Why Affirmative Action Is Still Needed for African Americans in College Admissions


(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Affirmative action in college admissions for African Americans has been losing support in the United States for some time, with new “colorblind” methods of ending gaining ground in the courts. In this powerful defense of affirmative action, Richard Rothstein explains why pretending color doesn’t matter doesn’t actually work and why it is unfair. Rothstein is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. He is also senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law, and he is the author of books including  “Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right,  and “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap.” He was a national education writer for The New York Times as well.  This first appeared in the American Prospect.

By Richard Rothstein

Chief Justice John Roberts says that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In university admissions, this means becoming “colorblind,” taking no affirmative action to favor African Americans. Apparently intimidated by Roberts’s Supreme Court plurality, many university officials, liberals, and civil-rights advocates have exchanged their former support of affirmative action for policies that appear closer to Roberts’s.

In effect, these newer plans say that the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to pretend colorblindness but devise subterfuges to favor African Americans. One approach is to favor low-income students regardless of race. Another adopts the Supreme Court’s embrace of diversity as educationally beneficial, prompting universities to enroll disadvantaged minority students for this purpose while making no obvious attempt to remedy historic wrongs. Some persuade themselves that these are the best possible policies.

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Source: Washington Post | Richard Rothstein

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