On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas in a 5-3 decision.
The decision was not only important in that it upheld the use of affirmative action in narrowly tailored cases, but also because it marked a potential turning point in Justice Kennedy’s generally prevailing belief in a color-blind constitution.
The petitioner in the case Fisher v. University of Texas, Abigail Fisher, alleged that because she was white she had been put at an unfair disadvantage in terms of admission into the school, and that had she been a minority student she would have been accepted into the university.
The University later disproved her contention, explaining that using their system, which awards applicants points based on their race/ethnicity, had Fisher been a student of color, her grades and test scores would not have been strong enough to gain her admission.
Whether her race played a major role in her admission, or not, the Supreme Court’s ruling has allowed for the continued use of narrowly tailored affirmative action programs, and has acknowledged the importance of diversity for the purpose of education to prevail.
Those who critique affirmative action, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, complain that it is reverse-discrimination. They ask the question: why should anyone be disadvantaged or advantaged because of the color of their skin?
While that is, indeed, a compelling question, the problem remains that people who oppose affirmative action are typically only concerned with racial equality at the very end of the process.
Critics want everyone to turn a blind-eye to institutional racism, poverty, and the countless other obstacles faced by people of color in the United States and only focus on the possibility that a white applicant of equal academic standing might lose out to a black student.
In truth, we need affirmative action because taking a chance on a student of color who’s successfully endured life’s myriad hurdles and made it out on the other end, is worth it.
We aren’t admitting idiots to our top-universities, we are admitting brilliant, diverse, and incredibly driven young minds to our college campuses, and that is a good thing.
Affirmative action, in a way that looks holistically at an individual and what they’ve gone through to get where they are, just makes sense.
A color blind society is a society that ignores what we’ve been through as a country and the legacy that history leaves behind. This decision marks an acknowledgement of that, and renders a small, but necessary, win for justice.