Affirmative Action, Unfair? OK, Let's Make It Fair

David Leonhardt: Let's focus on overall disadvantage

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 14, 2012 5:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Affirmative action is losing favor among Americans because it emphasizes diversity over fairness—but proponents still have time to correct that mistake, writes David Leonhardt at the New York Times. He saw the issue on full display this week during Supreme Court arguments in the case of Abigail Fisher, a white woman turned down by the University of Texas. Her lawyer argued that Fisher's treatment was unfair, while defenders of affirmative action skirted fairness entirely, talking only about the importance of diversity.

"Americans value diversity," writes Leonhardt. "But they value fairness more." That's why the Supreme Court limited affirmative action in 2003, and five state referendums have banned racial preferences. But if affirmative action were to help people who are broadly disadvantaged—by income, neighborhood poverty, family structure—it would be more fair and still help many blacks and Latinos. This is "a version of affirmative action—legal, generally popular and arguably more meritocratic—that higher education has not yet even tried." Click for Leonhardt's full piece.

Abigail Fisher, right, who sued the University of Texas, walks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.
Abigail Fisher, right, who sued the University of Texas, walks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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The liberals behind the great successes of the civil rights and women’s movements never showed as much interest in economic diversity. ... They have preferred a version of diversity focused on elites from every race. - David Leonhardt, the New York Times

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