended as a bridge to a society that was more equal and diverse on its own without encouragement.
Have we now reached that point? The Supreme Court could give us its answer soon.