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Affirmative action has survived decades of conservative antagonism, an unfriendly Supreme Court, and attacks by Republican state legislatures, but the institution’s future looks bleaker than ever.
While long a staple of the progressive agenda, race-conscious affirmative action has quickly been relegated to the relative fringes of the liberal platform. While both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both supporters, it’s been a non-issue so far in the campaign. But while it’s been mostly missing from the national stage, the frame of the affirmative action debate has also shifted – the rise of Asian-Americans as the country’s anointed “model minority” has helped to disrupt the common understanding of affirmative action as an issue of black versus white.
The question is whether Asian-American achievement – or rather understanding its underlying mechanisms – could hold the key to affirmative action 2.0. New research attempts to answer that question and highlight alternatives to race-conscious affirmative action. There are no easy answers, though, and with universities preferring to maintain statistical rankings rather than foster true diversity, it’s hard to find a practical example of affirmative action innovation. One thing’s for sure: If affirmative action is to continue to live up to its ideal, something needs to change.