Attacks on Affirmative Action Widen Inequality

Revolutionary Worker #911, June 15, 1997

Admission figures recently announced for schools in Texas and California show the drastic effects of attacks on affirmative action--and how inequality is being reinforced.

The University of Texas Law School has 2,000 Mexican-American and African-American alumni--which is significant in a state with large populations of those two groups. And one of every 11 Mexican-American lawyers in the U.S. was trained at the University of Texas Law School. But this year's applications for Latino students at the UT Law School went down 14 percent and applications from Black students fell 42 percent. The school has subsequently offered admission to only 10 Black students for this fall--a drop of 80 percent from the year before.

In the past, both the University of Texas and UC Berkeley had affirmative action programs. But in 1995 the UC regents voted to ban affirmative action programs throughout the University of California system. And UT is now operating under the Hopwood decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Cheryl Hopwood and three other white students filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas Law School, claiming they were not admitted because minorities got preferential treatment in admission. The court ruled that the university could not consider the ethnicity or race of applicants at all. And the Texas Attorney General then interpreted the ruling to also ban race-based scholarships.

These attacks on affirmative action had an immediate effect. Total undergraduate applications to the University of Texas fell 13 percent. But applications from Black students fell 26 percent and applications from Latino students fell 23 percent. Blacks and Latinos are already under-represented at UT. While 32 percent of the state's 18-year-olds are Latino, Only 15 percent of students at UT are Latino. And while 14 percent of 18-year-olds in Texas are Black, only four percent of the students at UT are Black. Meanwhile, in California, even though a record number of students applied to the state university system, applications from Black, Latino and other oppressed nationality students fell for the second year in a row. While applications rose 1.6 percent overall, Black applications fell 8.2 percent, Latino ones fell 3.7 percent and American Indian ones fell 9 percent.

Applications from Black and Latino students has also dropped drastically at the UC at San Francisco School of Medicine. And at UC's Boalt Hall Law School, admissions of Black students dropped 81 percent and Latino admissions dropped 50 percent. The dean at Boalt, Herma Hill Kay, told the San Francisco Examiner, "I'm feeling quite disheartened. Here we are, trying to educate lawyers to practice in a multicultural society, but we're not going to be a multicultural law school." Kay said that of the 792 offers of admission extended to students for the fall of 1997, 14 went to African Americans, compared with 75 African Americans offered spots last year. Offers to Latino students decreased from 78 to 39.

In the struggle over affirmative action, the question is really about what kind of society we want to live in--whether or not we want a society stamped from top to bottom by systematic discrimination against Black people and other oppressed nationalities. And it's becoming increasingly clear that dismantling affirmative action is nothing less than an attempt to defend and reinforce systematic discrimination and inequality throughout society.

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