Embracing Abigail?: How Fisher v. UT Highlights a Culture of Delusion and Self-Victimization Among White America

Affirmative Action has been a hot-button topic in this country since it's inception in the 80's, and periodically the debate reaches the highest level in the American judicial system. Once or twice a decade, the Supreme Court hears cases that challenge the notion that minorities in this country have been, and are currently, discriminated against at a rate that special provisions are required to ensure that access to fundamental rights, including employment and education, are absolutely necessary. Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the need for protective race-conscious provisions in Fisher v. The University of Texas.

In 2008, Abigail Fisher was denied acceptance to the University of Texas and, consequentially, filed a lawsuit claiming that she - and other applicants of her ilk - were discriminated against as a result of their admission process. Abigail didn't claim that the University denied her admission despite an overabundance of merit based qualifications. She had mediocre grades and standardized testing results; had she been in the top 10% of her graduating class, she would have been granted unconditional and automatic acceptance into the public institute of her choosing in the State of Texas. She didn't claim that she - and others like her - were disproportionately burdened because she was female... no. Women make up a majority of the student body at the University of Texas, and national trends indicate this is the same at a majority of schools across the country. The basis of Abigail Fisher's claim to the Supreme Court was that the University participated in discriminatory practices and denied her admission for no other reason than because of the color of her skin. 

That's right... Abigail said she was a victim of racial discrimination. Her primary argument to the highest court of the land was that she suffered from a preexisting condition called "melanin deficiency", and as a result her Whiteness influenced the University's admission council into refusing to accept her. This argument may have been valid among many of the country's Historically Black Colleges or Universities, that is had she chosen to apply and had been denied acceptance. However, the University of Texas is, and has always been, lacking in the area of racial diversity. Even today, in 2016, African Americans make up a mere 3.9% of the student body in the University despite accounting for more than 12% of the total population within the state. Fisher argued that the University's efforts to improve diversity on campus deprived her of an opportunity to gain a quality education. 

As asinine as it may seem, the Fisher case taps into a larger and growing sentiment among White Americans that being White in a White America has opened their demographic up to large amounts of racial discrimination. A recent poll found 74% of Republicans felt that discrimination against White Americans is on par or has exceeded levels experienced by minority populations.  Let's allow that to marinate for a second. Let us take into consideration every institutional barrier that has been put in place for nearly three centuries in an effort to thwart progress of minority populations. Hell, lets only count those that are in place currently: housing inequality, inequity in criminal sentencing, and workplace discrimination among others. That's right. 74% of Republicans believe that they face discrimination on THAT level. And Abigail Fisher is a product of that culture of self-victimization. 

When was the last time a large segment of White America was denied an interview because their name sounded too ethnic? How many states established laws that questions a Caucasian American's citizenship before granting him or her the right to vote? When was the last time an overwhelming majority of Republican controlled states instituted laws that disproportionately impacted the voting rights of White America? Hell, minorities have now been forced to create travel networks of their own because of discriminatory practices of AirBNB. Reality is, a white convicted felon is more likely to get a call back from a potential employer than a black male applicant with a college education and no criminal record. Reality is, an innocent-unarmed African American is more likely to be killed in a routine police stop than any other demographic. Reality is, for Black Americans, criminal sentences are exponentially longer, opportunities for economic advancement are significantly fewer, and the support from the political class is nonexistent. While there has been areas of improvement, for people of color, life in American ain't no crystal stair. 

White America has never, and likely will never, experience the degree of racial discrimination that people of color in America face on a day-to-day basis, and it is programs like the University of Texas' admission provisions that work to ensure that the babysteps of progress that have been made in the past fifty years don't fade away. But maybe that is the underlying problem. Progress. The same poll found 74% of Republicans believe that the "American way of life" should be protected from outside influence. The term "outside influence" is purposefully vague as is the term "American way of life". There was a time not too long ago where the "American way of life" meant it was perfectly acceptable to host lynching parties where "outsiders" were strung up by the dozens in public squares, where "outsiders" were adolescent people of color attempting to infiltrate all-white school districts. America is no longer THAT country, and maybe that is what scares people. The country is at a point where by the mid-century, the majority will become the minority. America is becoming browner - through integration and intermingling - and a large segment of the population is deathly afraid of that. The feeling of despair is likely fueled not by being disadvantaged and discriminated against because of being White. It is more likely a product of the erosion of the advantages their skin color afforded them and their ancestors for centuries. 

A small part of me wishes that segment of the population could feel what its like to be the subject of real racial discrimination, not just a shock to their Caucasian comfort bubble of privilege. A part of me wishes that people of a different hue could feel just a bit of the insecurity that people of color feel on a daily basis. However, what would that solve? Abigail Fisher will never know what it's like to not be accepted for no other reason than the color of her skin. She will never be followed around in a Dillard's by sales associates. She will not have to worry about if her name was the reason she didn't get that job that she was hoping for. Most importantly, she will never fear for her life the next time she is stopped for a moving violation in her suburban home. Abigail Fisher graduated with an degree from Louisiana State University and has a plush job as a business analyst. Her skin color will never be her handicap.