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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-ed: Why 'race-blindness' is counterproductive

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down race-based admissions at UNC and Harvard is a disheartening setback for equal opportunity and social progress. 

This ruling strikes a chord with me as a Black student attending UNC under a scholarship designed to promote greater diversity and understanding on campus. 

Reflecting on my journey, I was fortunate to attend a private high school. However, the disparity was evident – only 2 percent of my peers were Black. In an environment where my voice often felt marginalized, I found myself constantly speaking out to be heard, included and to make a difference in my community. 

Yet, when I shared my perspective on issues of diversity, I was often met with hostility from members of the community— some even going so far as to take legal action after I and other students wrote a letter following the murder of George Floyd advocating for changes in our school.

Arriving on UNC's campus, I encountered people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some were descendants of families tied to southern slavery, others were first-generation college attendees and many hailed from economically disadvantaged communities. 

Their presence alone enriched the classroom environment, offering unique perspectives that expanded my understanding and patience. Their stories became a bridge for those unfamiliar with their journeys.

When I stepped foot on campus, I immediately recognized the profound contrast from my high school environment. The difference showed me that the opportunities I was about to embrace owed their existence to practices like affirmative action, which have been instrumental in fostering diversity.

Reflecting on enrollment data from past decades, we are confronted with shockingly low percentages of Black student enrollment at UNC, a stark reminder of the institution's historical alignment with Jim Crow regulations. 

With Black students only recently being granted more room in these institutions, policies like affirmative action allow for them to take up the space they deserve.

Understanding the historical context that necessitates policy like affirmative action, we can examine states that had previously banned affirmative action. 

California saw a decrease in the number of Black and Hispanic students in the University of California system after it ended affirmative action. Additionally, these policies weakened the chances of those students completing college, attending graduate school and achieving higher salaries.

It's reasonable to expect that this trend will now extend to the rest of the country, significantly impacting these communities in a detrimental manner.

The Supreme Court majority's belief that a colorblind approach solves race-based disadvantage is, ironically, counterproductive.

Insisting that colleges disregard the race-related opportunity gap among students will not narrow it, but widen it. This Supreme Court decision undoubtedly prolongs the necessity for race-conscious policies. Systemic disparities are the very reason it is vital for admissions programs to consider race. 

It's crucial to recognize that affirmative action programs aim to address the ongoing impacts of historical injustices on the present generation. 

Consider the historical practices like redlining that denied Black citizens home loans, discriminatory lending practices that charged disproportionate interest rates for Black borrowers and urban planning that reinforced residential segregation. These practices systematically hindered the ability of earlier generations to accumulate and pass on wealth, thereby limiting their descendants' opportunity for upward mobility.

Throughout my academic journey, I have personally witnessed the transformative power of affirmative action on campus dynamics. These policies have created a space where students of color, including myself, find validation and recognition.

Such an environment becomes a fertile ground for personal and intellectual growth. As we navigate the shifting landscape, it's important that we remain steadfast in our pursuit of both equity and diversity, adapting our approaches to ensure that inclusivity prevails. 

— Adam Sherif, sophomore


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