"Good motives aside, white condescension does more damage than good. White condescension says to a black child, 'The rules used by other ethnic groups don't apply to you. Forget about work hard, get an education, posses good values. No, for you, we'll alter the rules by lowering the standards and expecting less.' Expect less, get less." -LE
A lawsuit that claims Harvard caps the number of high achieving asian-Americans it admits could go to trial in Boston as early as this summer, according to CNN. The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by conservatives advocates who continuously challenge affirmative action, and the distinction it makes on students’ skin pigmentation.
This is not the first time that affirmative action policies have raised eyebrows or urged controversy, in fact, this case is the latest in a plethora of dubious instances these policies have enacted.
The term "affirmative action" was first used in the United States in "Executive Order No. 10925", signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, which included a provision that government contractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."
Today in the United States, the term is widely known as referring to the practice by universities of requiring lower test scores for admission of Black students, while requiring higher test scores for White and Asian students.
This way, according to the supporters of this policy, we can counteract the imbalances and injustices in society which lead to less Black students being admitted to the nation’s top universities in the first place, and insure the greatest racial pluralism in the classroom.
The problem, amongst many, is that this policy draws a line in the sand on the sole basis of skin pigmentation, and not on any other relevant factor of admission.
So, if for example, as was the case a couple years ago in Princeton university, a young Asian student from a poor socioeconomic background got an SAT score of 1510/1600, (back when it was still graded out of 1600), and a Black student from a comfortable socioeconomic background got a 1310/1600, then the black student would automatically be granted admission over the Asian student. Regardless of the actual conditions both students went through to achieve these scores.
Does it matter that the Asian student grew up in crippling poverty, with a single mother and all the odds against him, and still managed a higher test score? no, all that mattered was that he was Asian. Anytime you attempt to positively or negatively separate individuals based uniquely on skin color, you enter dangerous territory.
The phrase “I love all Black people” is just as racist as “I hate all black people”, because it assumes there is a common characteristic amongst everybody that is black, which is just ludicrous.
A black banker born in New York City has nothing in common with a Congolese lawyer, nor with a Haitian farmer. Skin pigmentation says absolutely nothing about an individual.
Two additional racial problems to Affirmative action arise, 1. It is deeply racist to Asian and white students who lack benefits others are granted because of their origin, and 2. It is condescending, counterproductive and demeaning to the Black and Hispanic students it is trying to help.
As given in the Princeton example above, excluding students of benefits meant to help them to enter college because they are white or Asian is by definition racist. The very meaning of racism is to be discriminated because of one’s own racial origin. Is that not exactly what affirmative action is guilty of doing?
So, if an Asian student were to ask why his SAT scores have to be higher to be admitted, someone will have to answer him: “because you are Asian”, a morally repugnant phrase and stance altogether.
Secondly, affirmative action has in my opinion, justly been called “The racism of low expectations”, describing the condescendence of universities essentially saying to Black and Hispanic students that they are not good enough to be admitted to their institutions on their own, so they need softer requirements.
This attitude is not only quite discriminatory in itself, it also lowers student self-esteem and essentially shows them that their effort and dedication are insufficient to be granted entry into the top colleges. And that because of their skin, they need to be given an advantage over others.
What a horrible thing to tell a young man or woman just starting his or her’s education.
An education supposed to be based on the principle that through hard work and dedication one can achieve anything, and not be bided down by his or her’s innate characteristics.
Last but not least, Affirmative action, apart from being morally wrong and discriminatory by definition, simply does not work, and ends up hurting the people it is trying to help the most.
In fact, Clarence Thomas, the American judge, lawyer and current Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, has been a long opponent of affirmative action. His words, stated in 1982:
“I watched the operation of such affirmative action policies when I was in college, and I watched the destruction of many kids as a result.”
Mr. Thomas is referring to a theory called “mismatch”, one that claims that affirmative action actually harms those it is intended to help by placing them in universities above their academic level, and that by a chain reaction, they suffer first in the classroom and later on in jobs and life.
This theory gained the spotlight when a UCLA law professor, Richard H. Sander published an academic article in the Stanford Law Review, which underlined how affirmative action affected law students. The article reads:
“A student who gains special admission to a more elite school on partly nonacademic grounds is likely to struggle more” and concluded: “if the struggling leads to lower grades and less learning, then a variety of bad outcomes may result: higher attrition rates, lower pass rates on the bar, problems in the job market. The question is how large these effects are, and whether their consequences outweigh the benefits of greater prestige.”
At some universities the preferences made to recipients of affirmative action often cover hundreds of SAT points. At the university of Texas for example, the median black student recipient of affirmative action places at the 52nd percentile of the SAT, while the typical white student sits at the 89th percentile.
Essentially, Texas places Black students with average SAT scores within a highly competitive and challenging student body. Exactly the environment where mismatch is most observable.
Since the 1990’s, increasing research on affirmative action and mismatch prompted more research on the subject, and the results are chilling. According to The Atlantic:
• Black college freshmen are more likely to aspire to science or engineering careers than are white freshmen, but mismatch causes blacks to abandon these fields at twice the rate of whites.
• Blacks who start college interested in pursuing a doctorate and an academic career are twice as likely to be derailed from this path if they attend a school where they are mismatched.
• About half of black college students rank in the bottom 20 percent of their classes (and the bottom 10 percent in law school).
• Black law school graduates are four times as likely to fail bar exams as are whites; mismatch explains half of this gap.
• Interracial friendships are more likely to form among students with relatively similar levels of academic preparation; thus, Blacks and Hispanics are more socially integrated on campuses where they are less academically mismatched.
There is no doubt discrimination is alive and well in this country and that we must continue to wage war against it in every way imaginable, but unfair and counterproductive government intervention, in the form of mismatch, posing a serious threat to the educational advancement of Black and Hispanic students, need be opposed and repealed if we are to ever achieve true equality.
In the words of Milton freedman:
“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”