Do We Really Understand Affirmative Action?

University of Cincinnati students rally for affirmative action. (Mike Simmons/Getty Images)
University of Cincinnati students rally for affirmative action. (Mike Simmons/Getty Images)

Writing at the Huffington Post, Dr. Gail Christopher discusses what the Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court case truly implies for students of color in America.

Before the court recesses at the end of June, it will issue a decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. At immediate stake in the case is the university's policy of considering race as one factor among many in its admissions. Even with the policy, the school's student body is not representative of the state's high school graduates. Striking it down would further harm efforts to create diversity in Texas' flagship public university.

If the university prevails, it will be partly a result of the court's recognition of the compelling educational benefits that all students receive when they are part of a diverse student body. These benefits are undeniable and well-documented. For example, when students from different walks of life come together in the classroom, they are able to challenge each other to think critically about their own worldviews.

But a focus on the educational benefits of diversity puts aside the fact that students of color still confront, and must overcome, hidden racial biases in order to succeed in school and in life. That's why a deeper understanding about racism is necessary. As Ronald Brownstein so capably emphasized in a recent National Journal story, the state of race in America has changed dramatically since the last time the Supreme Court considered the issue of affirmative action.

Racial bias can manifest itself in far more subtle ways today, and sometimes in far more overt ways. This past week, we have witnessed the racist reactions to a simple television commercial that leads with a child of an interracial relationship, and shows both parents. The flood of racist comments to the YouTube page led General Mills to remove the comments section for that video.


Read Dr. Gail Christopher's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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