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Goodbye Affirmative Action—a Future of Equality in Higher Education?

July 14, 2023

Did you know that Asian-Americans were legally prohibited from owning property in the state of California until the 1950s? This fact, both shocking and disheartening, reveals a dark chapter in our nation’s history. Yet the government has continued to perpetuate a similar form of bias against Asian-Americans through an unfair practice known as affirmative action. That unjust system, and the ramifications of a recent landmark Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions, was the subject of a special Goldwater Institute virtual event this week featuring Goldwater Vice President for Legal Affairs Timothy Sandefur and David Bernstein, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

You can watch the full webinar here, or below:

For decades, colleges have granted preference to certain races in admissions instead of evaluating students solely based on their accomplishments. Affirmative action, first implemented in response to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, was originally intended to balance out historic injustices and create diverse campus environments. In reality, race preference policies have proven to be both ineffective and destructive, sowing racial division based on arbitrary classifications of birth.

The Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision last month in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College finally put an end to affirmative action admissions in higher education, declaring the practice unconstitutional due to its violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. “This case is Brown v. Board of Education for Asians,” Sandefur said. The court found that, despite their high grades and test scores, Asian-Americans were especially disadvantaged by affirmative action policies.

Ultimately, each American is due fair treatment, and college admissions must reflect merit, not race, moving forward.

Affirmative action is closely tied to the toxic ideology of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and both contribute to a broader attempt to erode our nation’s unity. According to CRT, racism pervades every aspect of U.S. society. The dogma claims that white people hold special privileges, are inherently prejudiced, and must take active steps to correct past injustices even if they aren’t the perpetrators.

In higher education, colleges are trying to build leftist echo chambers with CRT and racial discrimination at the core. They’re increasingly requiring faculty job applicants to pledge allegiance to progressivism by submitting mandatory “diversity” statements, and they’re wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on race- and gender-based “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) programming that uses identity politics to pit students against each other.

CRT is now extending beyond higher education, infiltrating K-12 curricula as well. For instance, Kali Fontanilla, a former California high school teacher and the 2022 recipient of Goldwater’s Freedom Award, exposed the race-focused lesson plans being taught at her school in an exclusive Goldwater investigative report and video.

But the Goldwater Institute is reining in radical DEI and CRT across the nation. In Texas, we just enacted the nation’s most powerful reform to completely defund the bloated apparatus of DEI offices in public colleges and universities. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Goldwater’s landmark law putting an end to mandatory diversity statements and other discriminatory tactics at government-run colleges.

“The more politics organize around race, the more likely you are to have racial resentment and backlash,” said Bernstein, author of Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America. The current state of our nation clearly reflects the negative impact of affirmative action and CRT, as race has become a dominant theme in our public discourse. Accusations of racism and white privilege are rampant, while radical groups like Black Lives Matter have gained prominence.

But the Goldwater Institute is actively fighting race preference policies and CRT in public education, promoting crucial polices in states around the country to ban racial discrimination, mandatory diversity statements, and the use of taxpayer dollars to fund CRT lessons. The Supreme Court’s recent decision is a momentous victory, but more work is needed to defend classrooms from racism and radicalization. That’s why the Goldwater Institute will never stop championing the founding principles of liberty, opportunity, and equality for all Americans.

Cameron Teel is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.



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