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.
Assuming we ought to give special consideration to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, why should we use race as a proxy for such disadvantage? There are plenty of white and Asian students who ARE disadvantaged, and plenty of black and Latino students who are NOT.
For one thing, there is ample evidence to support the fact that people with black skin are more likely to find themselves living in poverty. Whether the Center for Equal Opportunity choses to recognize it or not, race is in fact a proxy for disadvantage. Additionally, even impoverished whites (which no one is denying the existence of) suffer far less than impoverished people of color. For example, poor white children are more likely to attend well funded schools than poor black or latino children. This means that, despite the economic similarity a white child’s situation and a black child’s situation… Read more »
“For example, poor white children are more likely to attend well funded schools than poor black or latino children.”
“For one thing, there is ample evidence to support the fact that people with black skin are more likely to find themselves living in poverty.”
And thus should be awarded with business degree? Affirmative action (how you define it) enables people an edge over others in society because of their skin color. Seriously. This is the 21st century bro, slavery isn’t happening. Government should be encouraging mobility, not designating specific groups of people to cut in front of others.
Affirmative action today is about race/ethnicity, not poverty. It’s a nonsensical argument to suggest affirmative action is an answer to a socioeconomic problem. No, it isn’t. Affirmative action has and will always be about race, and that is unacceptable in a college-level classroom. Admission into college should be based on merit only. Period. Nothing less, nothing more. Allowing students with below-average scores simply because they live below the poverty line is absurd. Affirmative action also encourages racial tensions, because people accepted solely based on their academics may look down on those who may have been accepted partially because of their… Read more »
What about a certain type of affirmative action called “legacy”? Legacy students (children of alumni, professors, donors) mostly in private schools, are afforded the privilege of having their applications disproportionately weighted. Some research has stated that legacy students at a private school are up to 7 times more likely to get in to a private school when compared to an applicant with the same grades/test scores without a legacy. This isn’t based on merit alone, and benefits white people (guess what race most legacy students are). No supreme court case about these practices…hmmmmm.
7 times more likely? source? legacy is not affirmative action, it’s nepotism. children of donors aren’t necessarily legacy student if the donor is not an alumni. legacy is basically exclusive to the elite schools (private), not UCLA/UCB. and certainly not UCSB. private schools can define their own admission standards, many don’t even require the SAT. some are exclusive to gender, religion, etc. when it comes to general admissions, affirmative action is more wrong than right. claiming that affirmative action is necessary to create “diversity” is a lazy argument. and if the US is going to allow affirmative action laws, it… Read more »
Michael Dean, thank you for writing this. You just gave a voice to so many who have been knocked down or cut out of the picture.
This is the 21st century, bro! So thanks for an article that demonstrates that even in our “advanced” and “accepting” era, there is still mass inequality! You are great
Michael, In generalizing about the University of Texas case, you may have missed some important specifics. What actually was in question was the university’s policy of favoring students of color from PRIVILEDGED backgrounds. See http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/oct2012/cour-o19.shtml for an interesting take on this case, and on affirmative action as a whole. From this article: “A program of genuine social equality requires that quality higher education is freely available to everyone, regardless of economic status or other factors such as race, religion or gender. This is the only road to true equality of opportunity. Affirmative action, in contrast, does not provide equal access… Read more »
I was aware of the specifics of the case when I wrote the article, however, in 600 words it can be difficult to succinctly summarize such things and at the same time provide analysis of the value of an institution like affirmative action. Class certainly is an integral part of the debate over affirmative action, and it is inherent to the policies of UT. What I argue, is that class, specifically access to what defines a person’s class, such as wealth, property, inheritance, adequate housing and environmental conditions, is racialized in American society. As such, accounting for race in college… Read more »
Given all that, which seems like a more viable left position: 1) reserving a small number of slots at elite universities for a small number of students of color, with little or no benefits to the overwhelming number of working-class black and hispanic individuals; or 2) advocating for free, high-quality, high-availabity university education for ALL? Affirmative action reeks of divide-and-conquer. One of the strongest early promoters of this policy was Richard Nixon, also a big advocate of what he called “black capitalism”; i.e., creating a priviledged layer of African-American individuals in order to help quell the demand for revolutionary change… Read more »
I could not agree more that education should made available, at no cost, to all members of our society. Then again, so should food, healthcare, and transportation, and there is no need for the existence of the prison, either. I hear your argument, I know the history and I am sympathetic to your point of view. Within the context of my polemic, however, I support the institution of affirmative action. I do feel that it could be instituted in a more holistic manner, and I recognize that it can drive a wedge between aggrieved communities that need to remain united… Read more »