Affirmative Action is essential for a Diverse America

Higher education in America needs decisive action and yet its very existence is at stake.

On Halloween, the Supreme Court heard opening arguments for two cases that could strike down affirmative action in higher education, Students for Fair Admission Vs. Harvard And Students Fair Admissions v. UNC.

The court’s decision in these two cases could upset 40 years of precedent, as it overturns Roe v. Wade.

In a more recent 2003 case the Court Grutter v. Bollinger The conflict over the role of race in university admissions is resolved.

The University of Michigan’s law-school-admissions policy is constitutional because it is narrowly bound to serve a compelling interest in achieving a diverse student body.

This is what the affirmative action does. It sets the foundation for a more diverse America.

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America has a history of two conflicts. The first is that white men have held positions of power and privilege for so long. Second history is full of variety and opportunity. It is a history of many different people from all walks of life coming together to form the intricate and beautiful backdrop tapestry of today.

Affirmative action can help overcome the consequences of that first history and help bring that second history into America’s future.

But these cases seek to end affirmative action by saying Harvard and UNC’s admissions policies are unconstitutional because they constitute unlawful discrimination based on race.

The first case argues that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The second case alleges that UNC unconstitutionally favors black and Latino students over others in its admissions process, which violates the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the selective denial of rights based on race.

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When universities implement affirmative action policies in their admissions it is not to practice discrimination but to create diverse student bodies that will continue to be leaders in this country.

During oral arguments, Justice Elena Kagan highlighted through a series of questions how important diversity is.

“If you’re a hospital and you serve diverse patients, is it important to you to have diverse physicians? If you are a police department and you serve a diverse community, is having a diverse police force important to you? If you’re a judge and you want to have a diverse clerkship, do you think the judge can’t think? [race] In making clerkship decisions?”

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Universities are conduits to leadership in our society. They will provide the future doctors, police and judges we need. They provide leadership in all sorts of different areas.

The institutions that govern us and help us are not racially diverse if universities are not diverse.

According to the arguments made by Students for Fair Admission, this does not matter.

But it does. To be American is to believe in American pluralism, to understand that our institutions reflect who we are in all our extraordinary diversity.


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