People believe that we live in a post-racial society. It’s a nice thought, an ideal, but ultimately a fallacy.
When 66 percent of UNC’s campus population is white, it’s difficult to say that we’ve achieved equity. Of the people living at or below the poverty line in North Carolina, 35 percent are black and 40 percent are Hispanic. Only 16 percent are white. One look at these statistics, and the concept of a “post-racial” society falls away completely.
The numbers demonstrate why affirmative action must continue to account for racial identity. Socioeconomic status should be included as well, but the hard fact is that poverty in this country falls along racial lines.
People growing up in minority communities are not always given the same opportunities granted to those in the majority.
Some struggle against language barriers. Low-income households, disproportionately consisting of racial minorities, live in low-income neighborhoods, and these children often attend underfunded, failing schools.
These schools don’t offer the same opportunities as more rigorous, privileged high schools, usually located in heavily white communities.
If we want to move toward racial equity, and if we want our campus to remain diverse, race must remain a part of affirmative action policy.
A college education can increase lifetime earnings by more than $300,000 compared to those with only a high school diploma. Minority students who graduate from college and advance in society help create equity and push this country toward achieving the ideal of a post-racial society.
Ultimately, an institution must exist to ensure that students from minority backgrounds can at least be seen and seriously considered by a college admissions office like the one here at Chapel Hill.
Eliminating race as a factor in college admissions risks reverting back to highly segregated campuses.
As of 1995, the student bodies at many flagship universities in the South remained primarily white. Racial diversity has improved at these universities since then, but if race is no longer a consideration in college admissions, there’s a chance we’ll see it decline again.
It was only 57 years ago that UNC admitted its first black undergraduate students. In 2012, the University still remains primarily white.
In 2003, the Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger outlawed the use of racial quotas in college admission decisions but established that considering race among other factors for admission helps contribute to the diversity of college campuses.
The most recent challenge, Fisher v. University of Texas, threatens to overturn this decision, which could be detrimental to both minorities as a whole and to the diversity of college campuses.
Education serves as the equalizer. And until the number of undergraduates and graduates become more equal both at this university and across the country, race must have a place in the college admissions process.
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