Affirmative Action

By Michael Sikivie

I’ve read the past few issues of The Mac Weekly and while I’ve found many editorials on racism, diversity, etc, I’ve found none on the recent elimination of need-blind admissions. This got me thinking about equality, or inequality, of opportunity in general, and specifically about race-based affirmative action in colleges and universities.

The argument for race-based affirmative action it seems, is that minority students coming from specific socio-economic backgrounds, have fewer opportunities and advantages than whites—no disagreement there.

So wouldn’t it be more logical to have affirmative action based on social class?

To fairly account for most any disadvantage or difficulty an applicant may have encountered in life an admissions committee could simply ask what kind of school they went to, how many parents are in their household, how educated they were, and how much money they make. Race-based affirmative action on the other hand, would mean that among applicants from the same kind of background, who attended schools with the same resources, minority students would be favored. There’s no way around the fact that that is racism—that is not merely an abstract or academic point either.

The beneficiaries of affirmative action are in majority, middle-class, and are not representative of the groups they are meant to “represent.” Roughly half of Americans go to college and many of those who go attend community colleges. Therefore, to be affected by affirmative action at all you must be, in a sense, more privileged then about 2/3 of Americans.

I’ve often struggled to understand the concept of race logically, because it has little to do with biology and everything to do with politics. We say a person is Hispanic because they come from a Spanish speaking country. Wouldn’t that logically mean a person from Haiti would belong to the francophone race, since Haiti is a French speaking country? But there is no such category. Are people from India black, white, or Asian? All I know is that humankind is over 99 percent genetically similar, and with the growing number of interracial marriages in this country I don’t know how the next generation of students will be categorized.

I don’t deny that there’s still discrimination in this world, from a boss choosing names for a job interview to the jury in a court of law or to a landlord choosing tenants in a city.

However, racist thinking can only be strengthened when successful minority college students can be dismissed as, say, “token black guys.” Don’t people feel disrespected when it’s implied that less is expected of them because of who they are?

To be fair, I should also attack legacy admissions and furthermore, nothing in college admissions is a complete solution to achievement gaps—they begin with toddlers in homes without books and preferential treatment unequally distributed based on class or race. This will only “help” people get in to schools that they are not prepared to attend. It is, however, an important issue I think the student body should think about.

Contact Michael Sikivie at [email protected]