Conversations about affirmative action underscore an ugly truth about America — that a country founded as a racial apartheid continues to dance around issues of race. On Wednesday December 9th, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, in what may turn out to be a landmark case regarding affirmative action and diversity in education.
In 2008, Abigail Fisher, a white Texan, filed a discrimination suit against the University of Texas, claiming that her admission had been denied while less qualified students of color were accepted due to racial preference. The University of Texas, one of the premier universities in the state, uses a hybrid admissions policy; 75% of students are accepted on the basis that they ranked in the top 10% of their respective high schools, and the remaining 25% are accepted based on a holistic application process that includes race as one of many categories considered. Because Ms. Fisher finished outside the upper decile of students at her high school, her application would have be among the latter 25% considered. She was rejected.
It turns out that a closer look at Ms. Fisher’s claim when compared to the university’s actual admissions data for that year indicate that her application may not have been good enough to get in, and that those imaginary students of color with significantly worse grades did not exist. Yes, UT did accept approximately 47 students who had slightly lower grades and whose applications differed from hers in other criteria — of those 47 students, 42 were white. Because Ms. Fisher could not prove that she would have been accepted otherwise, her lawyers would argue the injury occurred when the University of Texas considered her race. Due to equal protection laws, goes the argument, affirmative action practices that aim to increase diversity hurt white applicants. With that, Abigail Fisher became the embodiment of the delusional and ahistorical concept of reverse racism. <Read more.>