Russia’s Lavrov: Ukraine playing ‘dangerous game’ over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Russia’s Lavrov: Ukraine playing ‘dangerous game’ over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Russia’s Lavrov: Ukraine playing ‘dangerous game’ over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - CHICAGO: The US Supreme Court decision Wednesday to strike down the longstanding affirmative action laws requiring universities and colleges to give special preferences to certain minorities has raised questions about its potential impact on efforts by Arab Americans to be recognized as equals.

In its decision on two related legal cases, a majority of the Supreme Court’s justices declared that “race-conscious” admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that gave African Americans and Native Americans eased access to enrollment were unconstitutional. The ruling only applies to universities and colleges that receive federal funding, as most do.

The Supreme Court ruling came in response to two legal cases filed against Harvard and UNC by the organization Students for Fair Admissions, who have argued that the universities’ admissions practices had denied non-Black students the same preferential treatment.

Although Arab Americans are not directly impacted by the ruling (“Arabs” are not mentioned anywhere in the hundreds of pages of the court ruling), community leaders have maintained that the principles of affirmative action serve to pave a path for them to shatter anti-Arab discriminatory policies and societal barriers that have blocked their ability to enjoy the same benefits as other ethnic and racial American minorities.

Abed Ayoub, president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the Supreme Court’s action upends the pursuit of diversity and race-based equality.

“Alongside our fellow civil rights organizations, we underscore that this decision is limited to just one aspect of college admissions. It cannot and should not disturb our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Ayoub said in a statement.

“The ADC is committed to opposing this regressive decision. We will continue to work with communities of color and other historically marginalized people to tear down barriers to opportunity and ensure that pathways to higher education and leadership are open to all. Our democracy demands no less.”

At its recent convention, one keynote speaker was Ben Crump, a lawyer who has championed in the courts the rights of African Americans who have been victims of police brutality. Crump embraced Arab Americans, saying the two communities face similar civil rights struggles.

While Black Americans are formally recognized by the US government through the census as “minorities,” however, Arabs are not and have been excluded from the census as an identifiable minority group.

Arab Americans have struggled for over 50 years to be included and only recently believed they were at the cusp of being recognized, not as “Arabs” but as belonging to a new broader description: “Middle East and North African.”

Ayoub said the Supreme Court’s declaration, which asserts that centuries of institutional and legal discrimination against Black Americans has disappeared, was incorrect: Slavery only ended in the 1860s and the civil rights of Black people were recognized in several landmark laws passed in the 1960s.

He said that the legacy of racism “continues to stunt the growth of the Arab American community.”

Ayoub claimed Arab Americans have been direct and collateral beneficiaries of affirmative action adopted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which established the principles now struck down by the US Supreme Court.

“It was that very bill that dismantled the racist and restrictive immigration quotes, allowing for the longest sustained period of growth of Arab immigrants in this nation’s history,” the ADC statement asserted.

“By enshrining diversity on college campuses, affirmative action has fostered an environment of mutual understanding and respect, bridging gaps between different communities and cultures. It has also spurred the creation of new areas of study and programs dedicated to the study of Arab Americans, and ones which placed Middle East studies in the proper context and history.”

Many conservative organizations, however, disagree and argue the principles applied only to designated minorities such as African Americans and Native Americans and excluded others.

Under current US federal laws, Arabs have been classified as “White” and have not qualified for many of the benefits that affirmative action brought, such as inclusion in the US census as a recognized minority and the important minority business enterprise programs, in which a minimum of 30 percent of government contracts must be given to companies owned by African Americans and other minorities.

Ashley Hayek, executive director of the conservative America First Policy Institute, said the decision now gives everyone an equal chance to benefit from the American system through merit-based performance.

“The Supreme Court righted a decades-long wrong today by boldly declaring that race-based college admissions are unconstitutional. The future of our students should not be blocked right out of the gate simply because of the color of their skin. That is what affirmative action does. Anyone still defending it is on the wrong side of history,” Hayek said.

“For America to become a merit-based society, as it should, we cannot stop by only ending racial discrimination on college campuses. We need to root it out everywhere else it exists, especially race-based hiring and DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) initiatives. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Constitution and equality for all is the law of the land, and no institution or business is above it.”

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