Should the color of your skin get you admission into college? Supreme Court to decide
Michigan amendment is before Supreme Court today.
The Supreme Court is hearing a case on whether or not a state can ban affirmative action. In 2006, Michigan banned affirmative action, a move that many say violates the Federal Constitution. Now that case has reached the Supreme Court.
Now, just five decades removed from segregation, still a virtual reality in many places, blacks continue to struggle in a society that has otherwise become more diverse.
While minorities make up larger proportions of enrollees at institutions of higher learning, the predominant proportion of graduates remain white. Blacks enter these institutions at lower numbers per capita than whites.
So shouldn't affirmative action fix this?
Ideally, yes. Affirmative action would ensure that admissions reflect a cross section of society, giving blacks the same proportionate opportunity as whites. Many have decried this as a new form of racism, pointing to highly qualified whites that have been denied opportunity so universities can meet their quotas for minorities.
A new generation of advocates have called for merit-based admission only that doesn't regard race. In Michigan this approach was enshrined in the state constitution, setting the stage for a legal battle.
Last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down, Proposal 2, Michigan's constitutional amendment banning affirmative action, saying it created an undue burden for blacks that did not exist for other groups.
If the Supreme Court agrees, it would reinstate affirmative action in Michigan, giving opportunities to black students who need them, but denying opportunities to others who have earned them, on the basis on race.
Affirmative action proponents say that the current enrollment of blacks in Michigan colleges and universities proves that without affirmative action, blacks will only fall farther behind. Colleges also want a certain diversity for their students. By promoting ethnic diversity amongst students, graduates are better prepared to face a world of many cultures brought closer together by globalization.
Yet, it's difficult to argue with merit. When someone earns the privilege to attend college by means of hard work and learning, justice demands that they should not be denied.
The real solution lies in tackling the underlying problems of poverty, lingering segregation, and the various differences that result in disproportionately lower numbers of blacks attending college. The approach to the problem is naturally complex and may involve some level of change to admissions policies.
What happens ultimately will be partly decided by the Supreme Court, and mostly by what we choose to do as a society. If we agree that racial issues still divide our nation and stifle opportunity, and that this issue must be addressed, then we will find a way or make a way to fix the problem. However, the problem will need intense effort on the part of all stakeholders, and possibly another 50 years or more to resolve. In the meantime, there's affirmative action, for better or worse, but only if the high court agrees.
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