Affirmative Action: Promoting Diversity or Racial Discrimination?

April 7th, 2010, by


In March, the Obama administration threw its weight behind the University of Texas at Austin in a high-profile affirmative action case in which the university’s “race-conscious” admissions policies were challenged by two white students who were denied admission to the school.

The Obama administration argued in a brief filed with the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

In the view of the United States, the University’s limited use of race in its admissions program falls within the constitutional bounds delineated by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).

The University’s effort to promote diversity is a paramount government objective. See Grutter, 539 U.S. at 330-331. In view of the importance of diversity in educational institutions, the United States, through the Departments of Education and Justice, supports the efforts of school systems and post-secondary educational institutions that wish to develop admissions policies that endeavor to achieve the educational benefits of diversity in accordance with Grutter.

The losing side in the pending case will likely take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What do you think? Are admissions policies that include considerations of race and ethnicity a form of discrimination or simply a method for achieving much-needed diversity in education?

Share your thoughts with us and they may be used in an upcoming video blog.

  • Will

    With all respect to the opposition to affirmative action, it is and must remain a necessary step in making sure that diversity is encouraged in higher education. The facts are that studies have shown that even having an “ethnic” sounding name can have an impact on chances for employment, and I believe the reason for that is the comfortability that people have with their own agency and cultural status quo. Affirmative Action has benefited people of all racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds and must continue to insure that safeguards are in place to prevent discriminatory admissions practices.
    What I would like to see in any of these cases is proof that the plantiff(s) were denied for the specific purpose of allowing a racial/ethnic/gender minority admission.
    Changing the societal zeitgeist is a slow process, but when one takes a look at the progress that has been made since the women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, and affirmative action, it would be hard to argue that there is a problem with having more diversity (bringing diverse perspectives, experiences, and ideas). In business, politics, and many other industries the ability to relate with people of different backgrounds in critical to success. Affirmative Action is just one tool that helps that success become a reality.

  • Nadja Briscoe

    I like American political thinker Ronald Dworkin, believe that arguments that purport Affirmative Action as Reverse Discrimination (RDA) are misguided.
    Affirmative action policies are not the result of misandry or racial bigotry, but represent a legitimate effort to effect social justice with the limited resources at a society’s disposal.
    However it is important to note that Affirmative Action for the majority of the black population has been limited in its impact, due to the fact that Affirmative Action is not designed to deal with barriers to desirable jobs such as Increasing Automation,The relocation of industries and The segmentation of the labor market
    Affirmative Action policies tend in the end to benefit largely those who are members of the elite classes within minority groups and benefits are distributed to those blacks who who have already escaped the worst conditions of urban America.

  • richard williams

    At sixty nine,I remember when there was no A/A.So it has not helped me in the same way it could help my children and theirs.But it cannot be the only egg in our basket.

  • Roger Clegg, Ctr for Equal Opportunity

    The issue is whether the desire for more racial and ethnic diversity justifies something as divisive and unfair as racial and ethnic discrimination. And the answer is no. In a country that is increasingly multiracial and multiethnic, it is simply untenable to sort people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from, and to treat some better and others worse based on which box they check. The benefits are slight and dubious, and the costs are high and undeniable.

  • Shirley J. Wilcher

    It is ironic that affirmative action is now “pitched” as a form of discrimination, when it was designed to overcome this nation’s history of discrimination in employment, education and business. It is also ironic that those who benefited from the preferences that existed before civil rights laws were enacted or signed in the 1960s, would view such efforts to promote equal opportunity for all as discriminatory. President Lyndon Johnson’s Executive Order 11246 states:
    The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
    Affirmative action is an antidiscrimination measure and serves to integrate insitutions of higher education and workplaces that were previously barred to members of minority groups and, in many instances, women. Affirmative action prevents discrimination and levels the playing field. It enables qualified individuals an opportunity to compete with others, including former President Bush, who were given the opportunity based on birth, wealth and gender. It is not discriminatory; it is inclusive.
    To learn more about affirmative action, go to the website of the American Association for Affirmative Action: Also visit the website of the U.S. Department of Labor, which enforces President Johnson’s Executive Order 11246,

Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 11:17 am