I heard someone recently say that ending affirmative action would be akin to putting your umbrella away in a rainstorm. The Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold using race as a factor in admissions decisions reinforces the idea that while progress has been made towards achieving racial and ethnic diversity on college campuses, now is not the time to put the umbrellas away.
The ruling, while reaffirming race-based policies as a factor in college admissions decisions, isn’t a complete endorsement. Instead, the court took a middle-of-the road stance and encouraged college officials to practice “race-neutral” policies for enrolling minority students. As Justice Kennedy read, “If a nonracial approach” could work to bring about diversity, “then the university may not consider race.” In essence, the decision opened up the door for affirmative action plans to be challenged.
While university officials and civil rights advocates can breathe a temporary sigh of relief over the fact the ruling didn’t altogether end affirmative action in education, it isn’t the time to stop working towards diversity in education. Achievement gaps between the races still exist in the U.S. According to the Lumina Foundation, nearly 60 percent of Asian adults have a college degree compared to 43 percent of whites but just 27 percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics. Narrowing these gaps by expanding opportunities to every citizen is not only a matter of equality but also a matter of our nation’s economic self-preservation.