As an African American who has a Master’s degree from Harvard Business School, I have had the privilege of studying with the elite of the elite. My education came as a result of values ground into me by my parents. They realized that education could transform a life and prioritized the quality of my education through high school and beyond. Their (and now my) value system projected me on a path toward possibilities and success. Nothing can substitute for a family-driven set of values. It can’t be legislated or superimposed on any culture – even with the best of intent.
Consider, for example, Affirmative Action in America. What is its future? Recently, in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court affirmed (6-2) the right of Michigan residents to prevent their public colleges from taking race, gender, ethnicity or national origin into account in the admissions process. Michigan joins Arizona, California, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Washington and Florida, which have similar policies for their state schools.
The case was prompted by the University of Michigan’s 1995 rejection of Jennifer Gratz, a white student with a 3.8 GPA and a 25 on the ACT. Although her credentials were certainly not strong enough to guarantee her admission to U-M, Gratz sued over her rejection in 1997, asserting that students with lower grades and test scores were admitted because of their race. She alleged that U-M’s admissions policy—which at the time gave “underrepresented” minorities an extra 20 points toward the 100 points needed to assure admission—was unfair. Her story became the force behind the 2006 ballot initiative banning racial preferences, approved by voters and upheld by the Supreme Court last month.
The Michigan ban on Affirmative Action has already spawned backlash. Brooke Kimbrough, a black student from Detroit with a 3.6 GPA and a 23 ACT score, protested her rejection from U-M. Kimbrough held a press conference and rally at the U-M campus, along with fellow students Daisha Martin, Mario Martinez, Alfredo Aguirre and the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).
Unlike Gratz nearly two decades ago, Kimbrough did not accuse U-M of admitting students with inferior academic credentials; the average U-M freshman last year had 3.85 GPA and between 29 and 33 on the ACT. Instead, she accused U-M of not being diverse enough:
“I believe that I have been rejected because of the morals that I stand for!...I will make it my civic duty to document every noose of a rejection letter that the university produces to our black, brown and red bodies!”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.