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Tags: diversity | discrimination

Diversity Doesn't Just Remedy Past Wrongs, It's a State Interest

interlocking arms of people from different races

Susan Estrich By Friday, 04 November 2022 11:29 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The Supreme Court this week signaled its readiness to toss out another longstanding precedent and prohibit affirmative action in education.

The two cases before the court — one from the University of North Carolina and one from Harvard — encompass both public schools (UNC) that might violate the Constitution and private schools that are subject to anti-discrimination laws applicable to any school that receives federal funds, which every college does.

If California is any example, the effect could be crushing for minority students. The year after affirmative action was banned in California, minority enrollment in the UCs plummeted.

That was 25 years ago, and since then, using socioeconomic measures and addresses and hardships overcome and any other factors that are facially race-neutral but disproportionately apply to minority candidates, the UCs have still fallen short of their own goals.

The president of the UC system, and all 10 chancellors of UC campuses, filed a brief supporting the universities on the grounds that barring affirmative action was giving up the most important tool in achieving diversity.

Calling the UC system a "laboratory for experimentation," the brief argues that while programs (including half a billion dollars spent on diversity efforts) have enabled UC to make significant gains in its systemwide diversity, "despite its extensive efforts, UC struggles to enroll a student body that is sufficiently racially diverse to attain the educational benefits of diversity."

The hope has always been that the day would come when affirmative action wouldn't be necessary to achieve diversity. The problems were supposed to correct themselves in the absence of affirmative discrimination.

That simply hasn't happened. College admissions are a Band-Aid on the gaping wound of racial inequality, more of an effort to improve educational quality than social engineering.

If a kid is going to lousy schools K-12, with little support from parents, drugs in the household and not enough money to make ends meet, do we really expect him to compete and win out over other students who face none of these problems? Or do we add points on the scale for the hardships, and will that be enough? No. It's probably not enough.

Black enrollment in the UCs, especially UC Berkeley and UCLA, the two most competitive, remains stubbornly low. Lots of kids overcome hardships. How much weight should they have?

Will applying that test equally produce a class full of immigrants and their children? Which is a good thing, but doesn't guarantee you much racial diversity.

So do you accept the middle-class Black applicant whose scores or grades are not quite as high as the rest of the pool? Isn't that the question?

I hope so. I say that as someone who spent 40 years in front of college and law students, teaching subjects where, for better and for worse, race matters.

Subjects like criminal law, where when I ask how many students have been stopped by police, my students each year are shocked when every Black man in the class raises his hand. Race matters in criminal law and in constitutional law and in election law; indeed, in every class I teach, which is the point of critical race studies.

It is critical for my students, especially my white students, to hear from classmates with a different perspective. You can teach discrimination as an abstract theory, but nothing brings it home to students like listening to each other.

No single student should bear the burden of speaking for all Blacks or all Hispanics. Diversity is not just a remedy for past wrongs. It is a compelling state interest, because quality education is a compelling interest and because past discrimination must still be addressed.

Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

College admissions are a Band-Aid on the gaping wound of racial inequality, more of an effort to improve educational quality than social engineering.
diversity, discrimination
Friday, 04 November 2022 11:29 AM
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