Will the Supreme Court strike down affirmative action?

By Nick Nehamas

Abigail Fisher claims she didn’t get into the University of Texas at Austin because of her skin color. Fisher’s lawyers argue the school violated her constitutional rights by taking race into account when it denied her admission.

“There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” Fisher says in a YouTube video. “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me.”

Fisher has pale skin and bright red hair. Welcome to a bizarro world in which many whites believe they are the victims of discrimination. Now the Supreme Court seems determined to make a statement on whether universities can consider the race of applicants.

Let’s hope the justices have all the facts. Over at Pro Publica, Nikole Hannah-Jones brings us a lengthy investigation into Fisher’s application. Her conclusion? Fisher’s academic accomplishments were simply not outstanding: a 3.59 GPA and 1180 out of 1600 on her SATs. And because 92 percent of places at the university go to students who finish in the top ten percent of their high school class — which Fisher didn’t — the competition for the remaining 841 places is insane.

Yes, the school did admit some students who had lower test scores and grades than Fisher. But Hannah-Jones reports that only 5 of them were Latino or black. The other 42 were white. And she notes that Fisher and her representatives never mention “the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year.”

While Fisher v. University of Texas will likely produce a narrow ruling, SCOTUSblog reports that the Court will take on another case that could offer more leeway for a broader decision: Schuette v. Michigan Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The justices must decide if a lower court was correct when it overturned a voter referendum outlawing the use of race in college admissions.

“Until now, no court has ever held that, apart from remedying specific past discrimination, a government must engage in affirmative action,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wrote in his cert petition. No prizes for guessing which way the conservative members of the court will vote: Justice Scalia even referred to a section of the Voting Rights Acts as a “racial entitlement.”

Oh, those pesky minorities. Always demanding an equal share of voting rights or education. Scalia thinks that government should treat all its citizens equally, regardless of race. But anyone can look at the income gap or incarceration rates ormortality statistics and see that African Americans and other minorities still lag behind whites in basic quality-of-life measurements. I wonder if that has anything to do with centuries of institutionalized racism.


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