Imagine applying for admission to your ideal university or for that perfect job, only to be turned away because someone lacking your work ethic, skills or intelligence is given your spot because of their skin pigmentation.
An injustice exists whenever a person, based solely on their race, is privileged with college admission or employment over and against a more qualified person. And yet, this continues to be the U.S. norm.
Meritocracy may be the ideal, but the reality is that our social structures, whether they be in education, employment or ecclesial contexts are not race neutral – and they never have been.
This institutionalized violence, which prioritizes whiteness, has been the legitimized and normalized reality since the founding of this nation. White affirmative action has facilitated the advancement of euroamericans at the expense of communities of color, regardless of their abilities.
And yet, when communities of color seek to create a level playing field by calling for the dismantling of white affirmative action, they are gaslit into believing it is gaming the system, asking for special treatment.
A false narrative is embraced that a level playing field already exists. The causes of the downward economic spiral of the white middle-class (laws and tax policies transferring wealth to the top 1%) is deflected by blaming people of color.
Euroamericans are led to believe that undeserving minorities are replacing them due to politically correct, liberal social engineering. Thus, they do not join forces with communities of color to address the actual causes of their gradual and steady pauperization.
Legislative initiatives and Supreme Court rulings since the 1960s sought to curtail white affirmative action. And while some progress took place, Blacks and Latines – according to the U.S. Census Bureau – continue to earn substantially lower wages than euroamericans.
They are more likely to be discriminated against when looking for a home, to be racially profiled and arrested for drug charges, to suffer with higher unemployment, and to be killed by law enforcement when pulled over for a minor traffic violation.
White affirmative action determines who gets schooling, jobs, health care and housing in “safe” neighborhoods. Education can be one of the vehicles by which to dismantle white affirmative action.
The 1953 Supreme Court decision to create a level playing field in education – Brown v. Board of Education – ruled segregation unconstitutional, even though it did not abolish segregation in public areas or place a time limit as to when schools must desegregate.
Most schools simply ignored the Court’s ruling. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, protectors of white affirmative action waged a death-dealing battle to prevent the will of the Supreme Court from taking hold.
On which side of history did eurochristianity stand? You guessed it, on the side of maintaining and sustaining white affirmative action. Many of them, especially throughout the South, responded to the moral crisis of segregation by establishing their own “Christian” segregated schools.
Eurochristianity created a loophole to the Supreme Court decision, allowing white parents to continue segregation, “protecting” their children from having to sit next to Brown and Black children. What year was the Christian school where you sent your kids established?
The white affirmative action upon which these eurochristian schools were created continues today to reinforce the “separate but equal” mindset.
Almost three-quarters of a century after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, eurochristian private elementary and secondary “Christian” schools remain predominately white. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 66% of students in Catholic and 71% of students in other denominational schools are white.
Eurochristianity is harming children of color; ironically, it is also hurting white children.
To acquire an education devoid of diversity limits the ability of white students to adequately function or succeed in the new global neoliberal marketplace where they will need to deal with, purchase from, sell to, negotiate with, work for and supervise people from different races, cultures and ethnicities.
Society-at-large was no better at desegregating than eurochristian churches. Seventy years after the Supreme Court’s school desegregation ruling, some 13,000 school districts continue to be drawn based on race and ethnicity, thus ensuring that the propertied wealth of whites is allocated to predominately white K-12 schools.
When we consider that 28% of Black students and 19% of Latine students live in areas of concentrated poverty (as opposed to 4% of white students), we shouldn’t be surprised that, on average, Latine and Black students attend poorly funded schools with far higher poverty rates than white students.
White skin pigmentation is not a hindrance in obtaining an education in this country. The same cannot be said for students of color.
According to a 2018 Georgetown University study, only 7% of Blacks, who represented 15% of the college-age population, attend selective public colleges, while only 12% of Latines, who comprised 21% of the college-age population are in attendance.
To consider race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions attempts to provide equal opportunity for all.
Its purpose is not to exclude euroamericans, but to serve the missions of colleges and universities in creating diverse learning environments for the betterment of the overall student body, for the good of the general public, and for a future functioning workforce.
Two crucial cases designed to strengthen white affirmative action are now before the Supreme Court. One challenges the consideration of race during the admission process at public universities (Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., Petitioner v. University of North Carolina); the other challenges its usage at private institutions (Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., Petitioner v. President and Fellows of Harvard College).
If the justices use the same judicial logic employed in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which led to overturning Roe v Wade, then they can justify outlawing the consideration of race and ethnicity as one factor in determining admission — undoing 40 years of precedent.
Unfortunately, this failure to diversify – from grade school to graduate school – continues the sorry history played out by our education system, which serves as the primary engineer for societal inequalities as white affirmative action is reinforced.
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.