Affirmative Action Under Attack

quotes from At Colleges, an Affirmative Reaction

I found some more statistics: 46% of white people go to college, 40% of blacks, and 34% of Hispanics. I expected the difference to be much greater than that, so I was pleasantly surprised. But the surprise would be far more pleasant if this increase (about twice the number of minorities go to college now than did 20 years ago) was due solely to the efforts of individual applicants rather than racial preferences in admissions programs.

from the article:

Jennifer Brown, a black sophomore from Denver, said: “If it hadn’t been for this program, I would not have come here [to Amherst]. My parents did not go to college. My SATs were okay, not spectacular. I had never been to the Northeast.”

When Brown was invited to attend a “students of color” weekend at Amherst two years ago, all expenses paid, her first reaction was “Why do these people want me?” she said. She felt out of place among students whose parents could afford the full $40,000 cost of sending a child to Amherst, but she was reassured when she learned about the college’s generous financial aid program.


I’ll assume that since she herself said that her SAT scores were “okay, not spectacular,” that they were probably not as high as most other Amherst applicants. She doesn’t mention any special activities she was involved in, or anything else she’s done that would normally make her an appealing candidate. So “Why do these people want me?” she asks?

If I was her, I would be offended by the answer: Because you are a minority. It might be masked by more pleasant words. “To increase diversity” or maybe “Because we believe in your potential to succeed here,” (meaning: even though you haven’t been particularly successful so far–but you minorities need more help than us white people to get by). Yes, I would be offended that I was being used “to increase diversity” even though I probably wasn’t really Amherst material. Wouldn’t you?

Not only would I be offended, but I would be put into a very difficult situation. Should I go, take the place of someone more qualified, and get my Amherst degree knowing that I just got lucky because of my skin color? Not doing so would seem pretty silly, but if I did, I would almost feel as if someone bribed admissions to get me in–I wouldn’t feel that I had earned admission. And no matter how much I studied, how hard I tried, and how good of grades I got, that would always be in the back of my mind. As would thoughts about how much more someone else might have gotten from the education if only they hadn’t been rejected despite higher qualifications just to make room for me.

My Hope

AA gives people great fuel for being racist. When little Bobby asks his racist father, “But Daddy, how can black people be doctors and lawyers if we’re so much better than them, and you’re just a manager at Burger King?”, his father can explain how Affirmative Action made him get rejected for college so all of the under-qualified minorities could get in and then take the good jobs at his expense. And when little Bobby grows up, he just might believe the same thing.

I hope that it isn’t possible to use that excuse some day. The mere fact that minorities get good jobs won’t sway racist opinions if the allegation can be made that racial preference programs got them there. We should be focusing on individuals, and on the accomplishments individuals make for themselves. It shouldn’t matter to anyone whether an individual is a minority or not, and that includes colleges and businesses. We probably aren’t going to get over racial discrimination if we can’t get over race.

discussion at Hot Abercrombie Chick

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