Fisher v. Texas: Race-Based Affirmative Action Policies Are Actually Racist

Abigail Fisher was a white, female high school student who graduated in 2008. From her hometown of Sugarland, Texas, she applied to the University of Texas (at Austin). She was subsequently rejected by the UT admissions office and ended up attending at Louisiana State University. 

Her name is now important because it constitutes the "Fisher" in Fisher v. University of Texas lawsuit. Abigail filed a lawsuit against UT for her rejection. She contends that UT rejected her because she was white and that the university's affirmative action policy favored less qualified (by grades and scores) minority students. Therefore, the affirmative action policy violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law. The case rose through the courts and oral arguments put before the Supreme Court in October. Decisions are to come out in the next few weeks. 

Another important piece of background is the Grutter v. Bollinger case from 2003. In this case, a white applicant to the University of Michigan Law School was rejected and made a case similar to that of Fisher. The court upheld the University of Michigan affirmative action policy. This decision sets the precedent for the law currently. 

The reason for the affirmative action policy at UT and other school across the United States is diversity. Diversity is undoubtedly an important contributing factor to the education of university students. There are many different kinds of diversity — like diversity in socio-economic status, geographic origin, gender, religion — and many different ways to achieve it. However, when a diversity/affirmative action policy is solely based on race, it does not achieve these kinds of desirable diversity. 

Race certainly contributes to an individual’s experience and consequent thoughts. In this way race should not be discounted, but who is to say that people of different races cannot have similar — or the same — experiences. A privileged boy or girl probably does not differ greatly in background from any other privileged boy or girl, regardless of race.  This is where treatment of people becomes questionable.

Choosing applicants based on race is in itself racist. In a situation where all are things equal between two applicants save race, the minority candidate wins out. When all things are equal, they should actually be equal. (See quote from John Roberts.) That was the goal of Dr. King, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and all of the other pro-equality leaders with which our history has blessed us.

Finally, and in my opinion the most important reason the court should strike down the UT policy, is that it does not promote the right kind of diversity. As I said, the difference in the experiences of privileged kids is probably not all that different. Affirmative action should promote diversity by leveling the playing field for everyone. In doing so it would aid students who have not had the advantages of others. Not all African-Americans start at the same place, just like not all Hispanics, Asians, or whites do. The policies need to better address societal needs.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

George Hartmann

Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Class of 2014

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