Last week, the Department of Justice announced a new initiative to investigate discrimination against white students in university admissions. This is a disturbing step backward. Critical priorities like protecting voting rights, civil rights and human rights continue to struggle for limited resources and attention. Yet, with this announcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is choosing to use our taxpayer dollars to instead challenge affirmative action in college admissions, which has repeatedly been found constitutional by federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite our country’s rapidly changing demographics, we have not made enough progress in ensuring a clear path to opportunity for historically disadvantaged minorities. Today, minorities make up a greater portion of our population than ever before, yet many universities continue to significantly lag in minority admissions. In fact, according to the Washington Post, 42 percent of white students ages 18–24 are enrolled in college, compared to 35 percent among African-Americans. Without programs to help qualified minority students overcome longstanding institutional biases, these enrollment numbers could be even smaller.
Too often, the debate over affirmative action is oversimplified as a laudable goal to promote diversity. But it is critical to recognize and understand the factual and historical basis that necessitated the tool of affirmative action to remedy decades of state-sponsored segregation and unwillingness to equally enforce the laws. (Indianapolis Recorder)