A lawsuit brought by Asian-American students against Harvard University can end affirmative action programs as we presently know them. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
The longer we are exposed to debates about affirmative action, the more it becomes clear that there are two general lines of argument. The first contention is that institutions rely too heavily on race-conscious rubrics during admission; and therefore accept a high number of supposedly lesser-qualified applicants from marginalized communities – to the detriment of supposedly “more deserving” white applicants. The second contention is that institutions do not rely enough on race-conscious rubrics during admission; and therefore accept a high number of supposedly lesser-qualified white applicants – to the detriment of supposedly “more deserving” applicants from marginalized communities.
The first argument is based on the myth of “reverse discrimination” against white people. White supremacy is a system of power created by white people for white people – at the expense of minorities. Systematic oppression only works in one direction and is thus not a two-way street. It is absurd to claim that white students suffer discrimination when 76% of scholarships and grants are given to whites, and whites are 40% more likely to receive private scholarships than minorities. Even with affirmative action programs in place, studies show that black and Latinx students are more under-represented today at top colleges than they were 35 years ago.
While affirmative action has granted material benefits to members of marginalized communities, we must also realize that affirmative action is based on a liberal fantasy of integration. Affirmative action was intended as an alternative to the revolutionary tension of the 1960s. It was intended as a form of anger management. Rather than dismantle white supremacy, affirmative action finds comfort in allowing the elites of white institutions to hand-pick a few (often white-striving) minorities. In this arrangement, white supremacy remains the baseline, and is only insulated with celebrations of diversity/multi-culturalism. This window-dressing spectacle is then used to further divide and conquer marginalized communities across class lines; by putting those who “made it” on a pedestal and blaming everyone else for their lack of “hard work” and “responsibility.”
Selective incorporation is not liberation.