Cassidy Rodrigues
Jun 17, 2017

Affirmative Action: What Good Does it Really Do?

5 comments

When UC Berkeley began accepting applications based solely on SAT scores, the demographics of the accepted students became quite interesting. A disproportionately large amount of East Asian, Indian, and Jewish students were accepted, while there was a disproportionately small amount of white and black students were accepted. Because of this, affirmative action usually sets out to create equal outcome and a more representative student body; the students who benefit most from this are usually black students. It certainly sounds good on paper. However, what good does this really do? By trying to create equal outcome, colleges would accept a black (or other minority) student who have lower SAT scores, lower grades, and less extracurriculars over a white student who was objectively more qualified. This disadvantages white students, even though, as shown by the case in UC Berkeley, they are in a similar position as the black students. We can all agree that there are students from every racial group who are extremely intelligent and qualified. However, those being accepted purely because of affirmative action simply may not have the drive, education and skills to keep up with their classmates. Black students have a significantly lower graduation rate (in higher education) compared to white and Asian students. The reason for this is because the students are simply matched with the wrong school and do not fit into the school they are attending (thanks to affirmative action). The same is true for women who are accepted into STEM fields that they simply are not prepared for. In STEM, women are accepted at a higher rate than men not because they are more intelligent or prepared, but because the system is trying to create an equal outcome. However, it discriminates against students who are truly qualified for the position. Doesn't it make more sense to just accept the person who is most qualified? Well, there's one exception I'd like to pinpoint ... students who come from poverty or extremely poor/difficult/abusive home lives. I believe if a student comes from such an area, and still achieved amazing grades and participated in as much as possible, they are every bit as qualified as someone who had the opportunity to go to private school and didn't have to work part-time, because, in college the same opportunities will be offered to everyone, and students who come from difficult backgrounds will have the resources and environment to excel. Despite situations such as these, I believe everyone should be given an equal shot at being accepted into an institute of higher learning: black, or white, or anything in between! What do you guys think?

enriquejsancheguiguren
Jun 21, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ6Ww3yr09U

^That is a link to Chris Rock's bit on affirmative action. I don't know if it's the best argument in the world, but it's really funny.

As for the question, a lot. Affirmative action marks a really great idea and one of the few times America has tried to grapple with the legacy of slavery and discrimination, because these things did leave legacies. It's also important to note that race and class issues usually are at least somewhat linked together, but that in america, race tends to trump class. Looking just recently in the news we see that Lebron James had the n-word spray painted onto his house, and he's wealthier than most people can dream of being. So it's important to understand that oftentimes, racial disadvantages are paired with economic disadvantages (like worse housing, worse schools, and lack of resources), and even when they aren't paired with them, race will still manage to come up in weird ways.

The reason we got affirmative action passed was because we realized that just because people are not equally qualified when they get into college, doesn't mean there weren't external factors. And affirmative action tries to bridge the gap to make sure that minority and women students are allowed into our best organizations so that power doesn't remain concentrated in the hands of the privileged few. Affirmative action allows people who have been systematically oppressed and disadvantaged to try to level the (very unlevel) playing field.

A great example of the successes of affirmative action (and there are many) is Sonia Sotomayor. Without going through too much detail, Sotomayor had a lot of problems as a child dealing with her family and with her life growing up in a discriminatory setting, but she tried as hard as she could and managed to succeed. That's because when we use affirmative action, we aren't looking for people who are unqualified we're looking for people who have not had the same opportunities as others, but who we believe made the best with what they had and if given those opportunities, would be able to excel.

Affirmative action isn't a system of handouts, nor is it discriminatory against white people, who in America, have been given a lot of stuff that most people won't get. Affirmative action is simply a way of uplifting those who have shown talent in their own situations, and a way for us to combat the terrible legacy of discrimination that still exists today by giving people a chance they may have never had before.

In conclusion, I understand your point of view, but if we never do anything to try to lift people who are disadvantaged out of that position, and if we don't recognize that disadvantages don't just mean homelessness or having abusive parents, then we will never be able to overcome those terrible legacies that still haunt us today. So I think Affirmative Action does a whole lot of good, for a whole lot of people.

Cassidy Rodrigues
Jun 21, 2017

Enrique, thanks for your reply. To respond to some of the points you have made, I have to say that I strongly disagree that race trumps class. Class refers to your income and social standing. Race isn't much more than the color of your skin, and the reality is that there are people of all races in every class. There are extremely successful and influential black people such as Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, and there are also extremely impoverished white people in America. Yes, I understand hate crimes do still occur, but let's look at the media's response to Lebron James' house being spray painted. People were outraged and action was taken immediately. Yes, I understand that the average overall income for black people compared to white people is lower, but I specified that I do not think it is wrong for universities to admit an economically disadvantaged student over a very wealthy one even if the wealthier student has better grades or SAT scores. What I cannot understand is, if we separate race and class from one another, what opportunities are not open to black Americans? What is disadvantaging them? I can tell you that 'white privilege' has been debunked many times (check out Ben Shapiro or Roaming Millenial). The truth is that, regardless of outcome, everybody has the same opportunity regardless of their skin color.

Yes, a long time ago slavery existed, and it was awful, and I think almost everyone is extremely sorry that it occurred. However, in the now, there are laws put in place to protect Americans from discrimination, all to give people the chance of equal opportunity. Equal outcome isn't the important part; for example, most scientists are male. This is because men are simply innately better at the sciences and performing analytic work. The same is true for nursing, where there are more women because they are better at caring for others.I will agree with you, however, that the playing field is unlevel - because it gives individuals of a minority race or sexual orientation or even gender and advantage over others.

I am definitely aware that affirmative action, in writing, seeks to give opportunities to those who show excellence even without the opportunities most Americans receive. My point is, on the basis of race alone, there are no opportunities that a person will be denied because of it. We can talk about severely economically disadvantaged people, or someone who has undergone extreme hardships (you are free to explain these in college applications), however if a black girl and a white boy of the same economic class had the same exact transcript, they should both receive the same decision from the college they are applying to.

I understand your point of view as well; however, I believe your methodology in trying to fix the problem at hand is wrong. Yes, there are groups of people who are not succeeding as well as others, however, instead of simply creating a quota to even the amount of black and white students, we need to change the culture and upbringing surrounding certain groups of people. For example, for people who are not succeeding in higher education, regardless of race, we need to emphasize learning and taking advantage of educational opportunities and create a love of learning. As a Hispanic LGBT woman, I've never felt 'oppressed' or disadvantaged and I think it's very wrong to assume all minorities are.

enriquejsancheguiguren
Jun 21, 2017

I'm not saying everyone has to feel oppressed, I'm Latino and I've been lucky enough to deal with what I think is a rather small amount of actual racism or oppression. But 1. I've never seen any evidence that a man would be better at science or a woman better at taking care of others, I'm not saying that's 100% impossible, but I've never seen evidence for that. 2. you're right that perhaps a quota system may not be the perfect way to go about it. However I stand by 3 things

 

1. Race does trump class in America, not to say that a Oprah Winfrey is worse off than a poor white dude in the Appalachians, but to say that race pervades our culture in ways that I think class doesn't, and again, these two concepts are often inextricably linked. A lot of oppression that is racially motivated is economic in nature. I'll get back to this but it's also important to understand that we in America have often used economic language to have racial repercussions, and I beg of you to read Lee Atwater's surprisingly honest speech on how conservatives used that coded language to appeal to racists during the southern strategy. Check those links out, they're really dope. Now back to how race trumps basically everything in America. See, we have research that in a lot of cases, black trumps green, and even wealthy black americans deal with a whole lot of racial bullshit, like how a black family earning $100,000 a year can struggle to even life in an area with whites who make $30,000. Since I'm from Chicago, I'd like to direct you to the South Side by Natalie Moore, which details a lot of these race and class problems that show up on Chicago's South Side. And this is a really important concept, that even a wealthy black person has to deal with these things, like the Harvard professor who was harassed because the police didn't believe he actually lived there, or how Colin Kaepernick has been booted from his team just because he had the audacity to care about black people in America. And going back to the Lebron James example, if we were past racism, it simply wouldn't have happened. The fact that media decried it isn't an indicator that racism is totally over, it just means that in the mainstream it's not ok to write the N-word on people's houses, which is a very very low bar to set, and it should be noted that that thing that happened to Lebron is a damn near mirror image of what happened to African American's trying to move into white neighborhoods in the 50's and 60's, which says we have not made as much progress as we'd like to think. It's also useful to note that a lot of the time, it's pretty hard to tell if someone is rich or poor from a glance, whereas you can absolutely tell if someone is a minority or a woman at a glance. This means the type of discrimination is different, because while poor people do have the cards stacked against them, they can't be identified as easily, so they don't have to deal with random people catcalling them for being poor or someone crossing the street to feel safe because the other person wasn't wearing a Burberry suit. I can give more evidence on these things if you aren't convinced, and I suggest looking up the mayoral tutorial because it's the bomb.

 

2. If you live in America, white privilege is absolutely a thing. This might be a thing that we are just not gonna get together on, but I've seen the roaming millennial and Ben Shapiro's stuff, and to say they've managed to debunk anything doesn't sit right with me, and I could have a whole side conversation about the roaming millennial the types of argumentation and reasoning that they use to justify what they say. But I digress. There are just certain things that white people can do that people of other races can't and ways that whiteness itself gives people an advantage. There are a lot of ways this manifests, and a lot of it can be seen just by looking at certain scenarios and asking "if a person of another race did this, how would it go over?" For example, in the myriad of cases where unarmed black men have been shot by either police or private citizens, I think it's hard to genuinely look in the mirror and say that if a white guy just happened to be walking home at night, he would've been tracked down and killed, as in the Trayvon Martin case, which is a fascinating thing to go into. But it's more pervasive than that. It's not just the big life or death instances, it's the way that if you're white, you're less likely to be pulled over for stop and frisk, or how there's a much higher rate of people calling the police on black people only to find them innocent, or how a white person is less likely to be pulled over at the airport for a "random" check. And you can go even below that to how white people often are seen as the standard of beauty, or how we tend to give white kids more leeway when they do wrong, or how we somehow just tolerate that white people can fly the confederate flag in a country that the confederacy literally tried to destroy (which is stupid but also funny how people don't get that). But ultimately, if you're reading Ben Shapiro and the wandering millennial, it should be acknowledged it'll be pretty difficult for us to try and debate this unless we were in a more personal setting. So on to

 

3. Affirmative action is totally necessary and good, even if it's implementation isn't perfect (though very few bills are), and it's necessity comes from the fact that even though slavery is over, the effects of it and racism are absolutely not. Racism didn't stop after the 13th amendment, it didn't stop after Brown V. Board, it didn't stop after Malcolm and Martin were killed in cold blood, and it certainly didn't stop after Obama was elected. I think we have this idea in America that we're somehow post racial society because we had a black president and we have a good handful of rules that try their best to fight racial inequality. But we also have actual Nazi's in America, as well as members of groups like the KKK. That's not to say that means everyone in America is trying to preserve the white race, but it does mean that that is one extreme end of the spectrum that proves that we have hardcore racists. And that group is much larger than you'd think, with its members numbering in the thousands, and they're just one hate group. And we don't just have groups like them out on the fringes away from centrist ideals, then we have groups that aren't members but don't disagree, and then after them people who are closer to the center but don't mind saying the n-word or who are totally willing to blame every muslim for every terrorist attack, and after that you get even more and more groups of people getting closer and closer to the center, and larger and larger. These people exist, and they carry with them that legacy of racism. A lot of the time we fail to understand just how shitty slavery was (check out Neal Brennan's netflix comedy special, he has a bit on this and it's funny but informative), and if you've studied reconstruction era America, it's sorta amazing how little we did to combat slavery's aftereffects. Which is why we needed the 60's civil rights movements, and when that didn't stop racism, we needed the 80's gay rights movement and 3rd wave feminism and the more modern black lives matter movement. This is all a long winded way of saying that racism is still alive and well, and perpetuates itself in modern society, whether it be through the death gap, the wage gap, or through the school to prison pipeline. The black girl and white boy from the same class example you propose is interesting, but I think we fail to realize that even if they're both down on their luck and that white boy's family is barely scraping by, that black girl will inevitably deal with hardships he will not have. Whether that be beauty standards that are generally designed to make that girl's white counterparts more attractive, or educational biases that make people think she is less qualified, or the various stereotypes she'll have to face, like the angry black woman stereotype Tyler Perry keeps pimping out. There's a lot more than this obviously, and I'm not saying that white boy shouldn't get in as well, but let's not pretend that that girl will face things that the boy will never have to face or even think about because of the nature of his skin.

 

I totally believe you when you say you aren't oppressed, but I know that oppression and those systems still exist. I have a white female friend who has a girlfriend, and she constantly has had to deal with creepy guys coming up to her and her girlfriend, one time with that guy having his dick out. That's something no guy will ever have to deal with, it's an example of the ways society creates conditions that fetishize lesbian love and make people like her have to live in fear. I have black friends who worry every day if their younger brother will be the next kid on the news. I've worked with people in political organizing and activism all throughout Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in America, and one where the legacy of racism still looms large. While I myself have been lucky enough to avoid much oppression, I know it is out there, both through the news and through my friends, so for me, the idea that race no longer matters, and therefore Affirmative action is not necessary in cases where class is removed, simply doesn't make sense to me. Also again, that men being scientists and women being nurses things doesn't make sense to me, so please like, link that or something because that's super surprising if that was actually proved in a controlled setting.

enriquejsancheguiguren
Jun 21, 2017Edited: Jun 26, 2017

Side note, I just checked out the roaming millennial for the first time in a while and she has a video on how she's not a feminist, among other questionable things, but still, why? Just, why? It just means that you think women should be equal to men and we should ensure that sexism isn't happening. I don't wanna call her crazy, cause that word is generally used by people to just throw out and invalidate another person's entire life experiences that lead them to have certain views, but I will say she's certainly less than educated on the ideas that feminist and people trying to combat bigotry are fighting for. And also, having a white woman with no degree or certification in history or racial issues or any meaningful experience in these fields dealing with these problems say "White Privilege isn't real"... well let's just say I question the source.

 

And while I'm no fan of Ben Shapiro (it's crazy that Teen Vogue turned out to be better journalists than actual journalists isn't it? Although considering that they're not making the type of virgin jokes that a 14 year old boy makes probably helps) this article by him is sorta cool so I'll give you that https://townhall.com/columnists/benshapiro/2017/06/21/muh-principles-n2343971

I think ever since the Trump phenomenon he's been changing as he realizes the alt right are again, actual Nazis.

Kya Chanlevitz
Jul 19, 2017

A lot of people misinterpret affirmative action as a system that chooses minorities over non-minority but more qualified students, simply for the fact that they are a minority. This is incorrect. A good explanation I heard someone give once is to think of it as a point system. On your college application you get an extra point for good grades, good test scores, sufficient extracurriculars, etc. Falling into the racial minority category is another point, but it doesn't wholeheartedly determine or make a complete drastic effect on whether or not you will be accepted. And because you mentioned it, being from a low-income household would also count as a "point".

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