The Energy Allies Team is both deeply pained and angered by the Supreme Court’s decisions to reverse affirmative action and student debt forgiveness. Research shows that diverse student bodies, faculties, and teams perform better (Chilton et al., “Assessing Affirmative Action’s Diversity Rationale”). Discrimination in the job market persists, and affirmative action has worked to compensate for this injustice. The Court’s ruling undermines civil rights and perpetuates inequity.
Student debt forgiveness would have provided immediate relief and significantly increased the wealth of Black and Hispanic borrowers. The impact of student loan debt on marriage and family planning is profound. 46% of Black student borrowers are likely to put off buying a home. 33% of Latinx student borrowers say they put off getting married due to their student loan debt, while 37% of Latinx borrowers delayed having children due to debt (Hanson, “Student Loan Debt by Race”). Black college attendees already face a significant wealth gap compared to their White peers: student loan debt exacerbates this disparity. Student loan debt forgiveness would have immediately increased the wealth of Black Americans by up to 40% (Hanson, “Student Loan Debt by Race”). The court’s decision on student debt forgiveness disregards the financial hardships faced by Black and Latinx families and communities.
Affirmative action was implemented to advance opportunities and create a diverse environment, which benefits us all. White admissions counselors are, on average, 26 percent less likely to respond to the inquiry emails of Black high school students who voice a concern about the continuing problem of racism. White male counselors were 37 percent less likely to respond to these students. When Black female students sent these emails, White male counselors were almost 50 percent less likely to respond (Thornhill, “We Want Black Students, Just Not You”). Black and Latinx job applicants face more discrimination in the job market, and U.S. colleges and universities are pathways to careers. A 1991 study found that job applicants with African American names get far fewer callbacks for each resume they send out (Turner et al., “Opportunities Denied, Opportunities Diminished Racial Discrimination in Hiring”). Equally importantly, applicants with African American names find it hard to fight discrimination in callbacks by improving their observable skills or credentials. This study’s findings reveal that Black applicants were less likely to receive an interview than their white counterparts. If they got an interview, they were likely to have a shorter one and encounter more negative remarks. They were more likely to be denied a job and steered toward lower wages and positions. Affirmative action was instituted in higher education to compensate for labor market discrimination. We echo the words of Justice Sotomayor’s dissent “In so holding, the
Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”
Arguments against affirmative action overlook systemic issues and the lack of investment in diverse resources and support systems. The focus should be on ensuring the success and graduation of students of color by providing the necessary resources, not just graduation rates. Research demonstrates that attending a college with a racially diverse student body benefits both white and Black men in terms of later earnings (Daniel et al., “College Quality and the Wages of Young Men”). The movements behind affirmative action and debt forgiveness operate with the understanding that proactive efforts are necessary to disrupt systemic injustice.
In the face of these setbacks, we find hope in the call for reparations made by Representative Cori Bush. Her bill seeks $14 trillion in reparations for Black Americans, acknowledging the lasting harm caused by slavery. Reparations are long overdue, and it is the moral and legal responsibility of the United States to provide compensation for the enslavement and ongoing oppression of African Americans. We support Representative Bush’s resolution, which aims to advance federal reparations and provide momentum to reparations efforts at the state and local levels.
Energy Allies recognizes that racism and climate change share the same roots. We believe that climate-impacted communities should have the funding and support needed to build resilient and thriving communities. Addressing the interconnections between racial justice and environmental justice is essential in our pursuit of an equitable energy transition.
We call on everyone to take action by supporting initiatives that protect civil rights, advocate for reparations, and actively work towards dismantling systemic racism and oppression. Together, we can build an equitable future.
Baker, Dominique J. “Why Might States Ban Affirmative Action?” Brookings, 12 Apr. 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/why-might-states-ban-affirmative-action/. Accessed 05 July 2023.
Bertrand, Marianne, and Sendhil Mullainathan. “A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” Working Paper 9873, NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 0. Accessed https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w9873/w9873.pdf.
Chilton, Adam, Justin Driver, Jonathan S. Masur, and Kyle Rozema. “Assessing Affirmative Action’s Diversity Rationale.” Columbia Law Review, vol. 122, no. 2, 2022, pp. 331. Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper Forthcoming, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 782. SSRN, https://ssrn.com/abstract=3856280.
Colin, Elise, and Bryan J. Cook. “The Future of College Admissions without Affirmative Action.” Urban Institute, 23 June 2023, https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/future-college-admissions-without-affirmative-action/.
Daniel, Kermit, Dan Black, and Jeffrey Smith. “College Quality and the Wages of Young Men.” 1 May 1996, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23745285_College_Quality_and_the_Wages_of_Young_Men.
Hanson, Melanie. “Student Loan Debt by Race.” EducationData.org, 17 May 2023, https://educationdata.org/student-loan-debt-by-race.
Kane, T. J. “Racial and Ethnic Preferences in College Admissions.” The Black–White Test Score Gap, edited by C. Jencks and M. Phillips, Brookings Institution Press, 1998, pp. 431–456.
Peck, Emily. “Why Companies Should Worry about the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling.” Axios, 5 July 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/07/05/why-companies-should-worry-about-the-supreme-courts-affirmative-action-ruling.
Thornhill, Teresa. “We Want Black Students, Just Not You: How White Admissions Counselors Screen Black Prospective Students.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 5, no. 4, 2019, pp. 456–470. DOI: 10.1177/2332649218792579.
Torres, Genevieve Bonadies. “Affirmative Action in Higher Education: Relevance for Today’s Racial Justice Battlegrounds.” American Bar Association, 6 Jan. 2020, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/black-to-the-future-part-ii/affirmative-action-in-higher-education–relevance-for-today-s-ra/. Accessed 05 July 2023.
Turner, Margery Austin, Michael E. Fix, and Raymond J. Struyk. “Opportunities Denied, Opportunities Diminished: Racial Discrimination in Hiring.” Urban Institute, 1 Sept. 1991, https://webarchive.urban.org/publications/204580.html. Accessed 05 July 2023.