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Advocates Fear Racial Equality Setbacks in Affirmative Action and Student Loan Cases

by Gabriel Martinez
1 comment
racial equality

Makia Green, a Black student who grew up in a single-parent household, believes that her admission to the University of Rochester over a decade ago was made possible by a program that provided preferential treatment to students of color from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Having accumulated just over $20,000 in undergraduate student loan debt, Green has been relying on President Joe Biden’s promised debt relief to alleviate most of her financial burden.

However, the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions has put the student loan cancellation plan at risk. Both policies disproportionately benefit Black students. To Green and many others in marginalized communities, these attempts to reverse progress reflect a broader backlash against racial equality in higher education.

Green, a community organizer, expressed her frustration, stating, “I feel like working people have been through enough—I have been through enough. From a pandemic, an uprising, a recession, the cost of living price going up. I deserved some relief.”

The rulings in these cases could also have political implications among young voters of color who took President Biden’s promise to cancel student debt seriously, according to Wisdom Cole, director of NAACP’s youth and college program. Cole emphasized the need for elected officials to deliver on their promises to marginalized communities.

President Biden’s plan includes forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student debt for borrowers and doubling the relief to $20,000 for those who received Pell Grants. The White House estimates that about half of the average debt held by Black and Hispanic borrowers would be eliminated. However, six Republican-led states have challenged the president’s authority to forgive the debt, further complicating the situation.

The affirmative action cases under review by the Supreme Court focus on race-conscious admissions policies that have long been used by selective colleges to foster diversity on their campuses. The legal challenges were initiated by a conservative activist who argues that the use of race in college admissions is unconstitutional.

Dominique Baker, an education policy professor at Southern Methodist University, highlights that both cases address historical racial disparities in access to higher education. Black borrowers, in particular, often accumulate more debt to afford college. Baker explains that backlash against racial progress often occurs following periods of social change and advancement, pointing to a correlation between bans on affirmative action and declines in white enrollment at public flagship universities.

Green, perceiving a connection between the two court cases, views the opposition to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs as a manifestation of white supremacy. She criticizes these attempts to limit Black people’s access to education as a means of control and oppression.

Affirmative action plans were introduced by many colleges in the 1960s and 1970s to address the underrepresentation of historically disadvantaged and marginalized communities, including people of color and women. The Supreme Court has previously upheld affirmative action three times, emphasizing institutions’ compelling interest in rectifying past discrimination and fostering cross-racial understanding.

With the current ideological shift towards conservatism within the Supreme Court, former students and advocates express concerns about the potential impact of a ruling against affirmative action on campus diversity. Students like Tarina Ahuja from Harvard College stress the importance of a diverse student body, which contributes to richer discussions and understanding of various perspectives.

Colleges anticipating a ruling against race-conscious admissions have considered implementing additional essays or intensifying recruiting efforts in racially diverse areas to maintain diversity. However, previous attempts at selective colleges in states where affirmative action has been banned have largely failed to sustain diversity gains.

Jonathan Loc, a Harvard graduate student and advocate for affirmative action, asserts that race is an essential aspect of students of color’s lives and narratives. He believes that acknowledging and sharing their unique stories related to race is crucial for promoting racial justice.

If the court rules against affirmative action, Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, emphasizes the need for colleges to demonstrate that they still value students beyond mere numerical representation. Hewitt calls for institutions to show students that they are seen and acknowledged, even in the absence of race-based considerations.

Kristin McGuire, executive director of Young Invincibles, highlights the significance of the upcoming Juneteenth holiday and the potential consequences of striking down both affirmative action and debt relief. She expresses concern that such decisions would send a clear message that the court system does not support vulnerable populations, particularly those who have played a crucial role in building the nation.

Note: This rewritten text aims to convey the same information and ideas as the original text while making some editorial adjustments for clarity and conciseness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about racial equality

Q: What are the potential consequences of the Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and student loans?

A: The rulings pose a risk to racial equality and progress. If affirmative action is struck down, it could impact campus diversity and hinder cross-racial understanding. The potential dismantling of student loan cancellation plans threatens relief for marginalized communities, exacerbating racial disparities in access to higher education.

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1 comment

BookLover44 June 30, 2023 - 1:19 am

i dunno y sum ppl r so against diversiti on campuses! it makes for better discussions n understanding. we need 2 support affrmative action 4 a fair chance. #EqualityMatters

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