Fields: Court Should End Affirmative Action



The Supreme Court, which runs from October to June, is our most important seasonal business.

Top on this year’s list for consideration is Fisher v the University of Texas.

It will probably put the final nail in the coffin of using race in  “affirmative action”.

Abigail Fisher was White applicant for the University of Texas who, along with 18,000 other applicants, was rejected for admission to the Lone Star state’s flagship school.

According to her lawyer’s brief, the color of her skin kept her out while academically less qualified students were admitted because of the color of their skin.  She contends this is a violation of the “equal protection” provision of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The last time this came before the Supremes was in Grutter v Bollinger in 2003.  A single vote by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor vote kept race-based affirmative action barely alive.

In 2012, Justice O’Connor is gone and her replacement, Samuel Alito, is a well-known foe of race as a factor in affirmative action.

There is every reason to believe that race-based affirmative action is “dead man walking”.

I won’t be sad to see this once useful tool go by the wayside when there are so many better constitutional tools to give a hand up to people (read minorities) who really could benefit from a hand up.

I thought about this the other night when I was watching a show about Magic Johnson. 

For those of you who do not recognize the name, he is the former LA Laker who contracted HIV but did not let the disease stop him from moving ahead.

After leaving basketball he went into business and is now estimated to be worth $750 million from investments in movie theatres, Starbucks franchises, etc.  He just became a part owner of the L.A. Dodgers…after writing a $50 million check for 3% of the club!

I am sure his kids went to the best private schools around.  I suspect they got all the tutoring they wanted for school and prepping for their SAT exams.  As members of the “lucky sperm club”, they got every advantage a child could imagine. They hardly need a race factor to warrant admission to UCLA, Cal Tech or Berkeley.

In 2013, economics is a much better tool to identify those needing a hand to get the platform that will let them show their talent.

If your Dad is a bank president, you live in Coral Ridge, went to Pinecrest and got 1200 on your reading and math SAT, you probably don’t deserve affirmative action.

If you are from a single parent welfare mom, live in Liberty City, went to gang infested, F-rated school and got 1100 on the same SAT, you most likely deserve help. You’ve got motivation and experience that will enrich the diversity of any college.

Your school’s rating and your economic status, along with your grades and test scores, should go into evaluating admission to top schools.

With minorities more likely to be living in bad neighborhoods, it will bring more people of color into top schools.  And that’s the way it should be.

Some states are using economics to achieve affirmative action. The rest should come aboard.

It would go a long way to achieving Dr. Martin Luther King’s goal of judging people, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

5 Responses to “Fields: Court Should End Affirmative Action”

  1. Sam The Sham says:

    You almost got it right Sam. How about leaving out all criteria except scholarship and aptitude? If you want to go to a public college, merit should be the determining factor.

    For those wanting minorities and lower economic students to go to college, let them set up not for profits to pay scholarships.

  2. Elroy John says:

    @Sam The Sham: “For those wanting minorities and lower economic students to go to college, let them set up not for profits to pay scholarships.”

    Such scholarships already exist. That’s actually isn’t what the article or the suit is about. Why not re-read it and try again?

  3. Plain Language says:

    Affirmative action was required in order to provide equal protection to members of society who remained in poverty because of prejudice. It is one of those rare cases where fire had to be fought with fire.

    As time passes the need for affirmative action will become less necessary. We see the signs of it everywhere. We have Black CEO’s even in the White House and all kinds of professionals. Color is much less of a barrier among today’s youth, not nearly the same as things were during their parent’s or grandparent’s generations.

    Yet it may take a bit more than 50 years of affirmative action to undo, in the case of blacks, 400 years of racial prejudice mindful of the cumulative effect those many years of struggle continue to have on kids today.

    Still affirmative action was always designed to be around so long as it was needed. The courts have increasingly established measurable standards to test whether specific actions are warranted. This is a sound and fair approach. Tying the actions to some need for same; that is the key until such time as no affirmative actions are needed.

    That said it does not help the cause of those who benefit from affirmative action that too often those opportunities are taken for granted. That is a mistake because once the courts say that society has caught up with itself, that’s it. Everyone goes back to competing on the merits and those that didn’t take advantage of the opportunities while they were around will have lost their chance.

    So let’s pull up those pants and read a book. Let’s demonstrate the character Dr. King expected us to display because for certain dusk is falling on the days of affirmative action.

  4. Sam The Sham says:

    Elroy, I read the article right the first time. You are right, these scholarships already exist so why do you feel the need to spend public money on duplicating them?

    As long as affirmative action exists, minorities who have achieved something will be thought of as not deserving it.

  5. Elroy John says:

    @Sam The Sham, I don’t, I was pointing out that you were arguing financing an education whereas the suit and the article were dealing more with the imbalance in the admissions process.

    For the record, I agree with the view that economic status is a more appropriate measure for calibrating admissions criteria as there are bright children of all creeds and colors falling behind simply because they are poor.

    Your argument seems to be based on the idea that we are all operating on an even playing field. I’m unclear as to how you would come to that conclusion when you look at the effect on the numbers that being poor and/or from a minority group has when it comes to incarceration rates, graduation rates, life expectancy, representation at top universities and subsequently c-suite and other top corporate positions, etc, etc.