By Angela Onwuachi-Willig

For years, affirmative action opponents have pointed to stigma as a reason for dismantling the policy. They have argued that affirmative action engenders feelings of inferiority and dependency in racial minorities and unfairly burdens racial minorities with others’ doubts in their abilities.

Do not believe the hype. The Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, which would end affirmative action in the state, would cause a startling lack of diversity in Nebraska’s universities. In the summer and fall of 2007, I, along with Professor Emily Houh of the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Professor Mary Campbell of University of Iowa Sociology, explored the relationship between stigma and law school affirmative action admissions policies by conducting a survey of both white students and students of color at seven, high-ranking public law schools in United States.

Four of these schools—the University of Cincinnati, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia—employed race-based affirmative action when our subject class—the Class of 2009—was admitted, while the remaining three—UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and the University of Washington—did not use such programs. In conducting our study, we generated new descriptive evidence that counters the stigma arguments that are commonly advanced against affirmative action.