White Privilege Undermines Diversity in Higher Education - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

White Privilege Undermines Diversity in Higher Education

by Larissa Estes, Dr. Tanisha Price-Johnson, and Dr. Marina L. Ramirez


Beyond institutionalized and internalized racism and classism, there is a cloud of entitlement that weighs heavy like a dense fog: White privilege. The contours of Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin eloquently exhibits how a young White female’s institutionalized privilege hinders the veracity of diversity in higher education. Abigail Fisher’s rejection and subsequent blame on affirmative action is rooted in her privilege of never hearing “no” and never having to justify her admission beyond the insinuation that a person of color had “her spot.”

Many of us were rejected by a school we longed to attend or a job we desperately wanted. But we did not think that someone stole “our” spot. We did not dwell on not being accepted by a school and wasting taxpayer dollars on pursuing a meritless court case. Instead, motivation kicked in. When given “the” opportunity, we became committed to taking advantage of the opportunity and performing our best to demonstrate we are capable of producing exceptional work-products.

The linchpin of an educational framework is mission alignment that requires institutions to intentionally grow a community of scholars reflective of the ever-changing U.S. demographics. Continuing with business as usual—reflecting the mindset of Justice Scalia and his proponents—will regrettably reinforce the history of racism, classism, and exclusion in the U.S. and fail to recognize the overall purpose of affirmative action.

Justice Scalia’s commentary that African-American students perform better in “less advanced,” “slower-track” schools displays a blatant notion that perception is not objective, as legally required of an adjudicator. When an individual of such prestigious, academic and professional accolades willfully exerts bias commentary at the highest level of our American legal justice system, it is apparent that the goal of affirmative action will not be met within twenty-five (25) years, as suggested by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2003.

If Abigail really wanted to create a world beyond the need for affirmative action in higher education, she would be proactively advocating the underlying issue that drives inequity: equitable opportunity. Fisher has nothing to do with the capacity of people of color to succeed in top tier institutions of higher education but everything to do with a young woman’s White privilege and the Court upholding that privilege. It is okay for people to say “no.” The Supreme Court should have said “no” to Abigail, not uplift the sandbox meltdown of a young woman who does not understand it is okay for someone to tell you “no.” The University of Texas’ stand on diversity in higher education is a “yes” to Ms. Fisher’s “no.”

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Analysis: A Call to Accountability – The HBCU Board Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.Why are HBCUs struggling to survive and thrive today? It’s a question some really smart people within and outside the academy wrestle with perennially. There are a host ...
Public University Leaders Tout Value of College, Affirmative Action Dr. Mary Sue Coleman is president of the University of Michigan. WASHINGTON – With the U.S. Supreme Court soon expected to hear arguments in an affirmative action case, two leaders of public colleges and universities outlined their strong support...
Asian-American, Pacific Islanders Flying Under Radar as a Political Force American Samoa was well represented at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte but the lack of electoral votes and under-representation in polls more than offset that visibility. In such a tight presidential race, Asian-American and Pacif...
From Jail to Juris Doctor Broke and baffled by the legal system, James King turned a negative twist in his life story into a positive. If experience is, as they say, a good teacher, then James King’s personal experiences in a legal system that, at one point, left him inca...
Semantic Tags: