Listeners Take Stock Of Affirmative Action The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that could decide the future of policies that take race into account in higher education admissions. More than 50 All Things Considered listeners shared their own perspectives on the role of affirmative action policies in modern America.
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Listeners Take Stock Of Affirmative Action

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Listeners Take Stock Of Affirmative Action

Listeners Take Stock Of Affirmative Action

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At the Supreme Court today: oral arguments in the case of Fisher versus the University of Texas at Austin, a case that could put an end to the use of affirmative action in college admissions.


Last week, we asked you this question: Is there still a place for affirmative action in 2012, and why? Here's what some of you had to say.

EVAN GARNER: Having grown up as a white, upper-middle-class boy in Alabama, I went to college with good intentions but little experience.

CORNISH: This is Evan Garner(ph) of Decatur, Alabama.

GARNER: When a discussion in a philosophy class turned to affirmative action, I surprised myself at how emotionally opposed to the practice I was. The professor asked: Do you think you would have had the same level of opportunity, if you had been born as a black woman? My silence answered his question. I dream of the day when I wake up and realize that my race, and class, would not make a difference in my opportunities. But we are not nearly there yet.

SIEGEL: Betty Dong(ph), of Arcadia, California, writes this: I don't believe affirmative action at the university level is necessary. My son is a Chinese-American and worked very hard throughout high school. He took honors and AP classes, and studied himself into a frenzy, causing great stress.

She goes on: I think this kind of competitiveness should be started early, and be instilled in children earlier; to not assume that by sex or race or ethnicity, they should be guaranteed entrance into any program.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, J. Hawley(ph) of Huntsville, Alabama, says yes, we need affirmative action.

J. HAWLEY: When African-Americans are unemployed, and under-employed, at double the rate of European-Americans - yes, we need affirmative action. When African-American business owners are under-capitalized, and only own about 3 percent of the businesses in America - yes, we need affirmative action. When there are very few African-American reporters, even on programs such as NPR...

LAURIE MARHOEFER: We still need affirmative action.

SIEGEL: This is Laurie Marhoefer(ph) of Okemos, Michigan. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Marhoefer is from Syracuse, New York.]

MARHOEFER: I'm a white woman in my 30s, and I work as a history professor. My profession is very white. History, however, is not white, and not only white people are interested in history. The fact that most history professors are white, is due to a legacy of discrimination and institutional bias against people of color. This is not only unjust; it is a disservice to our students.

CORNISH: Walter Steiner(ph) of Youngstown, New York, tells us he believes the time for racial preferences has long passed. He's white, and grew up in a lower-middle-class family in Southern California, alongside a Latino majority that he says was considerably more privileged.

In the next few decades, he writes, it is predicted that all whites will be a minority in the United States. I am 44 years old and have no memory of the civil rights movement. But I do have distinct memories of swimming upstream against racial preferences, at every stage of my caree - starting with college.

SIEGEL: Maria Torres Villa(ph), of Lawrenceville, Georgia, tells us that both she and her husband are college-educated Hispanics who've been able to provide ample opportunities for their children.

MARIA TORRES VILLA: Our children do not need any help from colleges, for admission. The same is true for the children of our African-American, white and Asian friends who are in our same situation. On the other hand, the student who has been able to succeed in high school despite the limitations that poverty bring - that deserves help from colleges and universities, in admission.

CORNISH: And one, final word from Jim Cunningham(ph) of Austin, Texas. He believes his daughter was initially denied admission to the University of Texas because she is white. He understands the push to have a student body that reflects the population of the state. But...

JIM CUNNINGHAM: The answer isn't to turn away qualified students. The answer is to enhance other schools within the state system, so that no one school is so overwhelmed by applicants that they must select based on a criteria as singular as skin color. In this instance, choosing through race treats a symptom, not the cause.

SIEGEL: Thanks to all of you who wrote us with your comments. Elsewhere in today's program, we have a full report on today's arguments before the Supreme Court; a report from NPR's Nina Totenberg.

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