Shaping Equality: Exploring Affirmative Action’s Impact and Battles

Affirmative action stands as a pillar of social policy, aiming to address historical disparities and promote equal opportunities. From college admissions to employment practices, we delve into the complexities, legal battles, and ethical considerations that shape this ongoing discourse, offering insights into its impact and evolving perspectives.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is a policy addressing historical and ongoing discrimination by promoting equal opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged groups. It seeks to rectify systemic biases and create a more level playing field in education, employment, and business. Affirmative action measures can include targeted recruitment efforts, scholarships, numerical goals or quotas, and additional support programs. Supporters argue that it is necessary to address past injustices, promote diversity, and ensure equal access to opportunities for marginalized groups. Critics, however, express concerns about reverse discrimination and emphasize the importance of merit-based selection. The implementation and impact of affirmative action vary across different jurisdictions and contexts, generating ongoing debates about its effectiveness, fairness, and legality.

Regents, the University of California vs. Bakke Case

In the landmark case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978, the Supreme Court made a significant ruling that shook the foundations of affirmative action in college admissions. The case revolved around Allan Bakke, a white applicant who was denied admission to the University of California’s medical school despite having higher test scores than some minority applicants who were admitted due to a racial quota system. The court, through a rigorous examination, declared that the university’s admissions policy, which relied solely on race as a basis for decision-making, violated both the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court may have decided against Affirmative action in this case, but it also broadened the scope of its scrutiny on racial discrimination, emphasizing that any form of racial preference, even if intended to address historical inequalities, must pass strict scrutiny and have a compelling government interest. The decision underscored the importance of a carefully tailored approach that respects individual rights and diversity without resorting to discriminatory quotas.

Grutter vs. Bollinger Case

The Grutter v. Bollinger case, which was decided on June 23, 2003, set a precedent for the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue concerned the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions practices and the legality of the school’s use of race as a criterion for admittance. A White Michigan native Barbara Grutter applied to the law school but was rejected. Grutter argued that the school had violated her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by using race as a criterion for admission. The law school’s admissions procedures were eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, which ruled that using race as a criterion for admissions was acceptable to establish a diverse student body. The court did, however, rule that creating diversity through racial quotas or a point system would be unconstitutional. The court’s earlier judgment in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), which found that race might be used in admissions decisions but not as the only deciding factor, was upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger. The case has received substantial attention as a precedent in American affirmative action proceedings.

Fisher vs. University of Texas

Later, this matter was again pursued to get the Grutter v. Bollinger judgment overturned in Fisher v. University of Texas. This case once again made headlines having the same subject matter. This case concerned the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions practices and the legality of the school’s use of race as a criterion for admissions. White Texas resident Abigail Fisher attempted to enroll at the University of Texas at Austin but was turned down. Fisher argued that the school’s use of race as a factor in its admissions decisions violated her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Supreme Court had previously determined that race may be used as a consideration in admissions decisions to create diversity, but only if specifically tailored to that aim. The court addressed this issue in Fisher and ultimately affirmed the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions criteria.

The court determined that the institution had a strong incentive to promote diversity and that using race as a criterion for admissions was narrowly circumscribed to that end. However, the court emphasized that the institution must continually examine and reevaluate its admissions rules to ensure they remain specifically targeted to promote diversity. The Grutter v. Bollinger ruling was reinforced by the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin ruling, which also maintained the legality of racial admissions policies in higher education. However, it also puts more weight on colleges to show that these policies are essential to achieving diversity and are specifically designed to do so.

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