Opinion | The Debate Over Affirmative Action Isn’t Over

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To the Editor:

Re “Justices Rule Against Affirmative Action” (front page, June 30):

While I share the outrage directed at the Supreme Court’s striking down affirmative action, as the founder and director of a preschool day care center and having devoted my life to early childhood interventions, I know that the starting point for creating equality in this country was never at the college level.

The reason affirmative action has been necessary to equalize college admissions is that the needed resources have not been spent to prepare children for learning when they first start formal schooling. Children of color from disadvantaged backgrounds need quality preparation to develop attitudes, skills and behaviors that are essential to eventually passing their classes, graduating and writing a college application.

While protesting the recent Supreme Court decision is cathartic, the real solution to providing a diverse population ready for college is to pour more resources into early schooling and a variety of parent supports. Then a wider demographic will be qualified and admitted and can enjoy the fruits of higher education.

There is nothing deficient in the children’s smarts, just their preparation.

J. Susan Cedar
Santa Fe, N.M.

To the Editor:

I was a graduate of the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) Program of the City University of New York, earning a B.A. in 1972. The program supported a robust college education for students who were racially and/or financially disadvantaged. I was very fortunate to be accepted, and the experience was a turning point in my life.

There is no doubt that affirmative action works to strengthen our society in all aspects. The ruling against it is unjust, and the court should be ashamed of its immoral conduct.

Ronald Brinn
Great Neck, N.Y.

To the Editor:

There is a simple solution to the Supreme Court’s rejection of race-based affirmative action, and it has been in operation for decades in the California State University system. C.S.U. operates an Equal Opportunity Program that provides education access and opportunity for low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.

The vast majority of students admitted are in the racial minority groups targeted by affirmative action. But there are also some white and Asian students who are admitted under the program who have documented the disadvantages they have suffered.

To my knowledge, this program has never been challenged in court, and if it were, it is unlikely that the courts would rule against it. Universities and colleges that can no longer operate their affirmative action programs should adopt the C.S.U. system.

Terrence Dunn
Vancouver, Wash.
The writer is a retired institutional research director in the California State University system.

To the Editor:

The Supreme Court has actually done Black people (and America) a huge favor by giving them the opportunity they deserve to compete and achieve on their own merits and not be second-guessed that what they have achieved came through affirmative action.

Now starts the real challenge, a Marshall Plan to equip Black people with the education, the counseling, the tools and the support that they need to succeed. This involves getting our hands dirty in the trenches, instead of doing it on the cheap, with reverse racism.

Samuel Bahn
New York

To the Editor:

The Supreme Court’s rejection of affirmative action in college admissions will effectively reduce the chances for poor and disadvantaged kids to attend prestigious institutions of higher learning. It is now only fair that “legacy admissions,” which give preferential admissions and advantages to kids of rich alums and donors, be banned also. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Subir Mukerjee
Olympia, Wash.

To the Editor:

It is far easier to hate people who don’t look, sound or love like you if you’ve never been exposed to them. Among the many advantages of affirmative action in colleges, it allowed students from homogeneous backgrounds and communities to experience diversity for the first time. It afforded them the opportunity to appreciate that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, an invaluable lesson that nothing but experience can teach.

The Supreme Court ruling that struck down affirmative action in U.S. colleges means that lesson will play a demonstrably less significant role in students’ education, and hatred of the unknown may surge in its absence.

Tom Templeton
Clifton Park, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I find myself a very lonely liberal, applauding the court’s decision.

For me the silver lining in this decision is that our society can now begin the important work to excise and eradicate the notion of race from our thinking.

We have discussed or paid lip service over the years to the fact that race is an artificial construct. We are all the same species, and some of us have lighter or darker skin or hair of differing textures and a variety of other outward facing features.

And there is every reason to believe that smart, well-intentioned people will find innovative ways to promote diversity and help people catch up to where they would have been socially and financially but for historic injustices and built-in disadvantages.

This is a rare opportunity to turn old moldy lemons into the sweet restorative lemonade of progress and humanity. U.N.C. and Harvard, let’s get going and move that ball down the field toward a social goal long overdue.

Steven Seeche
Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “Admissions Could Be Even More Selective” (front page, June 30):

It is all but impossible to have a sober, unbiased discussion about affirmative action, and this includes justices of the Supreme Court.

Why? Because it assumes that we can use reason and law to arrive at justice. Discrimination is pervasive because it has nothing to do with reason. Chief Justice John Roberts famously wrote in a 2007 ruling, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” It will not stop. Sorry, Chief Justice Roberts.

We are a tribal species with prejudices based on race, gender, sexuality, nationality, language, height and more. When has it been otherwise? No matter the law, no matter what we say or what laws we enact, discrimination and prejudice will continue.

Charles Merrill
New York

To the Editor:

Possible winners resulting from the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action in college admissions? The hundreds of high-quality but nonelite colleges and universities that admit a much higher percentage of qualified applicants than Harvard or the University of North Carolina, and that also offer the opportunities and upward mobility that come with a college degree.

Helen Mango
Tinmouth, Vt.
The writer is a professor of geology and chemistry at Castleton University.

To the Editor:

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, wrote: “The best that can be said of the majority’s perspective is that it proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism. … If the colleges of this country are required to ignore a thing that matters, it will not just go away. It will take longer for racism to leave us.”

My questions to Justice Jackson: Why should race matter when deciding who will be accepted into college? How will affirmative action end racism?

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent that the ruling “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”

My questions to Justice Sotomayor: How is “precedent” relevant in deciding what is right and what is wrong? How can you call it “progress” if it helped some while harming others?

In my opinion, discrimination and affirmative action are both equally unjust and wrong, and two wrongs have never made a right. Policies like affirmative action, however well intentioned, don’t actually balance the scales, and at worst they overcompensate in the opposite direction. Ironically, affirmative action may actually perpetuate racism by breeding jealousy and resentment.

My question to all of the justices: How can a court be trusted to be objective, fair and impartial if the justices themselves are “branded” as being liberal or conservative?

Arthur Saginian
Santa Clarita, Calif.

Regretful Justices?

To the Editor:

Re “Might the Anti-Abortion Justices Have Regrets?” (Opinion guest essay, June 24):

Linda Greenhouse wonders whether the five far-right conservatives who formed the majority in the Dobbs case might have regrets that they caused a life-threatening denial of health care for women in red states.

She concludes, not even a twinge of regret. But no doubt they have deep regrets that they have caused electoral harm to the politicians and conservative social movement to which they have fidelity and are in servitude.

David Schlitz

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