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Race-based or qualified by school merits? Scholars ponder the question By Cassiette West-Williams

Women and people of color have traditionally represented what the government has defined as “affirmative action policies” for college-bound scholars, as stated by Best Colleges.

These guidelines are used for certain college campuses where one’s race has been considered in the college application process. While trailblazers like James Hood and Vivian Malone integrated the University of Alabama in 1963, this practice may be halted with the conservative Supreme Court that rules the nation now.

Chandra Sullivan, 17, is a wide-eyed high school senior. She is excited about her next phase of life and “living the American dream” as a college graduate. But if the US Supreme Court has to make a ruling on affirmative action students, Sullivan’s going to need a few other factors to get accepted in majority-based colleges and/or universities.

According to the New York Times, The Supreme Court may make a ruling on affirmative action students in June 2023. A few days ago, they listened to two cases from the Students for Fair Admissions, who are arguing that affirmative action discriminates against Asian and white scholars. The cases were from Harvard and the University of North Carolina, where Asians and whites feel that Black and Latino students have an unfair edge over their admissions to college.

Affirmative action was established for colleges to diversify their student bodies and give other racial groups some assistance in the college admissions process, where people and cultures of color had not been frequented on majority-based college campuses.

Sullivan has attended two recent college fairs and feels that her race is an asset to her admission into a mainstream university because she feels that her experiences as a person of color are unique and part of the American fabric.

“I have good grades (3.84-grade point average), very good letters from my teachers, a 28 ACT score, and I’m a math whiz. Now, how many Black girls are you gonna find with my background,” Sullivan boasts. “They think that I will be accepted because I am Black, but I have many things going well for me,” said Sullivan.

But will Sullivan’s college application prevent a white or Asian student from attending college? Is Sullivan taking a seat from another deserving student simply because she is Black? Students for Fair Admissions would argue that her qualifications need to meet the quality of her peers, who are white and Asian. It does not mean much to the non-Black student that Sullivan has accomplished many academic goals, despite being a first-generation college freshman. 

Students for Fair Admissions are not considering the family income level (which is below $30,000 for a family of six); unequal conditions in which Sullivan lives and thrives daily (crime, carjackings and high theft), daily shootings, very few retail outlets or the cheap stores in the neighborhood on every other corner, poor nutrition and few, if any, decent places to eat except for fast food chains. Sullivan’s family frequents food pantries and uses LINK cards to eat and no one is working a standard 9-5 job. But her family still mages to make ends meet.

By local neighborhood standards, Sullivan is a good student and has made many wise choices in her young life, but past provisions may not be afforded for her future success. When asked why she had not considered attending an HBCU (Historical Black College or University), Sullivan replied that she saw more opportunities at majority-based schools. So far, she is waiting to learn of her status forthcoming from early admissions in December 2022.