The Supreme Court will revisit an issue this month that will no doubt spark heated discussion: affirmative action in public higher education. The case being brought before the justices concerns a white student who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas because she is white. The university has a policy of automatically admitting students in the top-10 percent of their high school classes, with race being a “plus factor” in admission.
The argument for affirmative action in this case relies on a somewhat dated, yet pervasive, concept that higher education should be a beacon of progressive ideals and that society would follow its model. Yet, despite efforts for equality in learning and education, in Minnesota our achievement gap still remains one of the worst in the country. It is clear that interpreting college applications becomes more complex when we factor in race.
It comes down to the simple fact that equal opportunities do not mean equal results. This country has all the tools you need to succeed, yet there are outside influences that make it much harder for some groups, just as there are influences that make it much easier for other groups. This isn’t about simplified racial stereotypes or experiences; it is about the way students are perceived, which may have a real impact on college admissions over a large population over time.
While the Supreme Court reviews the 2003 landmark case that brought affirmative action into public universities, it is important to remember that though we give equal opportunities to students, it is far from realistic to expect equal results, largely because of the way we still perceive race.