Barack Obama says affirmative action 'allowed generations of students like Michelle and me to prove we belonged'

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  • The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to end race-based affirmative action in college admissions.

  • The Obamas each released a statement reflecting on the role affirmative action has played.

  • Barack Obama wrote that it had allowed students like him and Michelle "to prove we belonged."

Former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama each released statements expressing their disappointment in the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to end race-based affirmative action in college admissions.

"Like any policy, affirmative action wasn't perfect," Barack Obama, who attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School, wrote. "But it allowed generations of students like Michelle and me to prove we belonged. Now it's up to all of us to give young people the opportunities they deserve — and help students everywhere benefit from new perspectives."

In an additional statement shared on Medium, the former president included links to resources such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the American Indian College Fund, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, urging supporters that "it's time to redouble our efforts" to support students who have historically been systematically excluded from pursuing higher education.

Michelle Obama published a longer response to the ruling, reflecting on her time as an undergraduate at Princeton and a law student at Harvard in the 1980s.

"Back in college, I was one of the few Black students on my campus, and I was proud of getting into such a respected school," she wrote. "I knew I'd worked hard for it. But still, I sometimes wondered if people thought I got there because of affirmative action. It was a shadow that students like me couldn't shake, whether those doubts came from the outside or inside our own minds."

The statement continued: "But the fact is this: I belonged. And semester after semester, decade after decade, for more than half a century, countless students like me showed they belonged, too. It wasn't just the kids of color who benefitted, either. Every student who heard a perspective they might not have encountered, who had an assumption challenged, who had their minds and their hearts opened gained a lot as well. It wasn't perfect, but there's no doubt that it helped offer new ladders of opportunity for those who, throughout our history, have too often been denied a chance to show how fast they can climb."

Michelle Obama also pointed out that while the Supreme Court outlawed race-based college admissions, they still allowed colleges to consider other factors such as legacy status, donor and employee relationships, and recruitment for athletics.

"We don't usually question if those students belong," she wrote. "So often, we just accept that money, power, and privilege are perfectly justifiable forms of affirmative action, while kids growing up like I did are expected to compete when the ground is anything but level."

Minorities have long been underrepresented in Ivy League institutions. While some schools, such as Cornell, began admitting women and Black students in the late 1800s, others, like Columbia, didn't admit women until the 1980s.

Read the original article on Business Insider