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The Silver Lining

First, let’s be clear: affirmative action is not dead. Too many (still) predominantly white colleges and universities have too much capital investment in buildings, curriculums, organizations and recruiting to dismantle their diversity efforts overnight. Consciously including a mix just won’t be as visible. Minority student populations on predominantly white campuses will dwindle and twenty years from now we will be wringing our hands again because colleges and universities will no longer represent their off-campus communities and asking how this happened. The answer, of course, is the same way it has always happened, not necessarily by intent but by practice. Without the reminder and pressure of the law, monitoring the law and auditing practices, the reminder, the pressure to diversify won’t be there. Without deliberate intent but with predictable behavior, colleges and universities will default to old habits and headsets.

Hidden is a pearl, an advantage, an unintended boost to historically black colleges (HBCUs) and their communities which still struggle with endowment and financial aid to student’s issues. It will be an easy shift for African American students rejected by white colleges to find acceptance by these colleges and universities and continue to survive and thrive. Black and foreign students of color will now simply turn to a smaller pool of academic options but still engage in the process and benefits of a post-secondary school education.

Historically black colleges’ coffers will grow, alumni associations will have a greater base from which to solicit, black infrastructure will thicken and soar.

The Supreme Court has unintentionally enabled a burst of economic potential to the black infrastructure in the US. It has also unintentionally robbed white academic infrastructure of some of its economic base. To wit:

“There are currently 107 HBCUs serving more than 228,000 students throughout the country, nearly a quarter of students enrolled in HBCUs were non-Black as of 2019, with white, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American students making up a fifth of their population.” Richard Humphreys established the African Institute (now Cheyney University) in 1837 in Pennsylvania, making it the oldest HBCU in the United States.” So, these are entrenched institutions, not some offshoot of any civil rights act.

In 1969, the late D. Park Gibson, president of a public relations firm in Manhattan, published “The $30 Billion Negro,” an examination of the consumer strength of African Americans.” Manhattan based McKinsey & Company estimates that African Americans will represent $1.8 trillion spending power in 2024.

The silver lining in the Supreme Court decision about colleges and universities and affirmative action will have far reaching - - and, I believe - - unintended benefits as well as consequences.

Patricia Adams moved to Somers in 2007. She grew up in Hastings on Hudson, NY, graduating from NYU Stern in 1963 and earning her MBA at Atlanta University in 1969. She worked in human resources for IBM and retired from Digital Equipment Corporation/Hewlett Packard in 1998. She was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from Hobart & William Smith Colleges in 2023. She welcomes your ideas and comments at


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