by Jamilah King
Originally puoblished: June 23, 2016
The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin on Thursday. The move was, in effect, a ruling in favor of affirmative action — a longstanding practice in which race and gender are considered among several factors in hiring and admissions decisions.
There's a widespread idea that affirmative action is primarily about diversity. If a campus or workplace is racially diverse, the thinking goes, performance improves, and we're all made better for it. It's an idea that's so widespread that both advocates and critics of affirmative action use it to make their arguments. But if we focus on diversity, we miss the entire point of affirmative action.
From its conception in the 1960s, affirmative action was not about diversity — it was about equity. In other words, it was a conscious attempt to address real institutional damage done to women and communities of color that kept them out of America's classrooms and workplaces — and still do.