By Ariel Lira
The discussion of race in college admissions has become a topic of controversy once again due to the recent debate on the University of Texas V. Fisher trial, that is now before the Supreme Court. The basic premise of this case is that Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian applicant to the University of Texas, was denied acceptance, allegedly, based on the fact that she was white. She claims that her academic credentials and merits were superior to other applicants who were accepted and were of minority background, i.e. African American or Latino; they were deemed more desirable due to the underrepresented minorities at the University of Texas. “The Top 10% Law (originally styled “Texas House Bill 588”) was passed in 1997 and went into effect the following year. The law was a response to the Hopwood decision, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit prohibited public universities from using a student’s racial or ethnic background as a consideration for admission” and to uphold the desired standard of diversity.
I can understand both sides of this case. On the one hand, students like Abigail Fisher who feel that they are being discriminated against with a sort of reverse racism, it would be difficult to accept the idea that being of Caucasian descent would lead to a negative consequence. However, to the many minority students who still feel discriminated against solely because of being a minority, the decision to allow race to play a role in the application process could be a stepping stone on the way up the success ladder because it allows them to stay on the same level as their Caucasian counterparts.
Affirmative action, which is in essence what this case could come down to, has been a constant point of controversy in our society. As something that was set in place in order to make up for injustices committed against racial minorities or other groups that were in some way discriminated against, it could be seen as giving favoritism toward those groups. Many question whether or not affirmative action is still necessary in light of the fact that we have an African American president. It is viewed that because a minority is now in a high position of power, all races or ethnicities are equal; however, this is not the case. As former President Johnson said, “You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying ‘you are free to compete with all the others.’” You cannot expect minorities to feel equal or like they are able to compete on a level playing field when the majority race has gotten a huge head start. It is something that weighs on the mind of any person trying to fight for the right to be heard and treated equally, without discrimination on their race, gender, etc.
Personally, growing up as a Hispanic female I have definitely faced barriers when it came to my potential for success, whether they were all in my head or if they really existed. From the first day you are born as a minority race or gender, society is trying to fill your head with these ideals of what your potential is. It is as if because of physical characteristics, your capabilities and likelihood to succeed are predetermined from day one; whether you are a victim or see this as an opportunity. This idea that society decides your potential is what is known in sociology as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is something that was derived to keep minority groups from gaining too much power by planting the idea that it would be impossible for them to achieve greatness or success.
The Fisher case have been set in place to help rid society of this self-fulfilling prophecy and try to even the score a bit for minorities whether this is directly or indirectly. The Top 10% Plan was another standard that was enacted to help remove this ideal from society. This plan stated that any student who graduated in the top 10% of their class was automatically accepted to any public university in Texas. This was advantageous in helping many students, especially minorities, when it came to applying and being able to attend college. A latent consequence of this, however, was what it did within schools. The more competitive the school was, the harder it would be to make the top 10% and vice versa.
Schools in less competitive areas could in essence be more desirable now because it would be easier to achieve that top ranking. Also, those in the more competitive schools are taking the easiest classes to make the highest grades possible just to be able to have a chance of competing with those who take more difficult classes and still receive the top grades. As much good intent went into the Top 10% Plan, the consequences that resulted cannot be ignored because one fact is clear: high schools are not all created equal. As a student who was not lucky enough to benefit from the Top 10% Plan, you could say that I have a bias. In actuality, I am just proof of the flaws in this system. I graduated 84 in my class of 656, with a GPA of 97.3 (3.7 on 4.0 scale) but was not in the top 10% of my graduating class. I was one of the many who went to a very competitive high school, took the difficult classes that would end up giving me college credit, but was not able to compete with those in my class who were even more competitive than I was or who took easier classes and received higher grades.
Despite all the plans, rules, standards, etc. that were set into motion to help minorities find their voice in society, one thing has still remained the same; we are still not all equal. As much as we want to pretend we are, we are simply not. If we could find a way to remove race and possibly even rank from applications to college, we might be able to break the cycle of inequality. I believe that we should be judged solely on our scholastic abilities and merit because in all honesty, I would rather know I was accepted for what I achieved; not in comparison to anyone else or because of the color of my skin.