A black family, a firm judgment and a lot of thoughts

For the Whiteheads, an African American family living in Baltimore, race is discussed at the dinner table. In the car on the way to work and school and sports. In the backyard while the sons practice sports.

So when the Supreme Court overturned racially sensitive admissions at colleges and universities, effectively ending the practice of affirmative action, families began to speak out passionately about it, echoing the range of sentiments of people across the country invested in the ruling. .

Although the outcome was expected, Curzonia Wise Whitehead, 54, a college professor, said she had to sit down to process “the kind of history that was being made at that time.”

Her husband, Johnny Whitehead, 59, principal of a Christian school, said he was unhappy with the verdict but ambivalent about affirmative action. He is confident that it will no longer be necessary, but fears that it will be.

The oldest son, Kofi, 22, texted his brother Amir to share the news and ponder the chilling effect it could have on the next generation of black students. The 20-year-old Aamir felt there was nothing wrong with ending affirmative action as admissions should be based on merit alone.

For the Whiteheads, the Supreme Court ruling — a seismic shift in their power to overhaul the admissions process at elite colleges and universities — is another chapter in a broader debate they’ve had since their children were young.

Their conversation, in some ways, reflects the complex and changing views among African Americans, on every contemporary racial conflict in the country, from reparations to the American justice system: How to deal with the legacy of slavery?

“It’s part of our ongoing conversation about racism and tensions around race,” said Dr. Whitehead, who teaches African American studies and communication at Loyola University Maryland and is executive director of the Carson Institute for Race, Peace and Social Justice. In college. “What does it mean to be black in America? Where do we fit into America? Whose America is this? If we want equity, what does this equity look like?”

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The family’s early talks centered on making sure their sons were confident in who they were as young black men. This led to other topics.

Coffey wants reparations, but doesn’t know what the right money is for black families whose ancestors were enslaved. Amir supports reparations in some form. Dr. Whitehead is not only supportive, but he believes this is the only way to address the historical debt. Mr. Whitehead said that black Americans deserved reparations, especially because the country had harmed others, and did not see it as a way to solve racism.

When it comes to affirmative action, African Americans overwhelmingly support the policy.

According to Pew Research Center report Published last month, only 33 percent of American adults approve of race-sensitive admissions at selective colleges. Forty-seven percent of African American adults say they agree.

The study found that 28 percent of black adults felt others had unfairly benefited from efforts to increase racial and ethnic diversity.

A separate NBC poll More than half of Americans agreed in April that “affirmative action is still necessary to counter the effects of discrimination against minorities and is a good idea as long as there are no strict quotas.” Among African Americans, the number supporting that statement increased to about 77 percent.

The starkly different attitudes toward the merits of affirmative action were most profoundly expressed in the words of two black justices. Their written exchange reflects how the landmark decision was discussed, debated, and reconstructed among friends and family — including the Whiteheads — over dinner tables, group chats, and social media.

Justices Clarence Thomas, who attended Yale, and Katanji Brown Jackson, who attended Harvard, challenged each other’s views, only agreeing that racial differences exist, but strongly disagreeing on how to resolve them.

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“As she sees things, the original sin of slavery and the historic subjugation of black Americans determine our lives today, leaving us all inexorably trapped in a fundamentally racist society,” wrote Justice Thomas, the nation’s second black justice and a longtime critic. Affirmative action.

Justice Jackson, in his dissent, wrote that Justice Thomas “somehow believes that these facts have no bearing on a reasonable assessment of ‘individual achievement’.” In his opinion, the court’s conservative majority showed a “forgetting-they-have-their-cake-and-eat” on the issue of race.

In some ways, the Whiteheads’ views on affirmative action are consistent with the two judges’ arguments outlined in the pages of the judgment.

Radio host, author, and daughter of civil rights activists, Dr. For Whitehead, removing affirmative action, rooted in the civil rights movement as part of federal policy to combat discrimination, was a “gut punch.” He said he personally benefited from affirmative action as the first black student in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies program at the University of Notre Dame. She worries that the decision is to come, shaping other aspects of life, including corporate hiring.

Mr. Whitehead said he understood the practice as a way to protest discrimination and mistreatment of African Americans. He also said that if affirmative action is to be abolished, legacy options must also go.

A teacher at the Baltimore School of the Bible, Mr. “I’d like to believe we’re a nation that doesn’t need affirmative action, but I fear we still need it,” Whitehead said.

Eldest son Kofi, who graduated from Rhodes College in May with an English degree, is close to his mother’s feelings. He began pursuing the issue in high school after learning about a white student in Texas who was suing the University of Texas at Texas for using race in admissions decisions.

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He sees last week’s ruling as a blow to future generations of black students who want to attend elite schools and the pervasiveness of modern racism. And he confuses the argument that college education standards are being lowered to create more diverse campuses.

“Affirmative action is opening the door to diverse backgrounds because that’s what education and higher education is all about,” Coffey said. “It’s not about having 5,000 of the same kids in two-parent families and all coming to white picket fences and doing the same thing. No. College and higher education is about bringing different people together so you can learn from each other.

His younger brother Amir, who is a member of Lafayette College’s fencing team, sees it differently. A college sophomore studying economics, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. He began developing his political and social conservative views as a middle school student during the Trump presidential race.

He said he was raised as an “independent thinker”, even though he and his mother were far apart in opinion.

He agrees with other members of his family that race and the nation’s history of enslaving black people undeniably affects the present day. But he believes affirmative action undermines the idea of ​​admissions based on merit rather than race.

“Affirmative action is not a bad thing because I don’t think anyone should get it based on the color of their skin,” Amir said. Her college application did not include the subject in her personal essay, however.

“I’m not saying the vision is diminished,” he said. “Sometimes, I feel like cases come down to race. As a country where everything is race-based, I think it comes back to us.

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