THE conundrum of being a young and black student in the US aspiring to enter college is causing nightmares for scores of African-Americans following a court ruling denouncing affirmative action as a key consideration for admission.
Millions of students applying for college admission are currently facing a torrid time in the first application season since the US Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions.
The implications for this ruling – made last June – are huge and wide-ranging. In short, the ruling means colleges are no longer obliged to consider “race” as one of the key determinant factors in student admission assessment and processes.
Additionally, “diversity” is no longer a priority for colleges as they depart from what had become a norm in American life.
The main issue that is giving millions of black college applicants sleepless nights is simply that they had submitted their applications prior to the game-changing Supreme Court ruling.
In other words, their submitted applications emphasises their race, and backgrounds, as what we in South Africa refer to as the “previously disadvantaged”.
Prior to the controversial June 2023 court ruling, the above details of a “black background” would have stood applicants in a good stead. But not any more. Worse still, the information can be used by nefarious college administrators as a basis for exclusion.
This possibility has sent millions of African-Americans who are completing their high school studies into a tailspin. They cannot withdraw their applications. It’s too late.
Lynijah Russell, a 17-year-old high school senior from Maryland outside Washington DC, is one of the multitudes of applicants caught up in the affirmative action legal storm. She told CNN in an interview: “The thing that is important to me is my identity, who I am as a person. And race is a big part of that.”
Russell and many other students say the high court ruling has only added uneasiness and anxiety “to an already brutally stressful application process”.
Another high school senior, Harmony Moore of Texas, fears that her blackness in the aftermath of the court ruling may serve as a stamp of disapproval. She told CNN: “I completely just removed (black) from my essays. I didn’t want to have the wrong admissions officer read it and then, all of a sudden, they don’t want to let me into their school because they feel like I’m trying to push my race on them.”
She believes that deliberately omitting details about her racial identity was more likely to see her accepted into college.
Also speaking to CNN, Angel Perez, the CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counselling (Nacac), said the high court ruling added a dose of confusion to an admissions process that had always been mysterious, nuanced and ambiguous.
She was quoted as saying: “To add this layer on top of it, and for (students) not to really know, ‘do I talk about race? Do I not talk about race? If so, where do I talk about it?’ Is this going to be valued?” She added: “It’s creating this fear. And that fear for some students is actually paralysing.”
Politically, socially and economically, the dice is heavily loaded against black Americans. Although they are supposed to be citizens of the so-called leader of the Free World, in many instances their country still treats them with disdain and the scourge of racial hatred is guaranteed to befall them.
The race question in the US is often hidden behind the country’s cantankerous foreign policy. Invasion of foreign countries deemed enemies of the US, a penchant for the control of the direction that Nato must take and its massive funding by Washington – all these are part of a long list that keeps focus away from the US domestic politics that keep the suffering of black Americans under the radar.
It’s a great pity that the structural defects of American democracy result in the subjugation of African-Americans in practice, whereas on paper they are as free as their white counterparts. It’s a great pity indeed.
In the land of the plenty, every citizen is supposed to have a seat at the dinner table without any fear of being attacked and killed, because of the colour of their skin. Back in the day, slavery was the evil of the time. Today, racism in the US is still alive and kicking.
It manifests itself in all spheres of life –commerce, corporate, education, law, arts and culture. Sad.
In fact, a lot sadder that although black Americans are a tiny minority compared to their white counterparts, they account for the majority of the prison population. Affirmative action was primarily instituted to redress these historical imbalances for African-Americans.
College placement needed to contribute meaningfully to the diversification of the college populations. Too many of the colleges are still lily-white. And now, as the law no longer requires them to ensure acceptance of students based on their race, and by extension background, it looks like the US has taken one step forward and two steps backward.
For African-Americans, this is frustrating. It is a sheer case of blunt confirmation of institutionalised racism.