Each of us can attest to the absurdity of college applications. We spend four years pursuing the highest possible GPA, taking Advanced Placement classes, playing sports, joining clubs, volunteering and of course hoping for the best SAT score that aptitude and luck can afford us.
Opponents of affirmative action maintain that we all begin this race from the same starting line, sitting in the same car, with the same engine, tires, amount of fuel in the tank and the same well-paved road ahead.
In reality, some students attend schools in poor neighborhoods with low property taxes. As a result, they are taught by less experienced teachers, using older textbooks, with fewer AP classes available. Such schools do not likely offer too many SAT prep classes, which have to be paid for out-of-pocket anyway. Plus, there is little money for sports and other extracurricular activities. Many students commute long hours on dilapidated public transportation just to attend school and once there they are treated as assumed criminals instead of prospective college graduates, creating vastly different learning environments.
Beyond the classroom, many students have parents who are not able to invest much time in their child’s education. They might work long hours at multiple jobs, far from home. Their families have been systematically excluded from gaining wealth for centuries. Federal housing laws have prevented them from owning a home in good neighborhoods and thus owning an asset that appreciates in value and can be passed down through generations.
Parents facing these conditions have no choice but to raise their children in urban areas plagued by underfunded schools, as well as additional factors such as crime (mostly due to the drug habits of my demographic, the white suburban male, and the racism of the war on drugs) and a polluted environment that affect a community’s well-being (ask yourself why Chevron’s Richmond Refinery is in Richmond instead of in the Oakland hills?).
The situation described above is one of poverty, not necessarily race, but it is one that you are far more likely to find yourself in if your skin is brown. Statistically speaking, even if you are a poor white person, you are more likely to attend a well-funded school. However, affirmative action seeks to mitigate this injustice.
Abigail Fisher, whose lawsuit against the University of Texas was recently heard by the Supreme Court, claims to have been denied admission because affirmative action allowed a less qualified student of color to take her place.
Her GPA was a 3.59, her SAT score fell below UT’s mean acceptance score, and she is a legacy as both her father and sister attended. Additionally, her family was not held in chattel slavery for two hundred and fifty years, and in the time since the Civil War, the Fishers have benefitted from racist housing, employment and educational policies that have made life immeasurably harder for minority communities in the past and present.
Fisher had every advantage and did not make the cut. Instead, she attended Louisiana State University and now holds a job as a financial analyst in Austin. Her children will benefit from what Professor George Lipsitz termed the possessive “investment in whiteness,” which affords them disproportionate access to resources and opportunity. In other words, they start the race seated in an BMW M3 while a disproportionate number of black, Latino, Asian and Native American students are still trying to jump start their 1987 Toyota Corolla.
Michael Dean drives a Dodge Stratus.
Rebuttal to the right perspective:
My counterpart has a respectable enough point when it comes to the quality of primary education. However, the solution of raising property taxes is fundamentally faulty in that it assumes that throwing more money at the problem will result in a better educational system. A state or even nationwide voucher system would not only be fairer, in that parents who choose to send their children to private school would no longer be paying taxes for an education their child isn’t receiving, it would also offer children growing up in less-than-ideal circumstances greater opportunity to advance as far as their talent and ability can take them.
To think that affirmative action will somehow correct the mistakes of past generations is pure lunacy, especially since not every white person has ancestors who were responsible for slavery. Such an argument is further invalidated by the truth that Asians, who are not considered a “disadvantaged” minority, are also hurt by affirmative action policies.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.