Here is the coverage from Joy Ann Reid.
The renewed attacks against affirmative action have revived the ghost of Abigail Fisher’s case against the University of Texas. For an excellent review of that case, you should read this article by Nikole Hannah-Jones titled “What Abigail Fisher’s Affirmative Action Case Was Really About”:
The plaintiff in the Supreme Court case challenging the use of race in college admission looks to be the perfect argument. But the case barely mentions her. Instead, the agenda is much broader: To fight race-based policies everywhere.
Fisher was taken on by folks from Black Twitter, who dubbed her “Becky with the bad grades.”
One of the best blog posts I read while the Fisher case was in full swing was written by Jezebel’s Jia Tolentino. It is titled, “All the Greedy Young Abigail Fishers and Me.”
Years ago, I helped Abigail Fishers get into college in Texas. That was my job: I “tutored” entitled teenagers through the application process. Specifically, and ominously for my later life, I taught them to write a convincing personal essay—a task that generally requires identifying some insight, usually gained over some period of growth. And growth often depends on hardship, a thing that none of these 18-year-olds had experienced in a structural sense over the course of their white young lives. Because of the significant disconnect involved in this premise, I always ended up rewriting their essays in the end.
My students were white, and without exception. Their parents were paying me $450 per session, and this was Houston; of course they were white. The means were the essays, and the end was the assurance that the benefits of whiteness would continue to vest themselves even as Texas demographics and UT admissions practices began to put their lovely families in a bind. Texas parents—as ability permits, and like parents throughout the country—pay good money to live in good school zones. These schools are “good” in a double and mutually reinforcing sense: they are academically vibrant, supportive, and competitive; they also draw from a wealthy population, which means most of the students are white. As Abigail Fisher’s case, a.k.a. Becky With the Bad Grades v. UT Austin, reminded us: the top 7 percent (formerly 10 percent) at all Texas high schools get admitted to UT’s flagship campus automatically. This means that a second-rate student at a first-rate school, a.k.a. an Abigail Fisher, does not automatically get in. This means that a portion of white kids don’t get the educational success those property taxes were supposed to pay for. The 10 percent policy is implicit discrimination against “good schools,” the party line goes.
This paragraph was particularly impactful:
I have heard so many Abigails tell me that UT’s policy is reverse racism. I sat across from white girls in oversized T-shirts, white boys in basketball shorts, sweet kids with good hearts and sleep still in their eyes, who told me—either very nicely or very snidely, never anything in between—that it was harder for white people to get into college now than anyone else, because of affirmative action. They said this as their parents wrote me $450 checks to “edit” their essays. They said this to me, the living proof that there is still so much to be compensated for—the minority literally paid to help get them into school.
The whole essay is worth reading.
Myths about affirmative action abound, but the most pernicious one that ramps up white resentment is the one about “they (blacks and latinos) get to go to college for free.“
This twitter thread which Greg Dworkin posted to Storify is well worth reading:
Going back to the Department of Justice issue, here was the News One coverage:
Civil rights groups have sounded the alarm against the Justice Department's plan to redirect money from its civil right division to investigate and sue universities whose admissions policies may be discriminating against white students.
The DOJ now wants to use Asian-Americans as a wedge. Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, recently wrote “Why Asian Americans Refuse to Be a Wedge in the War on Affirmative Action.”
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration plans to direct Justice Department resources toward investigating universities that have used affirmative action admissions policies to discriminate against white applicants. In reaction, Roger Clegg, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan and Bush administrations and now president of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, praised the initiative, saying, “[I]t is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well.”
This divisive strategy was further cemented by the Justice Department’s response Wednesday that the internal document the Times obtained only pertained to the investigation of one lawsuit filed by a coalition of 64 Asian American associations in 2015, which claimed that Harvard University had discriminated against Asian American students in the admissions process.
We have been here before. Asian Americans and the issue of affirmative action have long been used to drive a wedge between communities of color and obfuscate the real purpose of the program, which brings opportunity to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. What affirmative action opponents and the media tend to get wrong is this: These singular cases obscure the fact that 64% of Asian American voters
support affirmative action programs, of which they have been direct beneficiaries for the past 50 years, with affirmative action helping to significantly increase Asian representation at elite schools. Affirmative action continues to uplift the Asian community, particularly young people from traditionally disadvantaged Asian groups, such as Southeast Asians and low-income families.
She points out that the simplistic category “Asian-American” hides some of the realities of varied experience, with college admissions of diverse communities lumped into it.
The Asian American Federation’s 2014 report on The State of Asian American Children shows that the model minority myth, which has plagued the pan-Asian community since the 1960s, obscures the reality that, while college attendance rates among East and South Asian groups are high, other Asian groups are less likely to be enrolled in college or graduate school than the general population of 18- to 24-year-olds, with the lowest rates among the Bhutanese, Burmese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Hmong communities. Similarly, Southeast Asians and low-income Asian students are more likely to attend community colleges and less selective institutions and are less likely to attain a degree. In fact, the Asian community’s enrollment in community colleges as a whole has been increasing at a faster rate than the community’s enrollment in four-year colleges, due to limitations of social class and English proficiency.
Let us take a look at what affirmative action gifts us with as a society. This Ted Talk with Jedidah Isler is one small example.
Jedidah Isler dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist since she was a young girl, but the odds were against her: At that time, only 18 black women in the United States had ever earned a PhD in a physics-related discipline. In this personal talk, she shares the story of how she became the first black woman to earn a PhD in astrophysics from Yale -- and her deep belief in the value of diversity to science and other STEM fields. "Do not think for one minute that because you are who you are, you cannot be who you imagine yourself to be," she says. "Hold fast to those dreams and let them carry you into a world you can't even imagine."
Jedidah Isler studies blazars — supermassive hyperactive black holes that emit powerful jet streams. They are the universe’s most efficient particle accelerators, transferring energy throughout galaxies.
Here’s the full transcript, but you can read an excerpt below.
...After receiving my master's at Fisk, I went on to Yale to complete my PhD. Once I was physically occupying the space that would ultimately give way to my childhood aspirations, I anticipated a smooth glide to the PhD.
It became immediately apparent that not everyone was thrilled to have that degree of liminality in their space. I was ostracized by many of my classmates, one of whom went so far as to invite me to "do what I really came here to do" as he pushed all the dirty dishes from our meal in front of me to clean up. I wish that were an isolated occurrence, but for many women of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, this is something they have long endured. One hundred percent of the 60 women of color interviewed in a recent study by Joan C. Williams at UC Hastings reported facing racialized gender bias, including being mistaken for the janitorial staff. This mistaken identity was not reported by any of the white women interviewed for this study, which comprised 557 women in total. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a janitorial position, and in fact my forefathers and foremothers were able to attend college because many of their parents worked these jobs, it was a clear attempt to put me in my place.
While there was certainly the acute pain of the encounter, the real issue is that my appearance can tell anyone anything about my ability. Beyond that, though, it underscores that the women of color in STEM do not experience the same set of barriers that just women or just people of color face. That's why today I want to highlight women of color in STEM, who are inexorably, apologetically living as the inseparable sum of identities.
As a teacher, I know how diversity benefits my classes. One of the richest experiences I have each year is teaching a class about “Women in the the Caribbean.” My class composition is usually about one-third white American, one-third black American, and one-third Caribbean students who are from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Haiti. Some years the mix also includes a student from Guyana, Trinidad, or Brazil. The perspectives and life experiences shared in class by the students enhance and enriche the course readings and lectures.
One of the current arguments you hear about affirmative action is that it should be “class-based” and not based on racial/ethnic representation. This comes from not only right-wing conservatives, but also from white liberal progressives who embrace ideas that we are somehow “post-racial” and should sublimate “race” to “class.” Khiara M. Bridges addresses this in her article in the Boston University Law Review:
Class-Based Affirmative Action, or the Lies That We Tell about the Insignificance of Race
...this Article argues that class-based affirmative action is not the saving grace to all of those who want to increase the enrollment of racial minorities at institutions from which they have been excluded historically (and from which they are presently underrepresented). Many people who want to see racial minorities at these institutions of higher learning are not interested in getting them there by hook or by crook. Rather, we are interested in racial justice. And pursuant to our thick understanding of racial justice, it is not enough that racial minorities merely are present at schools from which they have been excluded. Equally if not more important are the stories that we tell about why they are there. And class-based affirmative action tells a wholly unfulfilling story about why racial minorities are, and ought to be, at these institutions.
This Article argues that class-based affirmative action denies the continuing relevance of race. This, of course, explains why it is popular among those who contend that the nation is, finally, post-race. Post-racialism can be described as the sense that race simply does not matter as much as it mattered in the past. According to the ideology of post-racialism, if the telos of the nation is one where racial differences, if they exist, are completely irrelevant to social, cultural, and political life, then we are almost there. It contends that we are closer to that halcyon racial destination than we are to our horrific racial origins, where race over-determined individuals' lives and did so in frequently brutal ways. Post-racialism refuses to recognize our current proximity to that historical past. It argues instead that, today, racism is an aberration, a rarity. It posits that enduring racial inequality is not the effect of race or racism, but rather is the effect of other forces, like class or individual behavior. And it posits that given the insignificance of race, institutional actors act culpably, even immorally, when they make race significant in their decision-making processes.
Class-based affirmative action is consistent with post-racialism's ideology of racial progress. It denies that race is a significant feature of American life. Class-based affirmative action denies that individuals-and groups-continue to be advantaged and disadvantaged on account of race. It denies that there is such a thing called race privilege that materially impacts people's worlds. Moreover, this Article suggests that at least part of the reason why class-based affirmative action has been embraced by those who oppose race-based affirmative action is precisely because it denies that race matters, has mattered, and probably will continue to matter unless we make conscious efforts to make race matter less.
Perhaps the rise of an openly hostile, virulent white supremacist and xenophobe to the nation’s highest office, whose existence has encouraged and emboldened openly racist violence, will open the eyes of people who have been pushing the theory that we are post-racial because Obama and no longer need affirmative action.
Let’s hope so.
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