AA Edit | US fails over univs' diversity

Finding the balance has been the challenge, but the Americans are being forced into getting it wrong

In a bombshell verdict, the US Supreme Court has struck down affirmative action in higher education. This strikes at the very root of social justice in a land that thought of universal suffrage by ethnicity (1965) somewhat late though slavery may have been abolished a century earlier. And yet the United States is democratic enough today to have a load of critics slamming the majority judges who upheld race-neutral policies, including two Presidents of a liberal persuasion in Mr Joe Biden and Mr Barack Obama, just as Donald Trump predictably praised the reversal of positive discrimination.

Indian and Asian Americans, also party to the legal action concerning the universities of Harvard and North Carolina, can be said to feel as elated as the whites about the verdict. They may have reasons for nursing grievances against the kind of affirmative action policies that exist in India and on which there are huge pressures for being expanded further in seats and jobs. Even so, the judgment is to be seen as a negation of what modern societies should stand for in terms of promoting diversity and rendering justice to underserved sections of the population.

All societies, despite the variations in their social history, have reason to support affirmative action to compensate for centuries of domination by certain sections over a majority of others in a system run on legacy privileges of wealth and standing and several other old discriminatory policies. American universities vow to find other ways to get Black and Hispanic youth in and keep building diverse student bodies. Asian Americans of Chinese and Indian origin have learnt to crack the system in a meritocracy — they also mostly come from high-income families — and can be said to be satisfied if race-neutral admissions are indeed effected.

Positive affirmation is aimed at finding diversity as well as expanding opportunities, which is one reason why there is no arguing against systems like the Indian that have gone on well beyond the originally intended time frames towards perpetuity. Of course, such action comes at the expense of some whose ancestors may have been privileged but feel discriminated against now. Finding the balance has been the challenge, but the Americans are being forced into getting it wrong.

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