The Chronicle of Higher Education
William Brown for The Chronicle
By Elizabeth Anderson
It's no secret that race-based affirmative action in higher education faces a crisis of legitimacy. It has been banned in California, Florida, Michigan, Washington, Arizona, and Nebraska. Even as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger, the justices expressed an expectation that the policy would soon no longer be needed, practically inviting relitigation. Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently upheld affirmative action at the University of Texas—in Abigail Fisher v. State of Texas—the forthcoming appeal may give the conservative Roberts court an opportunity to end it once and for all. One might expect colleges to rise to the challenge of forcefully articulating a clear case for their policies. Instead we find the same tired arguments on the left, and critiques of affirmative action on the right that reflect ignorance of the realities of race in America.
We need new arguments for affirmative action. We can find them by resurrecting the ideal of integration from the grave of the civil-rights movement.
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