Imagine for me, if you would, the following scenario: you go to an average public high school, take an absurd amount of Advanced Placement classes, attend night classes at a community college, join every club possible, play on two or three sports teams and study your head off for the SAT and ACT. Sound familiar? Of course it does — it’s what many of us went through to get here and, with some modifications, it’s what many of us will go through to get into graduate/law/medical school as well.
Now imagine that you went through all that work only to be passed over by a candidate who,by any objectively measurable standard (lower GPA, lower SAT score, less clubs, etc.), did worse than you and was chosen for the indefinable quality that this person would increase “diversity” whereas you would not. Simply put, you weren’t chosen because you’re the wrong color.
If you think I’m talking about pre-1960s America, you’d be wrong. The principles underlying the situation I’ve just described are currently being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, a case about affirmative action that could have national implications. Such policies should not only be struck down because they are unconstitutional, but also because they are fundamentally unjust.
If it isn’t already abundantly clear, affirmative action is not only both fundamentally unjust and unfair, but also contradicts core American values of equality of opportunity and evaluation based on merit. Rather than being judged based on the content of our character — whether we are paragons of virtue or treacherous renegades — affirmative action reduces part of the evaluation of individuals down to their race. This not only diminishes individual worth and distinction, but is also morally questionable in the zero sum games, such as college admissions and job placement and advancement.
Furthermore, perhaps the strongest arguments against affirmative action schemes and the quota systems that have always accompanied them is that they have been repeatedly ruled to be unconstitutional and actually contradict their intended goals. Multiple cases brought before the high court in the past — including Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and Ricci v. DeStefano — have all determined that the acceptance of less qualified minority candidates for the sake of racial diversity is unconstitutional.
Turns out it isn’t easy to defend giving an unfair advantage to one group under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Finally, perhaps because it is inconvenient to do so, proponents of affirmative action within the University of California repeatedly fail to acknowledge the statistical fact that minority enrollment in UC has gone up since Bakke ended California’s latest experimentation with affirmative action.
Admittedly, Abigail Fisher, the petitioner in the case, doesn’t really have much standing given her own credentials. Nonetheless, if our ideal is to have a country where everyone is judged based on their merit, without regard for race, we must face the basic truth that laws cannot change the hearts of men, especially laws such as affirmative action that pit one demographic against another. While possibly well-intentioned, affirmative action is far from the ideal of “equality” envisioned by our founders and ought to be dismissed as a bizarre, failed experiment that is fundamentally unfair and unjust.
Jeffrey Robin thinks affirmative action is an un-American as speedos.
Rebuttal to the left perspective:
The founding fathers envisioned equality for white, land owning males. This truth is one of the thickest, deepest roots of inequality in the United States today. The Supreme Court has in fact ruled in more than one instance that affirmative action is constitutional. The Bakke & Ricci v. DeStefano case cited by my counterpart upheld the use of affirmative action as a holistic means of increasing diversity in public institutions. What it ruled unconstitutional was the use of quota systems to do so.
While diversity is virtuous in and of itself, and an experience such as life at the university can be made more valuable as a result of diversity, I would stress the role that affirmative action plays in addressing the racial wounds of our society in which gangrene festers today.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.