Healing injustice

We still need affirmative action to right past wrongs.

by Parker Lemke, University student

During its current judicial session, the Supreme Court will decide the fate of affirmative action in college admissions. At its simplest definition, affirmative action is a policy that takes factors such as gender and race into consideration to benefit underrepresented groups in areas of employment and education.

The individual filing suit against the University of Texas claims that their admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This article in question states that no state may deny a citizen of the U.S. equal protection under the law. The plaintiff feels that the University unfairly denied her application in favor of admitting someone from a minority group. They were not treated legally as equals because of their race.

 On the surface, it appears that affirmative action diverges from not only the 14th Amendment but from our nation’s founding principle that every man is created equal. This simplistic view, however, does not take into account the unique circumstances surrounding the issue.

Affirmative action was created with the intention of promoting the equality that is enshrined in the Constitution. It is a necessary constitutional divergent needed to counter the damaging effects that discrimination has played in our nation’s history. There was a time when a person could be enslaved in this country for simply being a particular race. There are people alive today that remember when discrimination was promoted by government policies. If affirmative action is a minor violation of the Equal Protection Clause, these discriminatory laws were drastic.

While the majority of these criminal policies have been thankfully cast aside, their effects persist in our society. Today they make up a disproportionate percentage of our nations impoverished. Median household incomes for black Americans remains $20,000 lower than their white countrymen, according to the 2010 Census.

Affirmative action in university admissions is one way in which we can try to undo the effects of discrimination. It allows minorities greater access to higher education, which in time will help even out arrant differences in wealth. Furthermore, it allows universities to diversify their student bodies, creating environments in which members of different races and ethnicities can mingle and break down prejudiced beliefs. This is fully in agreement with universities’ mission to educate and enlighten students. All of these factors are reasons for why the Supreme Court should uphold affirmative action. The challenge to its constitutionality does not supersede its effort to mend the injuries done by past infringements of the Constitution. There will hopefully be a day in which affirmative action is no longer needed in this country. That day, however, has not yet arrived.