I’m sympathetic to people who appear uninformed or confused on any given issue, generally. I no longer do a whole lot of ranting on the “stupidity of the American electorate” because more and more I realize it takes a certain amount of work and time just to find a complete set of facts, let alone make the connections between the various actors and what the ultimate goal might be. It’s easy to say “they’re all watching American Idol” or whatever, but even if they aren’t, even if they’re making some good-faith effort to stay informed (in addition to all the other things they have to do) this stuff is complicated. There are layers.
This is a story on an affirmative action lawsuit, from propublica:
“There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” she says. “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?”
It’s a deeply emotional argument delivered by an earnest young woman, one that’s been quoted over and over again.
Except there’s a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn’t really true.
In the hundreds of pages of legal filings, Fisher’s lawyers spend almost no time arguing that Fisher would have gotten into the university but for her race.
If you’re confused, it is no doubt in part because of how Blum, Fisher and others have shaped the dialogue as the case worked its way to the country’s top court.
Journalists and bloggers have written dozens of articles on the case, including profiles of Fisher and Blum. News networks have aired panel after panel about the future of affirmative action. Yet for all the front-page attention, angry debate and exchanges before the justices, some of the more fundamental elements of the case have been little reported.
Race probably had nothing to do with the University of Texas’s decision to deny admission to Abigail Fisher.
In an interview last month, Blum agreed Fisher’s credentials and circumstances make it difficult to argue — as he and his supporters have so ardently in public — that but for her race Fisher would have been a Longhorn.
“There are some Anglo students who had lower grades than Abby who were admitted also,” Blum told ProPublica. “Litigation like this is not a black and white paradigm.”
Blum started his one-man nonprofit, the Project on Fair Representation, in 2005. The organization is funded by deep-pocketed conservatives to, according to its website, influence “jurisprudence, public policy, and public attitudes regarding race and ethnicity” in voting, education, contracting and employment. To do so, Blum — who is not a lawyer — helps arrange pro bono representation to fight race-based policies that were meant to address inequalities.
According to a Reuters profile, Blum has brought at least a dozen lawsuits against such programs and laws — including four that made it to the Supreme Court. He has two on the current docket, Fisher and the Shelby County, Ala., case challenging a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
So the facts were incomplete or skewed as reported-take your pick-probably leading anyone hearing about the case to believe this applicant was denied admission because of her race. The listener or reader would believe that because that’s what she says: she says the “only other difference between us was the color of our skin”. That’s not true. Further, this case is part of a broader strategy by the same group of people who are challenging the Voting Rights Act, and the ultimate goal of Mr. Blum and his conservative and libertarian backers is this:
So while the Fisher case has been billed as a referendum on affirmative action, its backers have significantly grander ambitions: They seek to make the case a referendum on the 14th Amendment itself.
Would any of this additional information change how people perceive the voting rights case or the affirmative action case if they heard about it on their car radio? I don’t know. I do know they’d have to put quite a bit of time in to even know what’s going on here, who the players are, and where they’re going with this.