In a predictable outcome, the Supreme Court ruled that the way Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill considered an applicant’s race was unconstitutional, violating the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The impact of this ruling reverberates across higher education, as universities and colleges scramble to figure out how to continue working to diversify their campuses while not running afoul of the law. There is a lot of discussion and debate about the implications of this ruling for higher education. Some note the Supreme Court’s ruling reveals a gulf between two views of race and merit. One view promotes a colorblind ideology and believes that an individual should be evaluated based solely on their merit and experiences as an individual, with no consideration of their race. The opposing view believes that an individual’s merit should be considered within the context of their race and lived experiences because, as articulated by Justice Sonia Sotamayor, race has always mattered in a segregated society and continues to matter.

While the merits of each view are being debated, there is a more difficult and touchier subject that is being avoided in public debate, the unspoken belief that Black people are intellectually inferior. Like the Voldemort character in the Harry Potter books, “he who must not be named”, the deeply entrenched and long-standing belief in Black intellectual inferiority is such a sensitive topic that most people (with the exception of the most explicitly racist people) will not dare publicly speak about this stereotype.

Black students have long contended with notions of being less intellectually capable. The field of psychology played a central role in perpetuating this racist ideology by legitimizing eugenic ideas that resulted in the creation of intelligence tests, which contributed to the belief that “Negroes” were genetically ineducable. Further, because of psychology’s focus on the individual, insufficient attention has been paid to structural and institutional barriers to success for Black (and other minoritized) students that have resulted in what education theorist Gloria Ladson Billings has called the “education” debt, wherein fewer resources and opportunities in schools attended by students of color have contributed to gaps in achievement.

Read the complete article in Psychology Today