To Move Forward, We Must Look Back

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the decision has been understood as upholding the principles underlying affirmative action to create a diverse learning environment, opening the door to a still unknown level of judicial review of admissions practices at colleges and universities, and generally sidestepping the most fundamental questions about diversity and race in America. I want to suggest that this decision, despite its seeming moderation, should also serve as a call to action.

Alone among the justices, Clarence Thomas tied the Fisher case to the larger historical and societal context in which affirmative action was born, albeit in a way that I find to be profoundly wrong. In his passionate concurring opinion, Justice Thomas reminded us of what is at stake and of the need to offer a countervailing view. His provocative claim that there is “no principled distinction between the University’s assertion that diversity yields educational benefits and the segregationists’ assertion that segregation yielded those same benefits,” deserves to be fully considered. For there is a very real principled distinction between the two, and it explains why colleges must be allowed to assemble diverse student bodies if we are to fulfill our educational mission in American society.

Read the full story here.

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