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Supreme Court Weighs Future of Affirmative Action– What’s At Stake for Students of Color?

Supreme Court Weighs Future of Affirmative Action-- What's At Stake for Students of Color?

Magazine, The Immigrant Experience

On Oct. 31, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on two cases — SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina — that will determine the future of affirmative action. The cases bring together universities, civil rights organizations, and student activists in support of race-conscious admissions policies and equitable education access for students of color. Providing background on the Harvard and UNC cases, a panel discussion hosted by EMS (Ethnic Media Services)  exposed what’s at stake for students of color in maintaining race-conscious admissions, and the power of student activism in the effort to support affirmative action.

John C. Yang, President, and CEO, of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC while expressing concern about the Supreme Court’s makeup, acknowledged the disconnect in society and also shared that the anti-Asian sentiment was being conflated with so-called hate against Asians. John explained that the complaint brought against Harvard for discrimination against Asian Americans after an evaluation showed no evidence of Asian-American discrimination in Harvard. Discrimination is different from admission policies that seek to ensure equal access based on race representation. Asian-American enrollment in Harvard he shared has increased significantly even though they make up only 7% of the overall American population and 28% of admissions. The Supreme Court is aware of the importance of representation as we live in a multicultural environment and global society making any contrary assertion false. As far as the case is concerned on the merits of Affirmative Action, there is a misconception that Asians do not support Affirmative Action. “This is not true because Asian Americans are aware of the need to push back against their ability to speak up about their culture”. if there is any such discrimination John stated that his organization would undoubtedly address it and bring it to trial.

David Hinojosa, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law Gave an overview of the students for fair admissions plaintiffs in the case brought against the Supreme Court requesting to have ‘Race Consciousness’ eradicated from the admission process. While the court agreed that universities cannot have separate admission tracks based on race they can however use a holistic approach that considers race. To consider race, they must make sure there is no race-neutral or tentative. In the cases against Harvard and UNC, the courts found no merit to the discrimination suit, and on October 21st the cases SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina will be heard by the Supreme Court.
On the class-based v race-based, he shared the following responses:
1) it shouldn’t be either/or but both are incredibly important;
2) racialized exps and benefits of racial integration have different impacts on campuses. Think of different perspectives, people being singled out as spokespersons, and cross-racial relationships: focusing on income doesn’t address these;
3) most low-income people in America are white so often that metric doesn’t capture race; in fact, many of those race-neutral alternatives proposed at trial resulted in significant dips in underrepresented students of color

Michaele Turnage-Young, Legal Defense Fund represents a very diverse group of entities, shared her views that students of color experience racism and have lesser opportunities based on requirements by college admissions. All students she said, deserve equal opportunity regardless of income race, etc. and most come from schools where these resources are not provided to make them able to compete. Standardized tests research shows that they do not reflect the abilities of students and show that students of color do not have the opportunity to put together a competitive package to go to these elite colleges. Eliminating the consideration of race will gravely affect the students if affirmative action is eliminated and sadly Asian students will not be replaced by black students but by white students. Erasing race from admission processes would as a result make it impossible for students of color to present their authentic selves.

Sally Chen, a Harvard graduate and one of the students amici in the Harvard case shared her experiences and her support behind race-based conscious admission. A first-generation college grad Chinese immigrant parents struggled to make ends meet while from a young age Sally was a translator and advocate for her parents. These experiences shaped her and so “Chinese for affirmative action” is part of the work that she cherishes representing similar voices. She testified to personally show how affirmative action helped her. Another student she said, also testified that “refusing to see race is refusing to see me”.Expressing why she did so, she wanted to show how race-conscious admissions helped her. It was very important to have the student’s voice, in this case, to show how race and racism affect students’ lives. As a Chinese student who benefited from affirmative action, and race-conscious admission it is the only tool she said in assuring representation. We can’t always count on the Supreme Court and institutions and so we must continue to fight for this representation.

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