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There are 28 comments on POV: Defending Affirmative Action

  1. If affirmative action is about righting the wrongs that have been committed in the past, at what point will it have successfully done its job? When can we move past this to admissions being based on merit only?

    Also, you say that “we have not redressed the racial wounds that have been inflicted on black, Latinx, and indigenous people (as well as on many Asian communities)”. If affirmative action is about healing our past, and Asian communities have suffered in the past, why are seats distributed away from Asian students?

    1. lol: “At what point will [affirmative action] have successfully done its job?”

      “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.” – Ta-nehisi Coates

      Affirmative Action is only 50+ years young. It has a long way to go before its “done its job.” I think you’d benefit greatly from reading the article “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-nehisi Coates. Try to go beyond the title and learn something from it. If you learn nothing than you’re a loss cause. Godspeed.

      1. Thanks for the patronizing tone! Really appreciate that.

        Unfortunately you didn’t actually answer any of my questions. I am aware of the terrible past in America, but my question is at what point can you say that affirmative action has corrected these wrongs? Simply saying that there’s a “long way to go” means nothing.

        I also disagree with the idea of “moral debts” especially those which are carried by groups of people rather than individuals.

        1. Accountability has no answer, likely. If he or she were to provide a cap where they believe the equality line should lie for education, prison systems, income, etc. we could at least have a debate.

          I find many people have a hard time differentiating from equality and equity. There is certainly equity in this country, i.e., a system based on merit. It isn’t always like that, and when it’s not, the organizations or people responsible should be condemned publicly. I find it interesting that the author of this article presented no evidence that affirmative action actually works to lift these groups out of poverty. Evidence would typically find the contrary. Black unemployment is the highest its ever been since the time of the Great Depression.

          Inequality does not necessarily mean inequity. A group of people may, in fact, earn more or less than another group because that group chooses different fields to go into. There is possibly a list of many statistical disparities where not even a plausible case for discrimination can be made. Here are a few:
          1. More than 4/5 of the doughnut shops in California are owned by people of Cambodian ancestry.
          2. In the early twentieth century, 4/5 of the world’s sugar-processing machinery was built in Scotland.
          3. As of 1937, 91% of all greengrocers’ licenses in Vancouver were held by people of Japanese ancestry.
          4. Of the 16,000 workers who built the East Africa Railway line from the port of Mombasa to Lake Victoria, 15,000 were from India.
          5. Although less than 5% of Indonesia’s population, ethnic Chinese have at one time run 3/4 of its 200 largest businesses.

          These are just a few from Thomas Sowell’s book, “The Quest for Cosmic Justice”. So, why are different groups of people so disproportionately represented in so many times and places? Perhaps the simplest answer is that there was no reason to have expected them to be statistically similar in the first place.

      2. And how successful do you think race-based affirmative action has been in remedying past wrongs ? What metrics and standard of success do you use? Quoting Coates is not the solution…

    2. It is very interesting to see that Prof. included Asian students in the same category as white. Asian communities didn’t have the privileged history like White, and they were also discriminated against in the history and now.

  2. Thank you for providing meaningful context for this issue that is so often misunderstood.

    I believe many see Affirmative Action as a component of “PC culture” (a term which is, in itself, deeply flawed due to how many conceptualize it). This piece helps advance the truth: that Affirmative Action does not create unfair advantage for people of color in an attempt to reach a buzzword of diversity, it attempts to dismantle the unfair advantage that white people currently have.

    Thank you for this essential commentary, Dr. Bridges.

  3. As an outsider and a non-white student here, I did not see the problems of the US today are majorly caused by the race and gender issues but rather caused by the class polarization in your society. It is hard to say if the AA policy truly helped those who really need help, but one thing can be confirmed is that your policies, your history, and your good will, are becoming the playthings of the politicians you voted for. Sorry for the Asians, they may be the biggest loser in the game that they do not want to play at all.

    1. Exactly, Asians are the biggest losers in the game. I am Chinese myself so I certainly have my own bias, but I see some interesting facts. For one, white people have committed racial “sins” in the past, not just to blacks, Latinos, native Americans, but Asians (e.g. the Chinese Exclusion Act). But when it comes to “repaying the debt”, some seats have to be distributed away from white AND ASIAN students. Makes perfect sense if you ask me.

  4. Why not instead address the very wrongs trying to be remedied directly, rather than creating a system that purposefully makes it more difficult for certain people to get into college based on race, a characteristic over which the individual has no control? Have people forgotten that there are white communities just as poor as the black and latinx communities mentioned here, that are receiving no help because they were born wrong? Affirmative action is a step away from equality because in order to create advantages for minorities, it disadvantages young white and Asian folks who are likely not even old enough to have contributed to any system that oppresses the very minorities now receiving preferential treatment. If we want to remedy the very real wounds against black and latinx communities, let’s try and do it without disadvantaging white and Asian people based on their race, otherwise the civil rights movement taught us nothing. An eye for an eye just leaves the whole world blind, as the saying goes.

  5. how can it come 50 years are not sufficient enough to show some obvious result? China just started to reformation in late 80’s, yet, now it becomes the world’s 2nd largest economics. Don’t forget, it used to be like today’s North Korean when it starts – so what’s the key – the key lies in that the good policy motivates individual’s inner potentials, but the bad one does the opposite.

  6. Affirmative Action jeopardizes Asian communities, which was the victims of racism policies in the history. They should be given the same priorities as have being given to black, Latinx, and indigenous people.

  7. I wish the author were candid enough to just demand reparations already.

    “Affirmative action” was always a morally bankrupt and politically craven calculation demonstrably at odds with MLK’s vision of a world in which people are judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. And, of course, as others have noted, right now those suffering the worst from affirmative action are hard-working, high-achieving Asian immigrants who had nothing to do with any of the deplorable racial policies of the past.

    Worst of all, and many black commentators outside the left-wing thought bubble have criticized this, is that affirmative action seriously taints the achievements of black people. This is not manifested in additional racist attitudes by non-blacks; instead, it is by forcing blacks to internalize the judgment that they cannot make it on their own. I find the patronizing condescension towards black Americans in affirmative action just as bigoted and reprehensible as anti-miscegenation laws.

    I’ve watched affirmative action fail for thirty-plus years. Affirmative action throttled black equality in its cradle, and large numbers of black Americans are effectively worse for it, not better. Institutionalizing a failing “remedy” with the hope it actually finally remedies something is no remedy at all.

  8. No, I won’t just limit its harm to Chinese community or any other so-called advantageous groups, it is actually to all communities. Since it discredits those who are really outstanding in all the races. It is an insult to those race groups whom this is trying to help, and also shows partiality to those groups who are thought to be in advantages. It hurts both sides’ feeling – for it is not based on the very core of American value – equal opportunity to success through hardworking and fair competition based on merits and dignity of each individual. All kinds of manipulation to impose negative influence on such noble rights shall be condemned. It hurts American in a fundamental way. From the point of long run, it destroys the greatness of United States. So that’s why anyone really loves this country, shall stop and give it a real serious reflection on supporting this.

  9. I wanted to second a comment made by another individual here. If we are to say AA is a moral and ethical system, which I am not, but if we were to there would still need to be a metric bu which we can measure its success. AA has no metric to determine at which point we can remove it, which only lends itself to being abused for far longer than it would be “needed.” In such a case, EVEN IF you believe AA is just, you should still be in favor of removing the current system in favor of one with clear metrics. If this is not something you desire, you only contribute to the idea that AA is not about achieving any sense of equality, but rather is merely an attempt by certain (but not all, because apparently Asians are privileged now) minority groups to lash out at the majority.

    My point is simply that the current system is not suitable for achieving any long term benefits. Any form of discrimination based on anything other than merit should be dealt with very cautiously, lest its creators become the oppressors they claim to oppose.

  10. From a BU professor, even writing an opinion without the slightest bit of reference is a shame to this institution. Further, we as a society need to more carefully consider our social media activities….does it edify and educate? Is it truly objective? Is it based on research or relevant experience? Just because we can post something doesn’t mean we should. Is regulating race possible? When will “enough be enough” and who determines that destination? These type of opinions offer no solution and put wind in the sails of an increasingly angry society on all sides…that is an inherent and unhealthy fact easy for all to see worsening during the historic Obama presidency (Geraghty, 2016). Affirmative action is an eye for eye approach that will never fix the real crux of the problem, the morality of this country. A more dire root cause is that 67% of blacks and 42% of Latinos in our current generation have been forced to grow up with only one parent, normally without a father figure, while whites are at 25% and Asians represent the lowest at 16% (Casey Foundation, 2011-2015). The overwhelming success of Asians in this country is astounding and 20% above whites (Pew, 2013). While obviously not insurmountable, broken families are sub-optimal and debilitating to a child’s chances of success and the loving discipline required to provide a foundation (Lee and McLanahan, 2015). Financially, Married couples also enjoy a marriage premium of at least $12,500 (Wilcox and Lerman, 2014). You mentioned Dr. MLK which I find relevant. Interestingly, your institution actually investigated MLK on plagiarism to review the credibility and revocation of his degree (New York Times, 1991). I do agree he was a proponent of AA-type measures later in his life. Blake suggests he left his original message becoming more radical as he got older, even suggesting “occupy-like” movements – notably MLK was inclusive including poor white families (Blake, 2013). I would like to think he would have included Asians as well; I am married to a Korean myself.

    Casey Foundation (2011-2015. Children in single-parent families by race. Retrieved from:,869,36,868,867/10,11,9,12,1,185,13/432,431
    Lee, D. and McLanahan,S. (2015, June 30). Family Structure Transitions and Child Development: Instability, Selection, and Population. US National Library of Health, NIH. Retrieved from:
    Wilcox, B. and Lerman, R. (2014, October 28). For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America. American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved from:
    Geraghy, Jim. 2016, July 11. Remember Hope? National Review. Retrieved from:
    Blake, John. 2013, January 13. CNN. Why Conservatives Call MLK Their Hero. Retrieved from:
    1991, October 11. Boston U. Panel Finds Plagiarism by Dr. King. The New York Times. Retrieved from:
    2013, April 4. The Rise of Asian Americans. Pew Research. Retrieved from:

  11. This is a good article overall, but I take issue with the statement that “… some seats have to be distributed away from students who would otherwise be admitted: white and Asian students.”

    This should be revised to say “MIGHT otherwise be admitted.” European Americans & Asians must also compete on merit — as do African, Hispanic & Native Americans.

    It’s not certain that Asians should be grouped together with whites in this manner. As others note here, Asians (including Asian Americans) have been discriminated against in the past. Perhaps that is changing, but European Americans still hold advantages over all other groups.

    As for the question raised about “When can we move past this to admissions being based on merit only?” The answer must be: when no one ever suffers from racial discrimination again. This can only be determined by groups that have endured it & still do, not by members of the offending groups.

    Finally, Thomas Sowell’s book may be better titled “The Quest for Cosmetic Justice!”

    1. “when no one ever suffers from racial discrimination again”

      this is so illogical. whites and asains are suffering from racial discrimination right now because of AA

  12. I stopped reading this article after the words “reverse racism”. It’s appalling the a professor would write this. Why take away opportunities from more qualified students? Racism is a societal issue, it can’t be solved like this. AA is a racist policy. It’s funny that people always mention blacks and hispcanics getting the “opportunity they deserve”. Asians were treated just as baddy and yet, they are on the top of the educational totem pole. What people are ignoring is that it is a matter of culture.

  13. This is pure ignorance towards Asians. You mentioned seats are taken away from Asian students as a result of AA in college admission. And later on, you are stating we have not redressed the racial wounds that have been inflicted on many Asian community. While this entire article is about AA & remedy, leaving this contradictory unaddressed made your argument self-refuting.

  14. I agree with most points that Jose Artigas made above, but want to comment on one thing:

    When answering “when can we move past this to admissions being based on merit only”, Jose suggests “when no one ever suffers from racial discrimination again”. This is idealistic (which means it may never happen), and unfortunately, still does not suggest a measurable metric. And when that is to be determined solely by the enduring groups, in reality it could easily slip towards “when no one ever FEELS they suffer from racial discrimination”, which is in line with my observations. And when it comes to feelings, I’m not sure if we can ever move past it.

    These issues also manifest themselves when we talk about Asians, again. The narrative now is that Asians are more or less privileged along with whites, and they need to sacrifice in the system. But given the history of Asians being discriminated against, we then must conclude that the “debts” for Asians have been fully repayed. When did we actually achieve this, and how is it measured? In terms of feelings? Certainly not. Even the author suggests the racial wounds “on many Asian communities” have not been addressed. Or, does it mean that it’s been addressed for SOME Asian communities, while for other Asian communities it’s not? I can’t help but wonder what this has to do with the recent move of finely dividing the definition of “Asian” into subgroups. What an effort. But sadly, this special treatment might just make at least some Asians feel more discriminated against.

  15. You don’t fix racial inequality by giving special treatment to specific certain groups of people. You are teaching the youth today how to discriminate. The issue is lost cause for this generation. We need to work on making sure that the youth of today and future youths grow up knowing how to treat all equally.

  16. I would expect a professor of law and anthropology to know that “Latino/a” is, for many, not a race but an ethnicity. There are many people who are *not* people of color but are still Latinos — where do they fit into the AA framework, according to the author?

    A major problem with the execution of AA today, and a lot of the reason for the backlash against it, is precisely that it tries to pretend that it can all be about race without regard to socioeconomic status.

  17. I know I’m late to the party here but I think most of you fail to recognize your own privilege when speaking on these issues never mind failing to truly understand the purpose of Affirmative Action or why there is an actual need to have this program in place. I think what you guys should be asking is not “when can we move past this?” because its really not much of moral issue or policy, never-mind the hundreds of years of slavery and oppression but its more based on statistics and the questions asked should be “when will the income gap between the rich and the poor (racial minorities) be closed?” or “When will public schools not be funded by property taxes?” I think you guys are ignoring the nuances and intricacies of the reasons behind affirmative action. Its so much more than the perceived “giving racial minorities an unfair advantage”which by the way is not true because “affirmative action” for white and asian people is called “Legacy” which accounts for about 30% of admissions while affirmative action accounts for about 10%. But you guys are missing the reasons we need affirmative action because it has more to do with income than anything. I think once you fix the income inequalities that allow different races of people more opportunity than others on a massive scale and the inequalities that exist with racial profiling that send racial minorities to jail at 3x the rate of white and asian people then you will be able truly remedy the system. It is likely that everything will have a domino effect, fixing the income gap will mean that racial minorities will have more access to the same things White people have had for hundreds of years which is resources, programs, access to better tutors etc. etc. Only then can the playing field actually even begin to start being equal. The real issue is between rich and poor and if you check the statistics rich people tend to be white and poor people tend to be racial minorities. Not even getting into to the fact because the poor tend to be racial minorities they are less likely to be able to afford private school and the standards of education are inherently lower because they live in poorer areas and go to the public schools in those areas that don’t have any funding. Which means they don’t have Advanced Placement (AP) teachers, no extra-curricular activities, no honors classes simply because there isn’t any money for them. Inherently making them several steps behind Billy who lives a 20 minute drive down the road who’s parents also send him to public school but he lives in a better area so his local school is considerably well funded so he has a 4.9 gap because of the abundance of AP exams he’s taken and done well on. Not to mention elite schools like BU or Harvard are not going to lower their standards of admission just because Billy is more qualified than a student who lives in a poorer area. AA is an effort to match Billy’s capabilities with any student that does not have the means and aren’t able to send their kids to good schools because either they cant afford it or because they live in a poor area. it is NOT and advantage, it levels the playing field.

  18. Hard to finish this article without gagging. I watched the first affirmative action admissions in 1969, clearly out of their league at BUSM. That didn’t stop the misguided administration from expanding this unfair, dangerous policy which penalizes qualified Asians and turns out doctors that most of us wouldn’t feel safe patronizing. Throw in the hiring and retention of Prof Grundy who sees “White males as the problem” – and you know why I haven’t written a check to BU for 46 years.

  19. Affirmative Action was set up to remedy the injustices of the past. Now, it is used to reflect the country’s changing demographics. The problem: there’s no way it can possibly keep up. The upshot: millions of additional people will be routinely raped by these policies.

    Justice is not served by redirecting legalized discrimination against new groups of innocent people.

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