This week, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on a Michigan ban on race-based college admission policies. It is just the latest in a long string of affirmative action cases, but one which could have far-reaching effects in university admissions nationwide.
Is it legal to ban affirmative action policies which would give preferential treatment to minorities over other students, or does this sort of ban violate minority students’ rights? That is the question currently before the high court. But as a society, we might do well to consider a broader question, one that may have an even more profound effect on minority students over time. And that is, do race-based education policies actually result in lowered expectations for minority students?
By granting even a portion of the incoming class preferential treatment based on race alone, colleges and universities stigmatize minorities. I faced this very issue when, as a college freshman, my peers did not respect me as an equal but instead looked at me as a token recipient of valuable scholarships based only on my status as a minority and a woman.
In reality, I did not need nor want a boost from affirmative action policies put in place to make it easier for minorities to qualify for college entrance and scholarships. My test scores alone were high enough to merit every scholarship I’d received, even if I had been a white male. But that didn’t keep me from being treated as “less than,” and being ostracized by many of my peers.
Setting the bar too low
Earlier this year, the Alabama Federation of Republican Women brought attention to a public school policy in the state which effectively lowered the bar for minority children. This policy, Alabama’s Plan 2020, set different standards for children of different races according to the AFRW, lowering expectations for minority kids and giving them a completely different set of goals than their non-minority peers.
Consider the implications of lowered expectations based on race from pre-K all the way through high school. How can students ever reach their highest potential when their schools have tossed them aside from the start, setting them on a slower track with standards not equal to their peers? Would you want this for your children?
Stop discriminating based on race
Some supporters of affirmative action policies believe these are the only way for minority students to get a fair shake. But in the long run, what benefit is there to lowering expectations for minority students, whether by way of reducing the scores needed to get into college, by requiring a certain proportion of incoming students to be minorities, or by revising the standards for minority children so they don’t have to learn as much as their peers in order to get a passing grade?
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” This statement is so simple and yet so complex.
As a parent and a minority, my own children could stand to gain from race-based admission policies, but at what cost? I would much prefer that they get into college on their own merits, not the color of their skin or that of our ancestors. If I don’t want my children to experience discrimination, I have to stand firmly against it, even when it runs in their favor. In the face of rising tuition costs, this is a hard stand to take, but if we ever hope to see racial discrimination end, we have to end racial discrimination.
More by Tavia:
Race-Based Admissions Policies Under Review
Principal Threatens Special Needs Placement for Students Who Opt Out of Standardized Tests
Options for Students Trapped in Failing Schools