From The Grio — For my birthday this year, The Economist ran a cover story, claiming that is was “time to scrap affirmative action.” Like many other arguments in this season (and in the past), this article argues that the time for race-based affirmative action has come and gone; that admissions practices should move toward affirmative action polices based upon socio-economic status.
A recent New York Times article caused a stir because it revealed the fact that elite colleges are doing an abysmal job at recruiting talented low-income students to apply and attend the nations best universities and colleges.
This summer the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the University of Texas case where a white woman claims she was denied admission based upon her race – she has since graduated from LSU.
Does America have ‘diversity fatigue’?
The combination of this important socio-economic data, an oft mis-interpreted concept referred to as “mismatch,” and the ominous specter of ‘diversity fatigue’ in our nation’s public discourse and praxis have created a moment within which race-based affirmative action has become more and more unpopular.
We might first remember that affirmative action has never been very popular – mostly because it is profoundly misunderstood both in terms of its purpose (to address historically persistent racial inequality) and in terms of its impact. It aids the ascension of white women and the admission of a range of other under-represented minorities into universities and the workplace, but gaps in income, under-representation in institutional leadership positions, and over-representation in the criminal justice system continue to be a persistent factor of American life for African-Americans.
‘Diversity fatigue,’ the idea that people, institutions and corporations are simply tired of talking about and wrestling with issues of diversity, is little more than a cop out. Some people (and too many corporations) are likely tired of talking about equality and equity but that in and of itself is no reason to end the movements designed to achieve either/both.
Being tired doesn’t mean the job is done
And speaking of either/both, no one has made a compelling case as to why socio-economic status has to eclipse race-based affirmative action in the policies designed to achieve equality. Given the imbrication of race and socio-economic status, the most prudent innovation of equality and equity measures should be working towards considering these factors in tandem – not one over the other.