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Supporters Rally for Affirmative Action at the Supreme Court

Yesterday, at the U.S. Supreme Court, some 500 students, activists, community leaders and concerned citizens gathered to show their support for the University of Texas at Austin and its admissions policy in the case Fisher v. University of Texas. The first major case of its kind in nine years, the ruling in this potentially landmark case could limit or eliminate affirmative action practices in university and college admission departments all across the country.

Abby, a second-year law student, said at the event:

In a time when there was recently an African American teenage boy who was killed because he looked ‘suspicious,' we clearly need more cultural understanding so that we can get rid of these stereotypes and build a better America. That’s why I support affirmative action at higher education institutions and that’s why I’m here today.

Signs that read “Out of Many, One America” and “Diversity = Success” waved in the air as more than 20 different organizations came out at yesterday morning’s rally expressing the necessity of affirmative action in America. Dozens of speakers kept the crowd energized in front of the Supreme Court during the hearings.

Jeff Miller, communications director of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, says:

This case is about two critical things; one being the benefit of diversity in our universities, and the second is about expanding equal opportunity. Diversity should be within our national interest and the University of Texas has a fair process that we should all be in support of.

Though many believe that the Supreme Court may not rule as favorably as it did in 2003—when there was a similar case against affirmative action at the University of Michigan Law School (Grutter v. Bollinger)—supporters were still optimistic that those ruling would see the important role of diversity in providing a holistic education.

“This is all of our responsibility," says Tanya Clay House of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

This is fundamental to what we believe in, in this society. We’re not at a point where we can just say we’re in a post racial society. The reason I had to be here today is because this is personal. I am fighting for my three-year-old child, I’m fighting for all those children who are yet unborn, for all of those children who want an excellent education. They need to know that [having an excellent] education means to be among those who have a rich experience, ethnic and cultural diversity. It’s not just about passing that test. It’s about understanding what it means to participate in society and to understand how to compete. 

Students from the University of Texas at Austin, Howard University, University of California, Los Angeles, and many others also came out to speak about why diversity can broaden and enrich a classroom discussion.

Sarah, a student at Georgetown University, said:

It’s not just about the grades; you have to look at everything in the context of race. Diversity matters, not only is it good for minority students, it’s good for everyone. It shapes our experiences, challenges our thinking and forces us to battle with stereotypes. Conversations are different with different people, so diversity simply prepares us to interact with more types of people because in this global society that’s what’s valuable. As one of the speakers said, 'When we know better, we do better.'

If the Supreme Court overrules the Grutter v. Bollinger case, it would likely end affirmative action at public universities in the United States and would probably decrease the number of African American, Hispanic and Asian students accepted to American universities. A ruling is expected in June of 2013.

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