Highlighting diversity and inclusion in educational institutions, and later in the workplace, is not only legitimate, but commendable. Few now disagree with this general label. But at the end of June the US Supreme Court, in a ruling that is already being described as a “landmark decision”, ruled that the practice of selecting student applicants based on their racial origin is illegal.

This is about the so-called “positive discrimination” (affirmative action), which for a long time was a cornerstone of educational policy in the USA. Proponents of “affirmative action” argue that without it, it is impossible to redress the historical injustice suffered by black and Hispanic students.

As Rotimi Kukogi, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina of African descent, explains, “positive discrimination” means that “I have the opportunity to associate with people who look like me. In other words the university is clearly saying that it welcomes people like me, recognizes the discrimination that prospective students from my background have suffered in the past, and is committed to taking concrete steps to address the issue. Essentially, it makes amends for the injustices of the past.”

Cucogi recalls that until the 1950s, black students were not even admitted to American educational institutions. This means, he says, that “my grandparents’ generation didn’t go to university, and most black people my age didn’t go to university either, as the education system tends to favor prospective students whose parents had also graduated from top universities”.

“Positive discrimination” also causes discrimination

But there is also the opposite. Some believe that “affirmative action” in favor of specific racial groups does not alleviate the phenomenon of discrimination in education, but reproduces it in a different form. John Raj Puri, a sophomore at Stanford University who is of Indian descent, says that “if it’s illegal at Harvard to favor white or Asian applicants over African-American or Hispanic applicants, then the opposite should be illegal as well.” …»

The case before the US Supreme Court concerns “affirmative action” in favor of minorities at the Universities of Harvard and North Carolina. Rotimi Koukogi admits that today there may be discrimination against candidates of Asian origin, who often appear to have a lower score, but he believes that “this is probably a problem of some individual examiners, while a ‘positive discrimination’ is in fact systemic in nature” .

For his part, John Raj Puri acknowledges that when educational institutions comply with the Supreme Court’s decision, the current policy of inclusion and promotion of racial diversity will suffer. “You can’t have the pie whole and the dog full,” he says. “You can’t abolish ‘affirmative action’ and expect the same result in terms of diversity and diversity.”

More… white people in universities

In theory there are alternatives. One could, for example, replace the element of racial origin in the evaluation of prospective students with socio-economic indicators, which would work in favor of the lower social and income strata. But the result won’t be the same, explains Anthony Carnevale, director of the Workforce Center at Georgetown University.

“What’s going to happen is we’re going to see even more white people on campus,” Carnevale says. “That’s where doctors, lawyers, politicians, CEOs of industry come from. From these educational institutions emerges the leadership of the American nation.”