Supreme Court

Affirmative Action Is About More Than Diversity

I don’t fault the Supreme Court for focusing on diversity in their decision, but the conversation about affirmative action needs to be broader in scope:

“The original goal of affirmative action is to ensure that people who have been historically discriminated against—oppressed—have access to education and jobs. We’ve lost track of that,” said Mychal Denzel Smith, a Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute who has written about the Court’s decision and the emphasis on diversity.

A quick look at the data makes the weight of this history clear. As we wrote last week, African-Americans still face unemployment and poverty rates that far exceed the rates for white Americans.

And it’s not just history, either; we still haven’t achieved equal opportunity based on class or race. Just a few examples: Standardized tests are culturally biased. Smith noted that programs like New York City’s “stop and frisk” disproportionately target youth of color and damage their future career prospects. And being born into a rough environment can make learning nearly impossible—The Atlantic editor Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote that “on an average day in middle school [in inner-city Baltimore], fully a third of my brain was obsessed with personal safety.”

Each example speaks to the value of affirmative action, but none are captured by the diversity paradigm. Why, then, does diversity dominate the conversation?

Continued at Campus Progress.