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YouSpeak: Affirmative Action

Should race be a factor in college admissions?


Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of two white applicants to the University of Texas who claim they were unfairly rejected because of state admissions procedures that favor racial and ethnic minorities.

While the court won’t hear the case before next October, supporters and critics of affirmative action are already girding for battle. Both sides agree that if the court were to abolish racial preferences in higher education, it would reduce the number of African American and Latino students on college campuses. And while the court’s decision would directly impact state schools, most legal experts agree that it would affect private institutions as well.

With that in mind, this week’s “YouSpeak” asks: “Should affirmative action be a factor in college admissions?”

YouSpeak” typically appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

Robin Berghaus

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

94 Comments on YouSpeak: Affirmative Action

  • Steven Lehar on 03.05.2012 at 7:09 am

    The statement: ” it would reduce the number of African American and Latino students on college campuses” should be modified to read: it would reduce the number of UNDERQUALIFIED African American and Latino students on college campuses, and increase the PROPORTION of QUALIFIED African American and Latino students on college campuses, which in turn would elevate everyone’s esteem of them because people would know the system is fair and everyone plays by the same rules.

    It is equal OPPORTUNITY that is guaranteed by America, NOT equal OUTOMES.

    To give one designated group priority over another, is positively anti-American.

    • Masha Marioutina on 03.05.2012 at 8:48 am

      Agree, wholeheartedly.

      • Shiran Sukumar on 03.05.2012 at 9:40 am

        I would suggest you read my comment below, because neither equality of opportunity or outcome is present in America. Please do not quote the founding father either as if slave owning humans can really comprehend value and morals.

        • Rosa on 03.05.2012 at 11:28 am

          Truth has been spoken.

      • Alicia on 03.05.2012 at 11:28 am

        Ignoring race in America is easy to say when your race doesn’t affect you on a daily basis. Euro-Americans invented “Race” to begin with, and therefore created a society heavily structured on deep inequalities. What about legacy admissions? Where underqualified people are being accepted into Ivy league schools solely based on their last name and connections to alumni? Remember this “white privilege” when hating on AA.

        • Ally on 03.05.2012 at 10:14 pm

          I think that applicants should ONLY be denoted as a number. A random number like a social security number (but a different made up one based on what number applicant it is or something along those lines). This way admissions employees can’t tell if they have a privileged last name, or are female, male, white, Latino, African American, Asian, etc. I realize people will say this causes a number of problems for example one might be able to tell by the e-mail on a CV if someone is male or female, but I simply think this is the best method. I personally cant speak for other races, but I can certainly say that as a female I hope I am NEVER unfairly chosen for a position simply because I am a female, or I am white . I would ONLY want to be chosen because I am qualified. I also do not come from a lot of money, but I have worked hard my whole life and I would not want to be viewed as a charity case or something like that. I think the ONLY way someone should be given a awarding position is because they earned it based on hard work, skills, and merit, NOT socioeconomic status, race, age, or gender.

          • Ally on 03.05.2012 at 10:27 pm

            An* awarding position.. I may have had some other typos in there as well. I also wanted to say that- on the other hand, I realize that some of these underprivileged groups experience set-backs that are unfair such as: not being able to afford a GRE or SAT course or text books, or live in distracting environments with horrible teachers, etc. It does seem unfair that some students can afford tutors and other help while these students struggle to do it on their own, however, I suppose all these things can not be manipulated so that all this stuff is free and everyone has the same teacher and environment (obviously), it is not a controlled research study, it is daily life. So, I suppose there is no clear-cut answer.

    • Steve on 03.05.2012 at 12:25 pm

      The purpose of AA is good, but the execution is bad. At this point in our history, being black, *in and of itself*, is not an impediment to opportunity. (Extreme example: Sasha and Malia Obama probably aren’t going to be held back in life because of their skin color.) However, being poor is a huge impediment to opportunity.

      Poverty does disproportionately affect black people, but it also affects white people and people of other races. So with the current, race-based system, we’re completely missing out on helping poor non-black people, and tbh, we’re probably missing out on helping poor black people (the intended beneficiaries of all this to begin with) as well, since in my experience, black students from rich families have been the most readily able to take advantage of situations in which race is a factor in admissions.

      Make AA class-based, and you help the people who truly need it–black, white, and all other races.

    • Kevin Quiambao on 03.05.2012 at 5:36 pm

      “To give one designated group priority over another, is positively anti-American.” One designated group, White people, has been getting priority in this land since the first European set foot on it. A study of educational policy for the last 200+ years, as well as social welfare policy, even housing and urban development policy, will show you that power and resources tend to aggregate around locales populated by white people, at the expense of locales populated by non-white people. These policies are in effect today; never mind intent or cause. In my opinion affirmative action is necessary until such point where resources and power are distributed equally to all locales no matter who populates those locales. When schools, for example, have equal resources across the board, then graduates will be able to compete and affirmative action will no longer be necessary. From a cost-benefit analysis, which the people in power do every so often, which is cheaper: giving a few minorities jobs, or giving all neighborhoods and schools sufficient resources? The people in power know the answer to this question and even though they may publicly decry affirmative action, they despise the alternative as a matter of principle.

  • Daniel T. Moran on 03.05.2012 at 8:09 am

    This is an interesting issue and one that existed even when I applied to Dental School in 1978. But there are two aspects to this that are not often brought up. I consider it demeaning to African Americans and other minorities to suggest to them that they cannot succeed without being given a “head start” in the application process. It reinforces to them that they are not only different, but that they cannot compete on the merits of their own achievement. The second point is whether it can ever be right to remedy racism and discrimination by implementing a program which is based on racism and discrimination. Perhaps the only way that we can learn to live as equals is to treat one another as equals in every facet of our lives. Young people today don’t see the differences between us they way people did in the past. Why teach them these things in a University? It can only produce that which we are hoping to abolish, treating people differently because of the color of their skin. If that is wrong, then it is wrong in all matters.

    • Shiran Sukumar on 03.05.2012 at 9:44 am

      Yes, you make the point that we need to restructure the way we think. Our society is not exposed to wide discrimination, but that does not mean it does not exist. I would in fact argue that because it is deep within people and that communities of people are so insecure and uncertain how to behave and think around people that they pose a greater threat than the blatant bigot. We have pushed this discussion of HUMAN EQUALITY under the rug when we said Civil Rights were over and now we can call it BLACK HISTORY (i.e. February was Black History Month, as it if it was of the past, and we can celebrate…) This is the problem, its deeper, can we accept? Can we be non egoistic, and share?

    • Writegirl18 on 03.05.2012 at 10:19 am

      Yes! I agree totally. We are guaranteed equal OPPORTUNITY under the law. Those who are best qualified and show the greatest potential should be given the opportunities in academia and in the job market. I would be humiliated by the prospect of being granted admission solely because of my race or religion, knowing I was less qualified than the others.

  • Emily on 03.05.2012 at 8:12 am

    I agree with the students who share the opinion that it’s unfortunate that equal opportunity is addressed at the college level. There is a systemic failure in this country for providing equal opportunity for quality education at younger ages. If that were the case, I believe AA would not even be needed. How about taking some of that tax $ we give hand over fist to oil companies and putting it towards improving education in inner-cities and underprivileged areas – taking care of our own rather than greedy corporations – THAT would be positively American.

  • Allison on 03.05.2012 at 8:16 am

    True diversity is diversity of thought, not diversity of skin color. There are no incentives for universities to accept students of diverse religious or geographic regions, or any other type of diversity. While BU is supposedly known for it’s diversity, most students come from the Northeast. Does their skin color make them somehow different from each other? Absolutely not, experience makes them different. Affirmative action places more value on skin color and less on other application areas that stress diverse life experiences, such as the personal statement.

  • Chuanhua Xing on 03.05.2012 at 8:25 am

    The real EQUAL and the nice competing system need equal opportunities to everyone.

  • Wyatt on 03.05.2012 at 8:40 am

    Here’s a thought experiment if you are against Affirmative Action:

    Say you are the coach of a high school track team. There are two students trying out for the team on the 300m dash. Student A runs the dash in 41 seconds and has perfect form. Student B runs the dash in 41.5 seconds, but has sloppy form. Which student do you put on the team? You would put Student B on of course, because as a coach, you can teach him better form, and he will out run student A. Student B has more potential.

    That being said, Affirmative action being implemented purely on a basis of race is a bad move. There are some rich black families who have more advantages and opportunities than some poor white families.

    Lastly, the fellow at the end of the video is completely right. The primary school system is what is failing us, not our colleges.

  • John on 03.05.2012 at 9:05 am

    UCLA tried to do this, and the next year they only had Caucasian and Asian students, no African Americans or Latinos. You have to consider the inherent advantage that Caucasian and Asian students have on things like the SAT’s, in which the questions and optimal test taking strategies are often built around a Eurocentric model of learning.

    • Really? on 03.05.2012 at 11:46 am

      Why is the system always blamed? I’m Iranian-American, I feel as though with proper preparation I was able to succeed on the SAT’s. Are you saying that the ‘caucasian’ in my blood gave me a natural advantage?

      We must change our mentality in order to even consider the notion of equality. Blaming a test for being catered towards individuals of a certain race is absurd. I agree with the majority of the points stated in these responses, pertaining to AA being implemented on the basis of race; however, I am troubled by the direction of this blame.

      • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:32 pm

        So true. Asian-American minorities excel on exam scores for college admissions,it part of their culture to study hard, work hard and get into school. Look at the schools in China, 8-year-olds are doing the unthinkable for a teenage American of any race. Are genes do not denote how well we can do on tests, college admittance etc.

        I came from a background of poverty, almost fell through the cracks having undiagnosed ADD but I got myself through and worked my butt off with no handouts from anyone. I don’t cry because I am second generation German-American and that my grandparents barely had an income when they came over and my parents never went to college and their business failed. I have worked in schools that are largely minority based, the students that want to succeed do and in my experience I find it is a cultural thing even within the same school.

  • Lea on 03.05.2012 at 9:33 am

    I’m a qualified green student!!!

  • Shiran Sukumar on 03.05.2012 at 9:37 am

    Through my education of young African-American males I have noticed the complete discrimination of students (not limited to AA) in the public educational sphere (which means its only more unequal in the private (Marx)). Many of these students received reverse discrimination, they would be allowed to continue and move on from grade to grade while teachers repeatedly bullied them and projected their insecurities upon them. Unfortunately, this started since the began education (kindergarten) and many would only learn the folly of their teachers after being exposed to our curriculum. We took these students and taught them while respecting the classroom. Rather than idolize the institution of education we worked at a single level restructuring the system. Here is my answer, Affirmative Action should be able to see an individual for who he or she is. If the system disregards this element, then it does not matter what “diversity” or “cultural building” this school takes, because in the end its just a aesthetic. Hence the problem with Affirmative Action is not a question of whether these students who have been discriminated, and seen fewer opportunities should receive help it is can the people who allowed and even caused discrimination and unequal opportunities, can they help? Altruistically, I would give a spot to the best college to someone. However, I grew up where I was the object of blatant discrimination and therefore understand that people are less fortunate than myself and other more. With everyone being so externally driven they should consider the result of such actions. My high school and the police department are under investigation and being sued for the lack of concern for all citizens and members of society. By forgetting that people value people, many of my fellow classmates are unable to attend college or receive a job because of their standing in life. However, it is the arguments that follow from the negation that are incessantly egotistic. Until we let go of our ego, we will not be comfortable with dealing with these issues. Actually, I will stop there, get of the throne, throw it to the floor, and sing. In fact, that is what we did, and now our students are out performing because they have the opportunity, they received the encouragement, but more importantly we taught them how people are, and they realized what was important, each other. The class was built and continues to build a strong sense of awareness pushing towards a progressive culture of students. Work. Think. Live.

  • Penny on 03.05.2012 at 10:00 am

    I often think of affirmative action policies as a “necessary evil.” While I agree that policies weighing race/ethnicity in admissions create an unfortunate sense of unfairness and sometimes cause people to question whether they or their peers were admitted because of this policy, the alternative of having fewer people of color in universities is certainly worse.

    Nobody here has addressed HOW we are going to improve public education or WHO will do it. It has been my impression that universities not only value having diversity on campus but also value their role in developing the next generation of diverse leadership – a leadership that will help to question the status quo of poor public education, and to serve as role models for the next generation.

    Like many public policies, affirmative action is not perfect, and has some unintended consequences. However, on the relative scale of benefit vs. harm, I think that the policies are doing more good than harm, and we are not yet ready to let them go. By the way, any abolishment of affirmative action policies should also be accompanied by reassurances that admissions will not apply different academic standards for athletes and/or legacies/children of donors.

    • Tatiana on 03.05.2012 at 10:54 am


  • Jessica on 03.05.2012 at 10:01 am

    Do some of these students actually believe that the U.S. gives equal opportunity and access to everyone regardless of race, class, and gender?… Affirmative Action is a way to help the underprivileged under represented groups of people to give them equal access to a good quality of education.

  • Rob on 03.05.2012 at 10:06 am

    simple solution: take race off of the applications. that way, you don’t know either way.

  • Sara Lee on 03.05.2012 at 10:24 am

    I don’t think race should be considered in the college admissions process at all. I just don’t

  • HP on 03.05.2012 at 10:52 am

    To Penny and Rob, mainly… taking race off the applications is not a good enough solution to the “race” issue. Many people of “color” also tend to have ethnic names such as Leticia (Latina) or Kadisha (African American) that would easily give away their status as a colored or minority group member. My suggestion to abolish the AA issue would be this… since most applications now are submitted electronically, have the computer randomly assign a number to each person in the applicant pool and take their names off every aspect of the application process. Their names would only be revealed to the admissions board after all decisions had been made. This way we are simply looking at a person’s qualifications and not the color of their skin.

    • Mary on 03.05.2012 at 12:07 pm

      That is a very good idea. It would be great if people in admissions only knew an applicant by a number code. Universities are in a business and their goal is to have appealing statistics. If the application process used the number solution the statistics of gender and race could not be planned upon, but found after the students are accepted.

    • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:33 pm

      Awesome idea, I would love if I could forward your comment to admissions!

      • HP on 03.05.2012 at 6:32 pm

        Go right ahead.

  • Tatiana on 03.05.2012 at 10:53 am

    I think A.A is necessary! You think it’s unfair that a black or Latino person may get preference over a white person? I think it’s unfair the we have less life opportunities than whites that would give us a boost in the application process. Last semester to demonstrate how there is no equality of opportunity had the class first raise our hands if we went to private school. Then she had us raise our hands if we had a private tutor. Then if we had gone overseas. I never raised my hand, each time I looked around the only people who had raised their hands were white people. Then our professor asked who we thought would have a better college resume and better test scores? Obviously the privileged ones who can take trips overseas to broaden their horizons, had private tutors and could afford private school. Now is that fair? They did nothing to deserve or work for these thing; their parents did!

    • JS on 03.05.2012 at 11:35 am

      I’m lower middle class white, never had any of those opportunities, and I would have resented it too. I think the issue at heart here isn’t one of race, it’s one of the widening gap between the upper and middle classes.

      • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:20 pm


      • HP on 03.05.2012 at 6:35 pm

        Same here. I never went to private schools or on overseas trips. I was damn lucky I was able to go to FL w/ my hs band. And the only private tutors I ever had were friends of my mom’s or other teachers of mine who did it as a favor to us.

    • Michael on 03.05.2012 at 12:02 pm

      The race of the applicant should not make a difference over what opportunities they are afforded, though their economic class might affect it. I do NOT think that we should stop aiding those who need financial aid, or stop recognizing that certain people do not have the same opportunities to have private schooling or tutors, but this is not determined by the color of your skin at all. It might be determined by your economic class, or perhaps the upbringing of your parents, and as such this should all be taken into consideration, but the color of your skin should never affect your ability to gain an opportunity, either positively (as in AA) or negatively (as you imply).

    • Mary on 03.05.2012 at 12:03 pm

      I understand your point, but that is a difference in wealth not race. There are plenty of white students who didn’t have those opportunities either.

      We also have to realize that we go to a very expensive school, so there are bound to be more people who have money and who had those privileges. I agree that it seems unfair that wealthy people have more opportunities than non-wealthy people, but that is not a race issue and those wealthy, white people you refer to still had to work hard in one way or another to have the merit to be accepted.

    • Chris on 03.05.2012 at 12:26 pm

      “Last semester to demonstrate how there is no equality of opportunity had the class first raise our hands if we went to private school. Then she had us raise our hands if we had a private tutor. Then if we had gone overseas. I never raised my hand, each time I looked around the only people who had raised their hands were white people.”

      ^ What is the sample size we’re talking about here? This is one class of a school that has a very high tuition. Not saying anything to the benefits/detriments of affirmative action, but it would seem this might not be an accurate representation of the general populace. I may be wrong, but it’s something to consider…

      “They did nothing to deserve or work for these thing; their parents did!”

      ^ Well if we’re going to be talking about equality with a statement like this, why don’t we say that no child deserves anything a parent gives to them after birth? If children only received “what they deserved” then no one would go to college, or better, how do we even quantify deservedness and rightful inheritance of a parent’s money/possessions? Given that no one can choose their parents, it seems unfair to think that one child deserves “parental stuff” more than another. Honestly, I think you should have left that line out…

    • Anna on 03.06.2012 at 7:12 pm

      “I think it’s unfair the we have less life opportunities than whites that would give us a boost in the application process.”

      You don’t have “less life opportunities” than whites because of whatever race you are. You have them because of how much money your parents happen to make.

      I went to a large public school with students from EVERY socioeconomic class possible. There were middle class white kids, middle class black kids, smart asians, dumb asians, poor white kids, poor Spanish kids, etc. 25% of each class dropped out before graduation, and the overall quality of the education was lacking. That being said, AP classes at my high school were as good as AP classes anywhere, and everyone who worked hard enough got a 4’s and 5’s.
      I guess what I’m trying to say is that everyone has the opportunity to work hard: I know poor kids that have succeeded, and poor kids that have failed. The difference is that the ones who succeeded went out and bought themselves an SAT prep book for 20 dollars (or borrowed one for free), worked hard in their classes, and realized when a teacher wasn’t doing a great job and they had to do a little extra on their own. They didn’t make excuses for themselves or complain about what they didn’t have, they just worked a little harder to get the SAME results as someone more privileged.
      Also, I think AA is part of the reason black, latino, etc. kids do worse in school than white kids- they know they can get in to a certain school with less effort, so why put that effort in?
      If you really think all races are equal, they should be held to the same standards. End of story.

      • Jean on 03.08.2012 at 1:52 am

        Check your privilege.

  • John on 03.05.2012 at 11:21 am

    So its ok to be racist as long as we are discriminating against whites and asians/indians. Because that’s exactly what affirmative action is–accepting less deserving blacks/hispanics over more qualified and more deserving whites/asians/indians simply because of the color of their skin. (Of course its not always the case, I’m sure many of the blacks and hispanics here and at other schools deserved to be accepted)

  • Rosa on 03.05.2012 at 11:25 am

    LOOK at the numbers of minorites in college right now. Minority students are literally black sheep on college campuses. Whether or not affirmative action is used, the students still have to EARN their college degree. Getting into college is the easy part. Even if AA is used, these students may face many struggles throughout the college process. Has anyone considered the struggles minority students face once they get into college? Nothing in this country is free. It would be ignorant for anyone to say that all students, including African Americans and Latinos have equal access to proper education(and I don’t mean each one individually, of course there are special circumstances, I mean as an entire ethnic group). It doesn’t hurt to give a student with potential a chance to succeed. I could not imagine what college campuses would look like with any less minorities. The gap in education between different race and socioeconomic groups is still too wide. Something must be done.

  • L on 03.05.2012 at 11:33 am

    I’m in the camp who feels that affirmative action should have less to do with race and more to do with income/wealth. Under the current system, a black person who went to private school, whose parents made a combined $300,000 a year has advantages in admission, all other things being equal, over a white person whose family survives on an income of $50,000.

    On average, families in minority groups have lower income than white families; hopefully a change in admission policy would still allow the student body economic as well as racial diversity.

    And to everyone saying that my suggestion is unfair (or Affirmative Action, to a point) because America is supposed to be Equal OPPORTUNITY–affirmative action would be unfair all other things being equal. If every person had the opportunity to go to a great public school, had the freedom from financial responsibility and stress (like having to work 20 hours a week to support yourself and your family on top of school work) to achieve academic success and load your resume with extracurriculars, then the system would not be unfair. But life is profoundly unfair; affirmative action is simply universities’ way of acknowledging this, and trying to check the damage.

    Upper-middle-class white yuppies complaining about how sure they are that the black people stole their chance at Princeton make me want to punch a wall.

  • GR on 03.05.2012 at 11:35 am

    AA or any sort of boost should have nothing to do with race or minority status, rather, it should be based on financial situations…That way its only those with less opportunity (regardless of skin color) that get any sort of head start in the application process…With that in mind I also agree HP that a number system could help validate a process like this…I am personally tired of hearing that its always race that has to do with the opportunity that is given to kids, it is clearly a financial issue not a race issue, the correlation of race to lack of opportunity still has to do with finances, it is not the direct cause of a lack of opportunity…My two cents…

  • JRW on 03.05.2012 at 11:51 am

    I’m going to argue against that girl that said “well there isn’t one race”
    Yes, there is. “Race” is a false human construct, whose sole purpose is to divide. If race must exist at all, I argue there is ONE race on this planet, the HUMAN race. I saw a lot of really cool looking people in that video. That’s the only difference, people looking cool in their own genetic way. – In case you haven’t guessed, I’m against affirmative action. You can encourage diverse groups, religions, subcultures, etc to apply to help *attract* diversity, but to incorporate it into the actual admissions basis, is unethical.
    Speaking to someone saying that they need it not as a handout but because of not having the same opportunities and resources that some from a wealthier background have had; my response is that is a very valid point. However there are ways around that. Interviews for instance to show that you’re truly worth it to the college and won’t just be another unfortunate admit that drinks, parties, and vandalizes the years away. Show them how determined you actually are. If you can’t make it there, phone them, if you can’t phone them, write them passionately and make your case. If your grades aren’t up to snuff because you didn’t have resources, there are still alternative routes than playing to a college/university’s diversity quota because your genetics are different.
    To that end, you shouldn’t even be able to fill in a race part of the application, and it should be frowned upon to mention it in the essay…though many will when they write “in my hard years growing up as a black teen, or a Latino, or a gay teen, or a Muslim (etc) in America…”…In the same sense, it becomes difficult when someone’s name is a giveaway. Some names just have a cultural background attached. So hopefully at that point the admissions board will together make sure that’s ruled out as a determination factor. Mike should be no different from Demetrius, from Hongbiao, from Juan-Carlos. And you know that colorful images just appeared in your head when reading those names (hence my point). What should matter is what they can gear from their academic prowess and the content of their character.

    • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:19 pm

      Amen! Please read my posts once they are approved.

    • Tess on 03.05.2012 at 12:47 pm

      YES! Homo Sapiens Sapiens. We are the only humans here at the moment. Everything else is tribalism.

  • Mary on 03.05.2012 at 11:56 am

    I agree that it is unfair that people grow up in unprivileged situations, but that gives them all the more reason to work hard. I feel like benefiting these students should be a the grade school level, not the college level. Race should not even be on a college application. Admission should be based purely on merit. Too many schools these days accept students to increase diversity. Diversity can be beneficial, but if it means that a hard working student’s place is being taken by a minority student who is less qualified, then that is just wrong. The same goes in work environments. I have seen very lazy people of a minority continue to get away with poor performance because they play the “race card”. Overall race should not be considered during the admission process and should not even be a section on college applications.

    • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:37 pm

      It is awful when they play the race card, and not all minorities do. I have a co-worker who is sharp and a minority and she is a great, hard worker. She stunned me the other day by saying she hates affirmative action and hates her race for using the system, being lazy and expecting a lot to be handed to them because they are of that race. She thinks if AA was abolished students would work harder. Why work hard when you have a better chance to get into college based on race?

  • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:08 pm

    No, it should not matter. I put myself through undergrad, no financial backing from my parents. It was a lot of hard work but I graduated with high honors while holding a part time job. I applied to Harvard as a white female. They asked me “how will you be able to afford the tuition if we cannot grant your scholarships”? I can’t. I worked hard so that I might earn such scholarships or be able to attend a top university due to my grades. It hurts that someone with lesser grades might be admitted before me due to skin color and have more scholarship chances as well.

  • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:18 pm

    Furthermore, I did not live a “privileged white lifestyle”. Food was rationed at our house and my biggest meal of the day was the free lunch at school. Sadly, I lived in a district where you had poor families (living in trailer parks) and extremely rich families but the reputation was that it was a rich kid school. The state covers tutoring for inner city schools through the Princeton Review, I know my best friend was one of the best/top tutors in the state – the kids did not care. Yet, because I went to a highly ranked school and SAT tutoring prep had to come out of my parents pockets, money they did not have. To say that white people have all these advantages such as traveling, tutoring services etc. is an extremely blinded and subjective view that is largely false. Farming families are predominately of the Caucasian race, you think they have tons of money to spend? Again, no race should not be an issue, I have worked in the schools that have a high level of minorities enrolled and I can tell you, the students that want to succeed, do.

  • Michael on 03.05.2012 at 12:21 pm

    While there is no doubt in my mind that not everyone has the same opportunities presented to them in life, and certain people need to have help given to them in order to reach the same opportunities as everyone else, the qualifications to receive this aid should never be based on race. People’s opportunities are limited by other factors: their economic situation, their upbringing, their family life, not the color of their skin. There may be trends present, but that does not indicate the cause of the problem, rather a simple trend, and the only way to remedy this is to eliminate the distinguishing feature (race) altogether. Certain people may not have the same opportunities because they can’t afford a private tutor, and this should be considered, but the reason they can’t have a private tutor is not because they are a minority, but rather because they can’t afford it. It could be a poor white person, or a poor black person, or asian, latino, or whatever else, but the race should not matter. There are plenty of people in minorities who have achieved economic success to the point where they have more opportunities that many white people, and yet these people could easily put down on their application that they are a minority, and so get special consideration for that reason. I mean, what if Obama’s children put down “African-American” on their applications? Should we give them special consideration as an applicant then? Of course not. A poor black who can’t afford any private schooling? Yes of course along with all their white colleagues as well.

    Then there brings in the issues of where do we stop. I am gay, which could be considered a minority, so should colleges start asking people what their sexual orientation is on their college applications? Should there be a mandatory quota of the number of homosexual people on a college campus? This may not affect schools like BU, but there are many schools which have almost no gay people on their campus at all, and this would drastically change the dynamics of the campus. Yet no application would ever ask an applicant their sexual orientation, because to do so would be considered offensive, and irrelevant. Why should their sexual orientation matter in their eligibility for college? Why should their race matter? In a nation where the minority will soon be the majority, it is neither practical nor advantageous to still consider affirmative action a viable option.

    • Tess on 03.05.2012 at 12:50 pm

      Michael, this is a wonderfully coherent response. Thank you!

      • Michael on 03.05.2012 at 1:20 pm

        no problem! glad you agree!

    • Maria on 03.05.2012 at 9:33 pm

      Sexual orientation matters in college applications. At least for graduate school. I believe every school I applied to asked.

  • Anonymous on 03.05.2012 at 12:23 pm

    I think there was a time when affirmative action made sense. In the wake of the civil rights movement, surely there had to be some kind of “push” to make things more equal while public perception adjusted to the new reality. But at some point we need to move past it. This seems as good a time as any to declare that the inequities of the past are behind us, and from here on out we should have a level playing field. I think we’re ready to move past the race issue, if only we’d stop harping on it so much.

    • Amy on 03.05.2012 at 12:38 pm

      Strongly agreed.

    • Nathan on 03.05.2012 at 3:25 pm

      I am a 53yr old white male raised in a Black and Latino inner city neighborhood. Racial inequality and economic inequality are THE WORST they have been in my adult life.

      Excepting the wealthiest members of society, racial inequality has made no real gains to ‘move past’

      There are no quick fixes, but IMO MERIT based college placement is better than MONEY based or RACE based.

  • Sarata Toriola on 03.05.2012 at 12:50 pm

    I think this question is problematic: Should race be a factor in college admission? When has race not been a factor in college admissions? Whites have been enjoying Affirmative Action since the founding of the nation. Whites have been/ and they still enjoy “more than equal”, “unearned”, and “extra” opportunities than persons of color. We are no where near an equitable and just society The gaps between whites and persons of color continue to widen (across education, college admission, health care, wealth…etc). This question suggests that we have someone overcome social and economic inequalities in this country. It presumes that whites are inherently more qualified than persons of color and that they do not enjoy privilege and unearned advantages to do this day. Affirmative Action does not discriminate against whites; it does not suggest that they are inferior to persons of color. It is an attempt to level the playing field. We are so far from where we should be. Whoever posed this question certainly does not have know anything about American history nor the current socioeconomic realities that Americans face. This question also suggests that to be “White” is to be un-raced. The anti-affirmative action stance is just a way to maintain institutionalized white privilege and advantages.

    • wont let me post without a name on 03.05.2012 at 1:27 pm

      So its ok to “level the playing field” as long as its only beneficial to poor blacks and hispanics? What about the white people living in poverty who also don’t have a fair chance like the poor blacks?
      Newsflash: There are many more white people living in poverty in the US than blacks and hispanics.
      Why are we denying these people an equal opportunity but giving one to blacks/hispanics?
      I think we are treating blacks as inherently inferior by doing this, not to mention discriminating against poverty stricken whites.
      Eliminate affirmative action entirely and change it to any race that grew up in harsh conditions.

      • Sarata Toriola on 03.05.2012 at 3:10 pm

        You clearly did not read my message (or at least you read it but you did not understand it). There is a historical legacy of white preference and privilege in this country and it continues today. The fact of the matter is that poor white people still have unearned privilege based on their race alone. They are more likely to get jobs, earn more money, get into an university, and have access to health care than persons of color in this country. Not because they are innately superior, not because they are more hardworking, not because they are highly intelligent but based upon their color alone. As Tim Wise notes, “Affirmative action does not seek to create a system of unearned black and brown advantage, but merely to shrink unearned white advantage”. So maybe the more radical approach is to get rid of the preferential treatment of whiteness in this country; take away the privileges and benefits that whites possess based solely on their color. Perhaps the more radical approach is perhaps to fix the education, health care, workforce, and political system so that persons of color and poor people get equal access to the opportunities and benefits that white elites have enjoyed for centuries and continue to enjoy. And its funny that because what’s missing in this debate is that Affirmative Action (when it was passed in the 1960’s) disproportionately helped white women, who despite this order continue to get unequal pay for unequal work in the 21st century. So this proves that we still have a long way to go. Though Affirmative Action is on the books, in practice men of color, women of color, and white women (though they are fairing better than women of color) are still being discriminated against.

        • Sarata Toriola on 03.05.2012 at 4:17 pm

          Typos: *white women get unequal pay for EQUAL work in the 21st century in spite the Affirmative Action order. Clearly there is a disconnect going on between what’s happening legislatively and what’s happening on the ground (and how Affirmative Action is carried out in practice), if women are still being discriminated against based on their gender. Discrimination against persons of color and women of color (and white women to a certain degree) continues. We are not post-racial and post-sexism.

          • Sarata Toriola on 03.05.2012 at 4:38 pm

            And it is also worthy to note that proportionately a greater percentage of persons of color live in poverty. So while there are more white people in this country (and thus “more” poor white people nationally), within the population of persons of color, there are more of us proportionately living under the poverty line than whites.

        • Michael on 03.05.2012 at 4:39 pm

          I think you are misunderstanding everyone else, not them misunderstanding you. Nobody here has suggested that whites are superior in any way, rather that the superior, whether white or black or whatever, should be given the best opportunities. To reference to history as justification is inherently flawed because everyone has been persecuted at some point in history, not merely blacks (I’m choosing black because you chose it many times in your argument). I, for example, am partly Native American, and my ancestors have suffered much at the hands of different conquering groups, but I by no means feel that this means I should be given a “head start” over the conquering people’s ancestors. In fact, I refused to put Native American on my application for fear that I would maybe take an opportunity away from somebody who actually needed it. In addition, I am gay, and gays to this day are still discriminated against. The government itself only just recently stopped “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” which was effectively legal discrimination in government’s own institutions. Yet no college application asks for sexual orientation, nor would I expect them to, or expect any aid for being gay. As for increased opportunities, white people do not get more opportunities given to them simply because of the color of their skins, and if they do, that is illegal and I strongly encourage you to take it up in court. Otherwise, its irrelevant to argue that point. People may not have opportunities because they are poor, or maybe their school does not have the services they need. Additionally, how exactly do you define who gets the aid? The Latino population, for example, is growing rapidly, and it is projected to continuing growing as a percentage of the US population. Can we continue to give aid to a group that is no longer a minority? It is actually impossible for us to support the entire Latino community if they all decide to go to University.

          In addition, you state that whites are more likely to get into a university, which is probably true because statistically, more whites apply to university. You can’t get in unless you apply. That whites “earn more money” is unsurprising, since college graduates are shown to earn more than non-degree holders, and since we just agreed whites go to college more, they should thus earn more. It’s like saying “red cars get pulled over most often” when in fact there are more red cars than any other, so of course they do. This seems to me that the issue should be to encourage everyone to apply to college more, not to help certain groups get into college.

          Also, when Affirmative Action was signed by LBJ in 1965, it did NOT include women at all. That wasn’t added until 1967, but I understand that women did greatly benefit from this act. Not that I think discrimination of any kind (positive or negative) is justified for gender or race.

          • Sarata Toriola on 03.05.2012 at 8:47 pm

            But my point is that America’s economic, political, and social systems are not based on merit. To this day, it is based on the preferential treatment of “whiteness”. And I did not say blacks at all, I said Persons of Color that includes Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, LGBTQ persons of color…etc. And its so funny because the one group that you did not mention that has not been oppressed in this country and that has DONE the oppressing is white men. It’s fine if you individually don’t want to be viewed as Native American, that’s fine. But you cannot deny that systematically, persons of color have been oppressed for centuries, POC have had numerous socioeconomic barriers put in their way, and are no where near whites (because of the continuation of institutionalized racism and discrimination). And take it up in court? It has been repeatedly taken up in court—ha ha, but guess who runs our court system? It’s funny that you mention the Latino population because even though they are growing, they still lag behind white Americans in every socioeconomic and political arena (coincidence I think not). Ha ha, it’s not about all Latinos going to college, its about presenting Latinos with the same opportunities and resources as their white counterparts so if a young Latino student wanted to go to college, she or he can.

            Interrogate your logic a little bit: Why do you think whites (proportionately) are more likely to apply to college and attend college (proportionately) than persons of color? Ok, I’ll answer: more whites (proportionately) apply and attend college because A. they have access to opportunities and resources that persons of color do not have (access to college prep programs, access to better schools that train them for college admission and the college experience, even basic things such as up to date textbooks and freaking pens are what impoverished communities of color lack). B. There is a legacy of preference for whiteness-so even poor whites are more likely to attend college, get jobs, and get better health opportunities than persons of color because the American system places preferential treatment on “whites”. For example, in a recent study conducted by Princeton University entitled “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets” (and I suggest you look it up), it showed that “young white high school graduates were twice as likely to receive positive responses from New York employers as equally qualified black job seekers”. Even among ex-prisoners, white former ex-prisoners were more than likely to get positive responses from employers than black ex-prisoners. And to surprise!-Princeton University also reported that white ex-prisoners were even more likely to get positive responses from employers in the job market than blacks WITH NO PRISON RECORD.

            So to say that there are “more” white people and that’s why they fair better than POC in America’s educational, political, and economic system is flawed. Encouragement? What good is encouragement when POC do not have access to even the most fundamental preparation tools to get into college? What good is encouragement when there is a system in place that gives more preference and more unequal treatment to whites? I know this is hard to swallow, but the truth usually is. And in regards to Affirmative Action order, notice that I said the 1960’s (I did not indicate a specific year, but clearly I needed to be more specific).

          • Maria on 03.05.2012 at 9:29 pm

            “Yet no college application asks for sexual orientation, nor would I expect them to, or expect any aid for being gay.”

            I just applied to a bunch of graduate schools that factored this in for the same reasons they’re looking to diversify in every other way. Just saying.

          • Amy on 03.06.2012 at 12:39 am

            Well put Michael!

        • Amy on 03.06.2012 at 12:37 am

          Preferential treatment of whiteness? This has never been the case where I worked. I had an African American colored fellow receptionist abusing her work privileges and when it came to who they would hire full time (these were temp positions) she pulled the race card. Please list precise facts of how whites in poverty have an advantage?

  • Abhishek Seth on 03.05.2012 at 2:34 pm

    Diversity is phenomenal!

    But diversity for diversity sake is disgusting. Schools should choose students by their intellectual merit–not by their last name.

    Quotas should only come into play when, for example, a White and a Black student–with the exact same scores and the exact same intellectual capacity–apply.

    If the school has too many Blacks, then get the White. And vice versa. But only in the realm of equal everything-else.

    I cannot stand when universities choose the Native American, for example, just because she is Native American. She should meet all the intellectual requirements before prioritized.

    Same goes for Asian Indians. If they do not meet the university’s standards, don’t pick them.

    Intellectual merit should always come first. Background is subservient.

    • Sarata Toriola on 03.05.2012 at 3:53 pm

      “Getting in because of Merit” is not how this country works or has ever worked. America distributes wealth, income, and opportunity to whites (white men in particular) because they are white (not because they are smarter, better, or more hardworking). The dominant class sets the parameters of who gets what, and ultimately opportunities and resources end up in their hands. I mean do you really think we had/and continue to have C+ and D average political leaders running the country because of merit? Do you really think whites are in power and surpass persons of color in every socioeconomic arena because they are “intellectually” more capable? Do you actually think persons of color are not intellectually capable enough to get into universities or schools? Persons of Color are not given the same resources and opportunities to succeed as whites. The truth is that persons of colors continue to be challenged by historical and socioeconomic barriers (put in place by white elites to maintain their power). Meritocracy is a myth. The only way it would work is if we gave everyone equal opportunities starting from birth. The only way it would work is if we completely overhauled education, health care, the workforce, and every major institution so all people were given the same opportunities. The only way it would work is if we got rid of the preferential treatment of whites and ‘whiteness”—that would be the day.

      • Erin on 03.05.2012 at 4:57 pm

        THIS. THIS. THIS. It is stunning to me how so many commentators think that by not recognizing race, racism will go away. Too many people do not understand structural inequality. Also, I’m not going to repeat everything that has been said, but I find it really obnoxious when anti-AA people argue that the ‘less qualified’ person shouldn’t get it cause of their race. WHO SAYS THEY’RE LESS QUALIFIED? My biggest problem with AA is that 1. it doesn’t always take into account socioeconomic levels and 2. it doesn’t allow in enough minorities, i.e. the quota’s filled so that’s it! The point is, though, you can’t put a bunch of impediments in someone’s way, put people in a society where they are consistently de-valued and mistreated, but then expect them to meet a subjective standard of “achievement” that was established by the same sort of people that set the society up in the first place. There are THREE African-Americans in one of my classes, which holds about 40 students. Open your eyes.

      • Me on 03.05.2012 at 5:51 pm

        Sarata, I completely agree with you. What people are misunderstanding right now is that you are talking about the WHOLE and not INDIVIDUAL people. Everyone keeps citing their own specific cases as if it changes everything but what they fail to realize is that on the WHOLE, the American systems tend to favor Caucasians. That’s not as if to say that every single white person is undeserving, that’s far from the truth. Many white people work hard for what they have. So do many minorities (not just black). The white people who work hard end up with more than the minorities, and it’s not one individual’s fault, but rather, the system as a whole. I’m convinced that they don’t even notice that they are doing it. I agree, at the moment, the only way to remedy that issue would be a complete overhaul of all the systems, but in the meantime, we have AA.

        That being said, I agree with everyone who said that poor people should be included in AA because there are plenty of poor white people who are falling through the cracks as well and it is unfair for them to never be given a chance because of THEIR skin color. In an attempt to promote equality, we’ve accidentally ended up throwing all of the white people who don’t have any privileges under the bus.

        I don’t believe, however, that we should get rid of AA all together because that would simply put us back a square one. It just needs to be fixed a little bit.

        • Michael on 03.05.2012 at 10:09 pm

          I am sorry but when is it true that the American system favors whites over other groups? I really am interested as to where all this is coming from because it all seems extremely opinionated, not necessarily factual, so I would like to see some stats or something please because it seems to me you’re just throwing out random statements. Maybe I live in a fairytale, but as far as I’ve seen, nobody has ever been less likely to succeed simply because of their race. In fact, I was extremely shocked when I first learned about racism in school, and couldn’t understand why it happened at all. I know that, coming from an extremely liberal state, and an upper-middle class community, most people were set to succeed no matter what, and furthermore I was fairly sheltered from the hardships of the world, but in my sheltered world, racism simply was not an issue at all (and not because we lacked diversity either).

          To say that the whole system needs to be overhauled might be true, but to what end? The only way to achieve absolute equality is to seize everyone’s possessions and redistribute the wealth so that everyone gets the same. As the Cold War taught us, this never seems to be a practical solution (although true communism is a wonderful idea) and so there will always be some form of inequality. It is my belief, however, that the majority of cases of inequality result more from economic issues than race issues. For example, in France it is illegal to ask someone their ethnicity or religion at all; all French are simply French. It is a forced equality which can sometimes be controversial (consider the issues with head scarves) but for the most part it works. I spent half a year living in France, and anyone I talked to in France, no matter if they were Muslim, Jewish, or Catholic, whether their family had lived in France for over a hundred years or had recently immigrated from Algeria, all called themselves French, nothing more. Aid was administered to the poor, not to a specific ethnic group. The result was the world’s best health care system, a first class education system, and a nation that is the leading destination for immigrants in all of Europe. France has the same issues we have with illegal immigration (from North Africa not Mexico) and diminishing white majority (due to large-scale immigration) but they do a much better job at keeping France French simply because nobody is white, or black, or asian, rather they are all just French.

      • Amy on 03.06.2012 at 12:49 am

        Where is this “preferential treatment of whiteness”? I want it! The culture of some minorities is what holds them back not their skin color. There are plenty of minorities that have been persecuted, Native Americans, Asian Americans etc. in the US throughout history but they got over it, work hard and earn their way. Their culture supports it and pushes their children to work hard and lead by example. Do not blame the schools, as a teacher I have worked with all minorities, in the same district, coming from the same low income background and I can confirm that some students just work harder based on families, family needs to support the children not expect the schools to hand everything to their children. The barriers are more in their head and the more they hate on whites the more physical the barriers become. Treating others well is part of getting into any college or getting a job and some minorities don’t respect others and have a complaint about everything and the truth is they are the ones that create the racial divide.

        • Sarata Toriola on 03.06.2012 at 2:59 pm

          As a White American Lecturer and Writer on White Privilege and Male Privilege, Peggy McIntosh identified 50 daily effects of White Privilege in her life. Her essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, spells out the ways whites daily benefit from white privilege and preferential treatment. Here is her list:

          1. I can arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

          2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

          3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

          4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

          5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

          6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

          7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

          8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

          9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

          10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

          11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

          12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

          13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

          14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

          15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

          16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

          17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

          18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

          19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

          20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

          21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

          22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

          23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

          24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.

          25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

          26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

          27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

          28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

          29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

          30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.

          31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.

          32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.

          33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

          34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

          35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

          36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

          37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

          38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

          39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

          40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

          41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

          42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

          43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

          44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.

          45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

          46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

          47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

          48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.

          49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.

          50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

          • Sarata Toriola on 03.06.2012 at 3:38 pm

            Also read Lecturer and Writer, Tim Wise’s “White Swims in Racial Preference”. It a breaks down the historical legacy of white racial preference and its continuation today:


            There is also his blog that features numerous discussions on white racial preference: http://www.timwise.org/

          • JS on 03.06.2012 at 5:57 pm

            I’m pretty sure you aren’t willing to hear what anyone says to refute you, but I’d just like to say–so many of these things are true for minority groups now, too. I can’t watch a single TV show that has a cast resembling the Brady Bunch. I can get a birthday card with anyone the color of the rainbow on it. I’ve met officials of all races. America is still a country where the majority is white. That’s a solid fact. Does that mean whites get preference? I really don’t think so. And in case you’re wondering–racism is a two-way street. I think most everyone has suffered it at some point. That’s the problem we need to eliminate, NOT white preference.

  • Nevline W. Nnaji on 03.05.2012 at 1:51 pm

    Wow…what a great topic to debate for such a WHITE school.

    • ಠ_ಠ on 03.05.2012 at 8:23 pm

      I hope you’re kidding.

  • HP on 03.05.2012 at 6:50 pm

    Oh, and one more thing. Just b/c you’re “white” doesn’t mean you’re from the same place as somebody else. It just means that your family originated in a place that gets less sun than someplace else. It generally means a person of European descent but can also be applied to people who come from far south of the Equator. I used to teach in a school that was predominantly Hispanic and b/c of my ability to speak Spanish, which I learned in school, several NATIVE Spanish speakers thought I was Colombian or something. I really hate that everyone else gets to check a box that says “Asian,” or “Latino” or “African-American” (cuz God forbid we call them Black on a piece of paper and offend anyone) whereas I have to check the box that says “White” where’s my box that says “Western European” since my family predominantly came from Ireland?

    • HP on 03.05.2012 at 6:57 pm

      Oh, and when interviewed recently by a reporter who brought up February being Black History Month, Morgan Freeman said he hated it and that it should be gotten rid of if we ever want a chance at true equality b/c no other ethnic group gets an entire month to celebrate their history even though most ethnic groups have their own histories of discrimination and intolerance. The Irish had NINA when they first arrived in America after the Potato Famine (No Irish Need Apply), the Jews had to suffer through the Holocaust. What have the Latinos ever had to suffer through on such a great scale as the Blacks with their slavery and the others I mentioned that even so much as warrants their complaining about injustices (and I’ve known a great many more Latino’s and Hispanics that throw around the race card more than any other ethnic group). I went to a public school system in which they made up ~72% of the general population. You’re not a minority when you’re the majority and the only white person in the room is the teacher.

      • Amy on 03.06.2012 at 1:04 am

        Bill Cosby also hates AA and has declared that the principal responsibility for the high incarceration rate of black youth, as well as the problems of illiteracy and the 50 percent dropout rate of black high school students, lies with the parents. The lower economic people are not holding up their end of the deal. These people are not parenting. (Porter, July 2004)

        In Buffalo, NY inner city schools pass students so that they might continue to get funding. These students, know they will pass so don’t go to school and the parents aren’t there to make them.

        When high school students are applying for admissions, ones that have always gone to school and worked hard for their grades apply for admissions the current AA puts them at a disadvantage because of skin color. Meanwhile, that young man who skipped school constantly, blames it on his economic situation and “hard life” gets to go to college before some of his higher scoring classmates and on a football scholarship to boot. Then gets kicked out a semester later for too much partying and poor grades and that scholarship could have gone to an income deserving individual but skin color got in the way.

        Education is put in place to better people and give them a skill set so that they may find a job; it is not there to train a person in social skills, decorum and proper behavior/what is expected, that is part of the parents job.

        I hear a lot when I tell a student to get to work for the 100th time “Miz, you bein’ racist I ain’t gonna do this s***”. There is only so much you can help a person, they need to help themselves.

        • HG on 03.06.2012 at 6:00 pm

          Sadly, I saw this a lot in high school. Time and time again, these kids would fail to show up, blame it on their “hard” life in our upper middle-class area, and then accuse teachers of being racist when they put pressure on them to get the work done. Racism is not an excuse for not doing work; in fact, I posit you’re only adding fuel to the fire when you behave like that by confirming all the negative stereotypes that already exist.

        • Sarata Toriola on 03.06.2012 at 9:45 pm

          Young students of color in the public school system are getting sub-par teachers and sub-par resources. Some are not motivated to do well in school because their teachers and the system itself believe in their inferiority and that is reflected in the way they are treated. I’ve taught and tutored in the NYC Public School System and students know when you don’t care about them. Also, if students do not have anything to aspire to, they will not want to learn. Institutional barriers make it a very hard for a person of color to get a “good” job, “good” income, and a college education. So if students know that their chances of getting these things are slim, why should they work hard in school? Their parents are often products of the public school system too and they faced the same institutional barriers. Plus, parents of color in low-income communities often have limited time with their children because they are working 40, 50, and 60 hour weeks just to get by. The Buffalo public school system should be putting policies in place to address these issues: hiring qualified teachers who understand how the community works, implementing after school and morning programs to get students in reading, math..etc, and they should teach students how to survive in a society that wants to criminalize and demonize them. It should also be worthwhile as a teacher, Amy, to get to know your students a little bit. Perhaps talk to their parents and learn something about their actual lives.

      • Sarata Toriola on 03.06.2012 at 10:00 pm

        Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby are great actors but they think if they close their eyes-institutional racism will go away. And what’s startling about Morgan Freeman is that though, he thinks that we as a society are “over race”, he is still stuck in supporting roles next to white actors. He is still reduced to playing magical characters that help to support fragile white men who can’t get it together. Hollywood, as an structural and cultural entity does not offer black actors a variety of roles, we are reduced to playing “supportive friends”, cons, kitchen help—when there is a plethora of images, representations, and roles for whites. I mean turn on your TV and ask yourself are persons of color represented? and how are we represented?
        Also, its funny how you jumped to Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby as if they speak for persons of color everywhere. Lol, that would never happen to white people. Americans would never think that the actions and thoughts of Ted Bundy and Pat Brown were accurate reflections of white people but if a Person of Color says something or does something—Oh, well surely he or she has to be right–surely this is an accurate depiction of what’s going on–surely, this person is representative of the entire experience.

  • No on 03.05.2012 at 8:25 pm

    No matter how you spin it, affirmative action promotes favoritism of one individual over that of another. Aren’t we all supposed to be created equal? Shouldn’t everyone have the same opportunity to pursue and live the American dream or is this dream only reserved for a privileged few? I sympathize with those who have been trampled upon or have been mistreated. However, I didn’t create the problem but I am forced to live with the consequences that affirmative action brings with it.

    Regarding fair competition, 2 people are vying for the same position. Let’s say they attend the same schools, complete the same coursework but one tested slightly lower than the other and gets the job anyway. Explain to me the fairness is that? The example provided is real and is exactly what happened more than once during my tenure in the military. More than once I scored much higher on rating exams than those of the protected classes, but they’re the ones who ended up being promoted.

    Affirmative action is nothing more than legalized discrimination. What I’ve learned from it is this; I’m going to base future hiring decisions upon the one who is best qualified for the job than on someone who feels they’re entitled.

    • Amy on 03.06.2012 at 12:53 am

      Exactly my experience (and several friends) in any educational or professional job experience I have had. Thank you for your post.

  • Maria on 03.05.2012 at 9:23 pm

    From what I understand affirmative action targets a population who had not had the same opportunities to go to/ get into college as another population. I don’t have a problem with that concept. I do have a problem with the notion that being a minority alone qualifies you as that population with fewer opportunities. Take race out of the equation and base those acceptances on socioeconomic status and parental education. If percentage wise minorities make up more of that population, then great. However should a minority student who comes from a well educated, wealthy family, who went to private schools be accepted over a white student with the same academic record who comes from an urban low SES area, and has not had the same educational opportunities? In this scenario I think the white student should be the target of an affirmative action movement.

  • Alex on 03.05.2012 at 10:57 pm

    Affirmative action is ethically wrong, no matter how you spin it. I don’t even need to elaborate on it. That being said, private schools should be allowed to discriminate in their selection process if they want to. However, all public/state schools should not be allowed to implement affirmative action in their selection process. Being a tax payer, I have a major gripe with the fact that this issue has not been corrected. I find it very troubling that my younger brother and my children would have an unfair disadvantage at getting into schools that I’m paying to support.

    Although affirmative action is trying to accomplish something ‘good,’ it does so at the unfair expense of people due to the color of their skin. The color of ones skin, their religion, their sexual preference, etc., should not play a role in any college selection process. Otherwise, there is discrimination going on, plain and simple. For anyone who doesn’t think that affirmative action is wrong:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
    – Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, 1963.

    • Lei on 03.06.2012 at 6:24 pm

      oh wow look at that. you quote Martin Luther King while trying to justify why an unjust system should remain unjust. How precious. Can we get some info as to the actual numbers of the different racial and ethnic groups enrolled in college in the US. After we get those numbers, I would like someone to tell me just how disadvantaged their little brother is then. If 6 black persons were enrolled in college, I am sure the subconscious of many would be uneasy about that, so spare me that crap about your little brother is disadvantaged.Take a walk through some of the destitute communities in the US and then talk to me about disadvantaged. For the people who claim that the only people who benefit from AA programs are UNQUALIFIED black people. To be quite honest, that statement is inherently prejudiced. Persons from every other group can be qualified but once it comes to a black person they are unqualified? I have had plenty of lazy cheating UNQUALIFIED whites, asians, indians … in my classes. But I guess it is ok for them to be lazy and unqualified, it’s the black ones that must prove that they are worth sitting in your presence.

  • Sarata Toriola on 03.06.2012 at 12:25 am

    Ok, this is my final comment: I think I need to make myself clearer and maybe interrogate my own logic and sense of history. White Males of British Protestant ancestry were not oppressed in this country and they were the only ones (at one time in American history) who made up the dominant class. “Whiteness” is a racial term that has evolved to include Italians, the Irish, and other European ethnic groups that were at one time in our nation’s history discriminated against. When some of these groups first came, they were discriminated against by the whites that were already here. But by the end of the 19th century, these ethnic groups were taken into the fold of dominant class namely because they collaborated in the oppression of African Americans and other POC. Yes, poor whites are discriminated against in this country, so are white women. But there is still a preference for whiteness that permeates every part of our society (the media, the educational system, the political system …etc) and its so ingrained structurally in our society, often people do not think about it or even question it. And yes, inequalities in this country are not based on Race alone. There is Classism, Sexism, Heterosexism, and Ablebodyism…etc. These also function on the institutional level. I’m not saying that Affirmative Action is the way to go or that it’s perfect. Perhaps, the solution is not Affirmative Action. Perhaps we need a more aggressive approach to address America’s inequalities. Perhaps, we need to re-examine our institutional practices and restructure our institutional systems so they do give equal chances to all because at the present moment, they don’t.

    • ? on 03.06.2012 at 6:02 pm

      Why do WE today need to atone for the sins of people I never met, I don’t agree with, and I have never behaved like?

      • Sarata Toriola on 03.06.2012 at 9:05 pm

        Because that is when true reconciliation can happen. When we understand and admit to our past, that’s how we can move forward and solve the inequities in the present. I mean this is not about hurt feelings. This is not about feeling guilty or feeling angry. The truth of the matter is that people, real people are being denied dignity and access to the most fundamental things that others get without having earned it. Its about people being told that they are second class citizens. But all everyone seems to care about is their own individual lives and brushes with a “mean” person. Racism goes beyond the individual, personal bias, and the one day that things didn’t go “my” way. It’s about a system of institutionalized economic, social, and political policies and laws that place minorities at a disadvantage in relation to white people. This system is a direct result of slavery and racial segregation and it continues today. In order for social justice to happen, we all have to examine our history, understand how it shapes our present, and identify solutions for our future.

  • Adriana on 03.07.2012 at 2:01 pm

    Although I haven’t read all of the comments, I do agree with individuals that discuss adding low socioeconomic individuals to affirmative action policies. Something to take in to consideration is that overwhelmingly minorities score lower on standardized exams than white counterparts. Speaking from experience, as a Hispanic, I purchased various SAT prep books, took a SAT prep course and despite my 3.9 high school GPA scored lower on the SAT’s than expected. Some may say this can be due to testing anxiety, and it has been proven that minorities are often diagnosed with anxiety, but some how I do not think this is the answer. As long as SAT scores are heavily weighed in the admissions proces, affirmative action should exist. Not only for minority students but also for students coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds. It is naive to say that low SES and race should not be included in the admissions process because education is not distributed evenly, so why should the admissions process neglect this? Issues of race and poverty have to be dealt with in the U.S. before removing programs that benefit minorities and low SES individuals. I also think that it is sad that there are people out there that think that institutions, such as BU (with a ranking of #53), would admit severely under qualified students over white qualified students.As a Deans Host for 3 and a half years, and working with admissions, admission is not something that is given freely to all minorities. While BU does have cultural as well as racial diversity the campus remains predominately white. There is nothing wrong with that, but to individuals saying that affirmative action is unfair to white students please look around you. Finally, as long as things as legacy are taken in to consideration in the admissions process, then I dont see why race should not also be included. As a first generation American, I think it is unfair for individuals to get a leg up on other individuals for having an Alumni connection when most individuals (minority or not, low SES or not) do not have this same connection. Perhaps we should be discussing removing legacy aspects of the admissions process instead?

  • Avery on 10.10.2012 at 9:53 am

    This is a really contentious issue, and while I’m glad it’s being addressed, and I really enjoyed some of the thoughtful posted comments, I think a lot of people engaged in the discussion are missing the point. Why do we think there might be a need for affirmative action? Because some groups of people have historically been excluded from political/economic power, for whatever reasons. Today, race still matters (but what is race anyway?–it’s a thorny issue). But what matters more is class and socio-economic status, previous familial access to power. In our era of deregulation and cut-throat economics, the issue of estate tax and hereditary wealth (plutocracy, rule by the rich) is essential to the makeup of American society and its power structure, and historically, the wealthy in America have been white. If wealth-inequalities are addressed, the problems which began the push toward racially-based admissions policies will be taken care of along the way.

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