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Affirmative Action

The Abigail Fisher affirmative action case has been making its way through the courts for years, and since the Supreme Court hearings start soon, it is now all over the news. Abigail Fisher graduated from high school in 2008 and during her senior year, she applied to the University of Texas. Her parents and siblings all went to UT, but much to her chagrin, she was not admitted, but believed that other students (students of color, in particular) with lower GPA’s and less impressive resumes were admitted to the university. After this, a family friend approached her about pleading her case in court to knock down affirmative action. And here we are.

Affirmative action has been under siege from the very beginning and cases like this come around every 10 years to shake up the courts. The last one I can recall was a student who was not admitted to the University of Michigan making the same argument. However, given the racial, social, and economic climate in our country today, the timing of this case is remarkable. I have always been a proponent of affirmative action, because I believe that until we remove the parts of our system that keep people of color at a disadvantage, then we need to help “the least of these.” (for my evangelicals, see God: “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”)

I’ll make the case for me: I graduated from high school with a 3.85 GPA, lots of extracurricular activities (with leadership roles), and was in the Top 10 percent of my class. I went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from The University of Georgia, another PWI like UT, and afterward I got a master’s degree from Syracuse University. If a white student whose undergraduate admissions application looked just like mine, save for the fact that they had a 3.9 GPA (or even a 4.0), was not admitted to UGA, and it was because of race, I took nothing from them, my space was not wasted, and I don’t feel bad. And, even if I had a 3.4 or a 3.5, I would feel the same way.

Why not? Because representation is important and thousands of students of color now have the power of my example. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in Lean In, that “we must raise the ceiling and the floor.” I’m sure that that white student with a 3.9 GPA had seen plenty of people who looked like them doing what they wanted to do and that that person is just fine and went to some other university, even if it wasn’t their first choice. When they graduated, they raised the ceiling– when I graduated, I raised the ceiling and the floor, because now other young women of color who want to work in media see that it’s possible. This matters, because education uplifts marginalized communities by empowering people financially (through broader career choices and higher incomes) and socially (by allowing them to shake hands with the right people in order to influence positive change).

There’s been a lot of outcry from those opposed to, and from those for, affirmative action, and to be honest, I can’t believe we’re still dealing with this in 2015. However to all of the “Abigail’s” of the world, know this: just because you want something, does not mean you are entitled to get it. In life there is no “way” to anywhere, there are just the choices you make and the people you love. Imagine, if you put your efforts over the past seven years into something other than this case? You’d probably be a lot happier. #StayMadAbby

BONUS: Grey’s Anatomy just handled a similar issue beautifully in two recent episodes.

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