Initially, I thought this would be a pretty easy topic to write about, especially compared to the Brexit fiasco. Much like an Englishman, I have no desire to know anything at all about the E.U.
I thought race stuff, though, would be an easy subject to tackle. I figured I'd say something like, "Hey, racism is bad and race conscious admission programs are totally and infallibly good." Then I planned on lying about a bunch of facts, because the definitive truth of affirmative action is that no one in America actually knows how the fuck it works. And that includes me.
I've met white guys who seem convinced that affirmative action allows unqualified Black men to be hired for jobs that mediocre white dudes somehow inherently deserved. I've met misguided and unqualified POC who believe that it's fair to use affirmative action in place of qualification as a form of reparations. I've met men of all races who think that Black women will be given preference at job interviews because they can check off two boxes: "Woman" and "Black." And as everybody knows, Black women definitely have it the easiest in America on account of all those damn check boxes.
Personally, I legitimately thought that some organization likely titled the Ministry of Magical Negroes used statewide census data to discern how many members of each particular racial group should theoretically be in any given workplace or scholastic environment before dictating that qualified applicants from minority groups be given certain considerations over equally qualified—but more highly represented—white folk until those probable percentages were reached.
As you can see, my greatest flaw is having too much faith in the system.
But, after at least two hours of research—which is two more hours of research than our society requires anyone do before forming an opinion—I am here to tell you the conclusive truth about affirmative action: It's vague as fuck.
In case you're a regular person who doesn't give a shit, Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas on the grounds that she had not been accepted into their institution because of her race. After eight years of court proceedings, the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the University.
If this sounds like old news, that's because it is. First, it happened last week. Late last week, but still. There was a weekend in between then and now. I was drunk in between then and now. It seems like a forever has passed. But this is also a similar story to what we've seen many times before.
In 1996, there was the landmark ruling of Hopwood v. Texas, where four white folks sued the University of Texas at Austin's School of Law feeling that they weren't accepted based on race. It was the first successful challenge to affirmative action since 1978's Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in which the Supreme Court ruled that racial quotas were unconstitutional. To Texas' credit, after the ruling state legislators passed Texas House Bill 588, a law decreeing the acceptance of the top 10 percent of every Texas high school's students into all state-funded universities.
(It should be noted, though, that this guaranteed acceptance does not include scholarship funds for students in need of financial support in order to attend college, which is a major complication when it comes to providing equal opportunity. It should also be noted that this law was created as a means of fighting segregation on the collegiate level by way of fully accepting segregation on the grade school, middle school, and high school level.)
Then, in 2003, the Court ruled on Grutter v. Bollinger in which a white lady (white women statistically benefit the most from affirmative action, though polls suggest they are also among its greatest opponents) named Barbara Grutter sued the University of Michigan Law School based on the belief that she had been denied admittance due to her race. The Supreme Court ruled that favoring underrepresented minority groups in race-conscious admissions was chill, but race quotas were still unacceptable (upholding California v. Bakke and abrogating Hopwood v. Texas).
I think of these affirmative action cases like Spiderman movies. Sure, here and there something interesting happens. But, overall, it's just the same thing with different actors, and I don't understand why we can't use all that production money on something better.
So, when Abigail Fisher's case climbed the judiciary ladder all the way to the Supreme Court, it was a surprise all the justices didn't simply look at her and sweetly coo, "We've already been through this a few times, honey," before banging the gavel and calling it a day.
After the ruling, there was a part of me that wanted to write off Abigail Fisher as the Moaning Myrtle of "reverse racism." And maybe she really is a terrible, asinine young woman who sought to single handedly destroy the fabric of affirmative action—a fabric which is made of 100 percent cotton and has a thread count of 250 years of slavery.
[Cue "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy.]
As a Millennial, I get my rocks off by labeling people I disagree with as bigots. But after reading a few articles and clicking on a few links, it began to seem that Abigail Fisher was a pawn in a much grander game of chess being played by Roger Clegg, Justice Samuel Alito and a bunch of other grumpy, old men who completely lack both the charisma and the on-screen chemistry of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
Roger Clegg was a proponent of Abigail Fisher's case. He is also the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity. He is also the inspiration for every white villain in every Tyler Perry movie.
Honesty, Clegg doesn't have that much to do with the case. I just think it's funny that a white guy is the President of the Center for Equal Opportunity and that he's gone on record to denounce civil rights rulings.
Alito, however, is a Supreme Court justice, which means we're stuck dealing with his bullshit until he dies. And then probably for a little while after that.
But, in offering his dissent, Alito touched on the complicated issue of Asian representation within affirmative action and the pending cases that may make their way up to the Supreme Court involving highly qualified Asian students being denied admittance into top schools due to their race. Some have referred to this trend by saying that Asian is the "new Jew," with many suggesting (rather aptly) that Ivy League schools fear having too many of any particular minority group present on campus, as was historically the case with Jewish students. It's a fair comparison in certain ways. Both Asian Americans and Jewish Americans are oppressed minorities, but the perceived success of both groups serves to invalidate their oppression in the eyes of the general public. Both groups are simultaneously heralded for being model minorities, yet then denied equal access and treatment. Both groups were also interned in WWII. Other minority groups are a little jealous of Jews and Asians. Something something the Wu-Tang Clan, etc. etc.
While Alito could easily be accused of using these issues to benefit his own flawed agenda, this does bring up some interesting questions. First, will we ever solve the age-old mystery of whether or not Jews are white? Second, if people of Asiatic descent and Judaic descent are still underrepresented minorities, shouldn't they also be entitled to whatever benefits affirmative action may offer? If the goal is to represent racial minorities on campus and in the workplace, are all Asians to be lumped together as one racial category, or should institutions account for vast differences in culture and background that exist within the realm of Asian heritage (and if this same question applies to all racial groups comprised of many ethnicities and backgrounds, how does that pertain to white people)?
What is race? If race is a lie, then how are we supposed to know how to regulate laws related to race? Remember when Rachel Dolezal sued Howard University for discrimination? At what point do the sociological stances on race and the cultural stances on race and the political stances on race meet with the legal stances on race? Are we fighting to get rid of race or have it more firmly defined? Do we know what we're fighting for? Who is this "we"?
At this rate, will bitter and confused white people accidentally deconstruct the racial barriers that bitter and confused white folk from generations past worked so hard to build and maintain? When the smoke clears and it's all said and done, will white indigence unintentionally end up being what reveals the absurdity of race? Can we base rigid, even if well-intentioned, laws on fluid social constructs? Why are we more comfortable fighting for affirmative action than rendering it unnecessary? Why has desegregation taken so long? Is gentrification a synonym for segregation? How are Asians stereotyped as being excellent students, but then denied entry into schools? Are the WASPS that run colleges so drunk with aged scotch and power that they no longer bother even trying to make their racism appear sensible? What if we separated colleges based on race like we already usually do with high schools? Why didn't I go to a historically Black university? How does affirmative action work in historically Black colleges? Speaking of which, have you ever seen the 2007 cinematic classic Stomp The Yard?
Unfortunately, loathsome though it may be, segregation works brilliantly in that removing POC from a given area makes it incredibly easy to continue ignoring the issue of segregation. And the fact that we have to fight for affirmative action is a shame, not because affirmative action is a godsend of progressive idealism, but because it is a Band-Aid on a gaping wound, and we still have to fight for the fucking Band-Aid.
Realistically, until we as a nation sincerely start working on desegregation, affirmative action will continue to be just like the BET Awards: Something I have to defend simply because there's no better option.