Affirmative Action Debate: Is Class a Bigger Barrier to Success than Race?
Many fear that an upcoming Supreme Court decision will strike down the practice of affirmative action.
And as HuffPost’s Justin Pope points out, such a decision could spark debate on whether or not class – rather than race – is a larger barrier to economic success.
Polling on affirmative action varies widely depending on how questions are phrased, but an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday showed strong feelings about using race in college admissions: Just 22 percent of Americans support letting universities consider applicants’ race as a factor, and 76 percent oppose the practice. The proportions supporting racial preferences were similar for blacks (19 percent) and Hispanics (29 percent) as for whites (20 percent).
_You can read it in the tone of recent opinion pieces penned even by left-leaning academics and columnists, whose support for racial preferences has eroded under a mountain of evidence that quality higher education is tilting further toward the already-wealthy.
_You can hear it, too – in conversations on elite college campuses, where the dearth of low-income students is replacing race as a topic of debate. And in the words of the first black president, who has said there’s no good reason his own daughters should benefit from racial preferences when they apply to college.
Proponents of race-based affirmative action argue that such opinions are ill-informed and influenced by the hardships brought on by the Great Recession.
They point to the persistent achievement gaps along racial gaps as evidence of a need for the practice to continue.
“This is the first time you have whites thinking they face more discrimination than blacks do,” said Camille Charles, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies class and race. “You have people who have come to believe the system is set up to benefit black people at the expense of white people.” Such beliefs, she said, reflect ignorance about the persistence of discrimination, about how much harder minorities were hit by the Great Recession, and about how affirmative action actually works (many incorrectly conflate “affirmative action” with “racial quotas,” which the Supreme Court long ago ruled unconstitutional).
In his 2010 book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” Harvard economic historian Benjamin Friedman charted how during periods of prosperity, societies throughout history have expanded opportunities to disadvantaged groups and become more open and inclusive. During economic struggle, by contrast, they typically close ranks.
What are your thoughts on the debate surrounding affirmative action?
Is class a greater barrier to opportunity than race?
Are you hopeful the Supreme Court will uphold affirmative action?
Sound off below!