[This post was originally written and posted in January of 2003, but it got dropped from the database in some blogmove or other, so I’m reposting it now.]
One of the benefits of affirmative action in college admissions, it seems to me, is that it offers a really substantial benefit to blacks at a tiny cost to whites. Not everyone agrees with my rosy view; Michael Lind, for example, once wrote that “in order to accommodate a few less-qualified black students, the University of Texas Law School, like other leading schools, must turn down hundreds or thousands of academically superior white students every year.”
So does the existence of affirmative action bring about a substantial harm to white students applying to selective colleges? Goodwin Liu, in the March 2002 issue of the Michigan Law Review, argues that the cost to whites is actually quite small; and the tiny number of whites who actually are rejected because of affirmative action policies are the least likely people to sue.
Liu calculated how much the odds of whites being admitted to five highly selective universities would change if affirmative action programs did not exist.
|SAT score||Actual rate
for whites if
AA didn’t exist
(The data on this table comes from pages 1075 and 1078 of the March 2002 Michigan Law Review.)
There’s obviously some statistical noise going on here (at the highest levels of SAT scores, Liu’s numbers indicate that whites have a microscopically better chance with affirmative action programs in place). But overall, the trend is clear: at combined SAT scores of 1300 and above, the presence or absence of affirmative action makes no significant difference at all to the odds of a white student being admitted. At lower scores, the difference exists, but is tiny. A white student with a combined score below 100 has a 96.7% chance of rejection from a selective school with affirmative action, and a 93.3% chance of rejection if aa didn’t exist. In either case, the odds are overwhelming she’ll be rejected; and the primary reason for the rejection is her poor SATs, not her race.
But what about those famous anti-affirmative-action lawsuits? Well, virtually all those suing are whites like Allan Bakke (of the precedent-setting Bakke case). Baake didn’t get into Davis Medical School, but sixteen minority students from poor backgrounds did get in with the help of Davis’ affirmative action program. (Minority students from middle-class or wealthier backgrounds did not qualify for Davis’ affirmative action program). Baake, deciding that he didn’t get in because those darn colored people had taken his seat, sued, claiming that he had been “barred… by reason of race alone – from attending the school.” Despite Baake’s eventual court victory, his claim is untrue; Baake didn’t qualify because he wasn’t good enough, and even if there had been no affirmative action program at Davis, he would have been rejected.
As Liu argues, the very few white students who are genuinely rejected because of affirmative action are the least likely to sue.
A white applicant who seeks admission to a particular school, but is displaced by affirmative action, is necessarily one who has come very close to being admitted. If an applicant of that caliber were to apply to several comparable schools, it seems improbable that she would be rejected in every instance. An applicant who is truly close to the cusp of admission at one institution will more than likely fall on the other side of the cusp at one of the other institutions to which she applied. Such an applicant makes an unlikely plaintiff. If, for example, a white student applies to ten selective schools and, though rated highly at each school, is rejected by all but one or two, the applicant may have legitimate grounds for complaining that she was displaced as a result of affirmative action. But because she has gained admission to one or two schools of comparable quality, her incentive (and, I suspect, psychological urge) to file a lawsuit is considerably attenuated. In this regard, it is interesting to note that in 1973, Allan Bakke failed to gain admission not only to the Davis Medical School, but also to ten other medical schools to which he applied. Bakke, like most white applicants and plaintiffs, was not close to the cusp. (Page 1094).
Anti-affirmative action lawsuits are not put forward by whites who would have gotten in to a selective college if only affirmative action didn’t exist. They’re put forward by whites who have such a strong sense of entitlement that they can’t admit they failed to gain admission because, on the merits, they didn’t deserve admission.
If I were ruler of the world, affirmative action admissions would be the least of the racial remedies we would see; it is certainly far short of what is needed to fight the effects of past and present race discrimination. Nevertheless, in some ways affirmative action admissions are an ideal case: they provide a greatly increased chance of attending the best colleges for blacks, at an incredibly tiny cost to the chances for white applicants. Given the extremely modest nature of AA, my guess is that anyone who finds AA to be too extreme, would find any substantial program that helps blacks too much to ask for.
Update: Sisyphus digs up another piece of trivia about the Michigan case currently being considered by the Supreme Court: one of the folks suing had a legacy preference when he was attempting to get into Michigan. Also, she points out something I didn’t know (but should have guessed) – a century or so ago, legacy preferences were sometimes instituted to exclude Jews.
[Crossposted at Creative Destruction. If your comments aren’t being approved here, try there.]
“A few” versus “hundreds or thousands”? I can’t imagine how that math is justified. (I’m not even going to touch the “academically superior” assumption.)
“Anti-affirmative action lawsuits are not put forward by whites who would have gotten in to a selective college if only affirmative action didn’t exist. They’re put forward by whites who have such a strong sense of entitlement that they can’t admit they failed to gain admission because, on the merits, they didn’t deserve admission.”
No, they are put forward by whites who perceive that they have been treated unfairly because they assume (correctly) that with the same scores they would have gained admission if they were black. They know that they are being held to a higher standard, and like most humans who are held to a higher standard than other humans, they don’t like it. Probably if they thought they weren’t granted admission if all things were equal, the rejection would be met with more equanimity. I don’t think any honest discussion of AA can take place unless we recognize the reasonableness of this position.
They know that they are being held to a higher standard,
I don’t think that this statement is really justified if one looks at the whole story instead of just the narrower measures such as SAT scores. All other things (ie natural talent, family encouragement, etc) being equal, who is likely to get a higher SAT score: a student from a well funded suburban school that teaches to the SAT and has plenty of teachers to help students at every level of performance (ie to encourage the ones doing best to even higher levels of performance and help those who need extra work to perform well in specific areas) or a student from a poor inner city school with barely enough teachers to cover the basics and no time to even think about a child who is actually succeeding, muchless encourage her to do better? Yes, I know, there are poor whites and rich blacks in the US. It’s not a perfect system, but at least it gives some encouragement to students who might otherwise simply give up thinking the odds against them simply too great.
This is a reasonable analysis, except that it misses something that I think is key. Let me give a simplified (just black and white) example of why.
At a fairly selective university, probably 80% of the students are “will admits”; whether by reason of academics, family connections, wealth, athletic ability–whatever–that 80% of the class is full; let’s say it is 78% white, 2% black. The competition is for the remaining 20% of slots. The competitors are in some sense marginal; they are mostly lower-status than the 80%–either poorer or different race–and have an average 1/3 chance of admittance.
Now, the comparison looks a bit different. The black portion of the marginal pool is probably about equal to the population percentage–maybe a little higher–so say 20%. If blacks got in roughly proportionately to whites in this marginal pool, the end percentage would be 94% white, 6% black.
But if the school wants to get the racial proportion in the overal school close to that of the population overall, the proportions in the marginal pool are going to be that 2/3 of the admittees from the marginal pool are black. That means that ALL the blacks in the marginal pool get in, while only 15% of the whites do. For whites in the marginal pool, their chances of getting in are reduced 50% by affirmative action.
The problem is driven by the wild disproportion in the “must admit” pool, but the white applicants in the marginal pool are the ones disadvantaged. And there is often a major class difference (and often, even an ethnic difference) between the white students in the “must admit” pool and those in the marginal pool. You have to look at that marginal pool, not the overall white population, to see why the resentment of affirmative action is so high, when its effects on whites IN GENERAL are so small.
SamChevre’s point is excellent. I would also like to see a similar analysis for Asian applicants. The dirty little secret of affirmative action in college admissions is that a non-White group ends up bearing the brunt of its cost.
It’s interesting that in the quest for a world where all things are equal, white applicants don’t want the problems many minority applicants face. Instead what they want is to always be on the positive side of equality. In other words they should always be at least equal in every situation.
It’s intresting that in a quest for a world where all things are equal, people keep insisnting we need laws to favor one group over another. Instead of equality based on the work and capabilities of the individual, they want to set up lines based on race and gender.
Its interesting how, in a world in which people want equality based on the work and capabilities of the individual, they can’t see that anything in the past has had influence in favoring one type of individual over another.
Elena and Sam, thank you for your comments. I really appreciate intelligent disagreement, and hope to have [time] to respond to you soon.
Ed, your comment fails to demonstrate any awareness, however tiny, of the nuances of this debate. For that reason, I’d ask you not to post on this thread again.
(Edited to insert the missing word “time.”)
“It’s interesting that in the quest for a world where all things are equal, white applicants don’t want the problems many minority applicants face. Instead what they want is to always be on the positive side of equality. In other words they should always be at least equal in every situation.”
Why is this interesting? I think it is absolutly predictable. Why on earth would anybody be content to be on the receiving end of unfair policies? Are you saying that in order for minority student to be on the “positive side” of equality, we have to create artificial problems for whites to face, and they should suck it up and never complain? I think you have more faith in people’s altrusim than I do if you really think that will happen. Indeed, with the passing of Prop 2 in Michigan and similar legislation in California, I can tell you that when it comes to people’s own lives and those of their children, altruism has its limits.
The simple obvious problem with AA is that it is a practice of general discrimination that affects the lives of individuals, who (surprise!) don’t like it. Here in Michigan people were taken aback at how easily Prop 2 passed. Not me: people will generally act in their own best interest. Personally, as a mother of a white hispanic child, I could have gone either way. My daughter’s education wasn’t something I’m not going to be pragmatic about and to call other white peope racist for doing the same is ridiculous and unfair.
Refusing to accept any policy that could be seen as unfair to whites puts many minorities in exactly this position. The cumulative effect of always demanding fairness on your side is being okay with unfairness toward others.
Bakke wasn’t quite so unqualified: he applied to UC Davis Medical School twice and both times received evaluations of 92 – 93% on their numerical ranking scale; in one case he fell below the lowest-ranked white student admitted by 2 points out of 500. I believe he showed that more non-white students were admitted through a set-aside program after he was rejected than were remaining above him on the separate whites-only ranking system (meaning he would have been admitted if those slots had been available to whites), but I’m not sure. At any rate, if he was only 0.4% off the bubble with seats still unfilled when he was rejected, you’d have to admit he was admittable, or very nearly so, on his merits (a fact that figured in the Supreme Court decision in his favor).
I suspect the same is true in other cases, or was, at least, when we were still doing Bakke-style affirmative action on separate admissions tracks. That being said, I still think Bakke was a self-absorbed whiner, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that affirmative action was irrelevant to his being rejected. Without it, he clearly wouldn’t have been – and that has to be true as a general principle for affirmative action to work at all.
Assuming a fixed (over the short term) pool of goodies to distribute, and given that the whole point of affirmative action is to end the over-distribution in favor of white males and shift it in favor of others, it has to result in fewer white males getting goodies than would otherwise be the case if it is working at all. That is a worthy goal in many cases, but you can’t justify that goal by pretending that it doesn’t actually impact the currently over-privileged. It’s intended to do exactly that.
What about Asians? AA tends to favor Blacks over other minorities, with Asians disfavored more than whites.
“To try to do so, Li is pointing to research done by two Princeton scholars and published in Social Science Quarterly. The research looked at admissions decisions at elite colleges and found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent.
While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percent. And their share of a class of admitted students would rise to 31.5 percent, from 23.7 percent.”
Jake, the past undoubtedly has had an effect, but where do we draw the line? From a UK perspective (again I can’t speak for the US) no one has been enslaved here for nearly 200 years, thats ~ 6-10 generations of people, we don’t have an education policy that discriminates directly, we don’t have a white male privelage section in our schools (we did have a female privelage section though offering additional classes and help to female students in sciences and computing) we have a generic education system. Can I as a Scotsman claim oppression by the English (~400 years ago?) or should I just accept the situation I am in and get on with it striving to do the best I can with what life throws at me?
I can’t see how disadvantaging a group now makes up for the past, or indeed how this is beneficial for the future, surely what we want is a meritocracy in that people move to the level they achieve and strive for?
The Asian factor is yet another brutally telling argument in the fight over racial preferences. We are actively oppressing one ethnic minority to improve an outcome for another. As Amp himself notes, it isn’t white people (who are at least historically the broad group of people most responsible for the oppression of blacks) paying the costs here.
Can anybody on the pro-strong-affirmative action side tell me what can possibly justify the holding down of one group of people on the basis of their race?
Bakke was born in 1940 and thus was 33 when he applied to medical school. Yet he assumed the issue was racism and not something else?
Sometimes I wonder if it’s not a harder burden to be a “good” racial minority than a “bad” one.
Jake, the past undoubtedly has had an effect, but where do we draw the line? From a UK perspective (again I can’t speak for the US) no one has been enslaved here for nearly 200 years, thats ~ 6-10 generations of people,…
I draw the line when the obvious consequences of that history have been eliminated. Slavery in the US ended in the 1860’s. The Civil Rights Act (which guaranteed the right to vote, among other things) was in the 1960’s. Segregation (state sponsored/enforced) wasn’t eliminated until the 1970s. I’d say the effects of the past are still clearly visible in the US. Look at the poverty rates for different groups as an example. This is obviously not the result of a “level playing field,” for lack of a better cliche.
I’ve been very successful economically. This is so in large part due to my abilities and work ethic. However, and this is huge, I am lucky that I was born where and to whom I was because that luck of birth is what gave me the opportunities necessary to be where I am now.
Having been on a University Admissions committee, my perception is that certain groups are at a distinct disadvantage.
I think international students were at a big disadvantage in that committee. We had numerous Chinese applicants (who had abnormally high GREs–extensive cheating was later discovered), about half the applicants were from China, and none of them were accepted. We did however, accept a Russian student who had lower GPA and lower GREs.
We didn’t accept any were willing to accept two Latinos and one African American, but when the committee chair did not get a quick response, he did not extend offers to any students of color.
In the end all 10 of the students admitted to the program were white, and I felt that some of them were not qualified. In fact, we accepted two white males who had only 3.2 GPAs, while rejecting African Americans and Latinos with higher grades. One of the lower performing white guys was likely accepted because he knew someone who knew someone connected to the department, and another high performing white guy was accepted for the same reason
This whole experience lead me to believe that the admissions process is biased towards whites. I have noticed in the past that many white colleagues are very excited about the highest performing Blacks and Latinos, and they would clamour over them. But when it comes to the more marginal applicants, I think whites have a distinct advantage because the “connection” and legacy factors come into play. My thought is that this is an unfair advanatage.
I also think it is unfair to lump all Asians together, some Asian groups are disadvantaged and underrepresented–Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Filipinos. Others like Koreans and Indians are not. So if I was on an admissions committee I would take this into account. I have also noticed that many whites and Asians focus too heavily on SAT’s, GREs, GMATs, etc, and when people argue about this issue they tend to forget that GPA is a much better predictor of future college performance than GRE. The gap in test scores is also greater than a GPA gap.
If I had a black student from an inner city Cleveland public school, who had a 3.5 GPA and was in the 80th percentile on the SAT and a white student who lived in suburban Cleveland with the same GPA, who was in the 90th percentile on SATs. I would rate them as both highly qualified, but I wouldn’t give the white student any advantage. Additionally, many of these suburban students can raise GPAs by taking the numerous AP courses available to them, an option not available to low income students in poorer rural and inner city schools.
Just a few thoughts
So what’s the rate of admission for blacks if AA didn’t exist?
Daran, California would be a good state to examine since they banned affirmative action. There the number of Black students at elite flagship state schools–Berkeley and UCLA dropped. Enrollment at less prestigious schools increased.
I also heard a report the other day that said, even many Blacks admitted to UCLA and Berkeley decided NOT to accept admissions because they felt that the schools were not hospitable to Black students. One year Berkeley law school had only 1 black student. I suspect once other Black student saw this they were less inclined to go to the school.
(Edited to add the word not.)
Sorry, I wanted to add: I believe that should be 1000.
I saw two basic arguments in the post why whites are not harmed in the original post. The first is that the rates of admissions for whites are only slightly lower because of AA. This is rhetorically correct and logically wrong. There are a lot more whites who apply to school, thus the harm to them is spread out over a larger population. There are exactly the same number of whites who didn’t get a place because of AA as there are black who did. Hiding that fact by giving it a larger demoninator doesn’t change it.
The second argument is that less harm is done to whites because the ones likely harmed by AA are less likely to sue. While this argument is unsurprising coming originally from a Law school review, it is irrelevent. Likelyhood of suing doesn’t measure harm directly. It is tempered by the likelyhood the subject realized hard was done to them, and the perceived value of redressing that harm. If the typical white harmed by AA is rejected at some schools, but accepted by others then they may not perceive the real harm that was done or may not feel justified in suing because they “got in somewhere.”
Some notes on other’s comments:
The reason highly qualified whites have a better chance with AA than without is that AA is disportionally harming Asians who are most likely to be at the highest end of the applicant pool. Asians were not seperated out in the statistics, which I find curious. I suspect the damage done to them is more statistically obvious. Especially at the higher end schools.
Measuring harm by admission rates is interesting, but incomplete. Some studies (see below for a reference) have found significantly lower graduation rates for minorities. While much of this can be blamed on the same factors that gave minorities lower GPAs and SAT scores in the first place, AA does nothing to address their lack of preparation and resulting lower graduation rates. In the end placing minorities in schools that are more prestigious, but for which they are less prepared and less academically qualified than the average student may be doing more harm to minorities than good.
“Under the Berkeley plan, the odds of a black or Hispanic being admitted from the eligible pool are roughly three times as high as for whites or Asians, but their chances of graduating are about one-third lower. In 1988, for example, 75 percent of black applicants, and 85 percent of Hispanic applicants, were admitted, as opposed to 28 percent of white applicants and 25 percent of Asians. After five years, graduation rates for this class were 37.5 percent for blacks, 43.5 percent for Hispanics, 71.5 percent for whites, and 67.3 percent for Asians. After six years, the graduation rates rose to 51 percent for blacks, 53 percent for Hispanics, 77 percent for whites, and 75 percent for Asians.”
yes, yes, of course it’s reasonable for white people who are rejected (due to perceived or actual AA discrimination) to feel resentment toward black people and toward the system that got them rejected. it’s very reasonable. and look at their response:
go to the courts and sue for their grievances to be redressed. and with the same righteous indignation, they fully expect fairness to prevail.
so then when black people (especially lower-class black people) are saddled with unfair disadvantages, why do hold it against them when they seek the same redress and expect the same fairness to prevail?
these are not made-up disadvantages that they are using to gain admission on false pretenses…these are for real—fewer books in the household growing up, attendance at inferior schools, home environments that (due to culture or economics) don’t support academically inclined kids, peer pressure against studying.
if i am ever lose a job to an otherwise equally (or even slightly less) qualified candidate because i am a white male and the other candidate is desired for his or her contribution to a diverse workplace, then sure, i’ll be upset. but my options for finding employment are still much greater than the other candidate’s, and the overall strain on the economic system is less if i have to find a different job than if that candidate must.
the very reaction of AA opponents is suspect because it simply raises the question of why disadvantaged minorities shouldn’t have the same reaction.
Polymath, should white students from similar backgrounds be given AA as well?
I won’t say other groups shouldn’t have the same reaction, however last time I checked there wasn’t a system that deliberately forces disadvantaged minorities into that role, while AA is a deliberate action against other minorities / majorities.
yes, i do think that AA should be more strongly class-based than race-based, actually. but i think that it would still benefit black people disproportionately.
i disagree. your use of the word “against” assumes that this is a zero-sum game in which the advancement of a black person requires the non-advancement of a white person. presumably, historical discrimination held back millions of naturally talented black people who would have been successful had they been white. all talented people are an economic resource, and promoting the successes of all talented people contributes to everyone’s economic benefit. surely if AA results in the recognition and support of many more talented college students, for example, market forces will open more universities to pick up the extra demand for a college education. surely more black engineers on the market will result in more entrepreneurial R&D projects rather than merely suppressing the abilty of white engineers to find a job. in that sense, i don’t think AA is a deliberate action against anyone.
Chris said, “Polymath, should white students from similar backgrounds be given AA as well?”
We already have class based affirmative action. The financial aid system is just one example of that. Many universities also special programs for “first generation college students,” which targets low income people. Another example I know of is from The Ohio State University, which provides scholarships to students from the 29 counties designated as Appalachia. These counties are overwhelmingly rural, white, and poor.
This program created by the state of New York is another good example of an affirmative action program. HEOP scholarships are given on a competitive basis to students who are disadvantaged, which they define primarily in economic terms. The bulk of the students who benefit are students of color–Asians, Blacks, and Latinos are all overrepresented among the students in the program. Whites make up about 10% because not as many of them qualify as disadvantaged. However, Blacks, Latinos, American Indians, and Asians are overrepresented in the disadvantaged groups in terms of education and economic characteristics.
What I always find funny is the grievance folks have over AA programs while ignoring the legacy policies most, if not all, universities have. These legacy policies almost always favor white students over underrepresented minorities. But like Rachel’s previous post on White Supremacy (what I call White sense of entitlement), minorities are the ones who create discrimination, we are the ones who are racist.
This whole experience lead me to believe that the admissions process is biased towards whites…I think whites have a distinct advantage because the “connection” and legacy factors come into play. My thought is that this is an unfair advantage.
Duncan Black of Atrios said the same thing.
One of the reasons people like me don’t worry much about legacy’s being racially disproportionate is that it’s a self-correcting problem. The children of black kids in school now will be legacies too.
But with the end of AA programs, the ever-decreasing number of blacks, Latinos and underrepresented Asians (Vietnamese, Fillipino etc) admitted to universities (especially the historically elite public institutions like Berkeley, UCLA, UT) will mean what exactly?
I have more faith in the ability of members of racially preferred groups to maintain their standing in the academy without artificial assistance than you do.
I have more faith in the ability of members of racially preferred groups to maintain their standing in the academy without artificial assistance than you do.
Based on what? The track record of those groups pre-AA?
Among other things. It’s manifest that there is a substantial population of racially-preferred minorities who are capable of being admitted to high-end schools on their own steam, particularly if those schools are actively seeking diversity and engaging in soft AA practices.
While I might quibble with Sewere’s use of “ever-decreasing” (I think enrollment would make one large drop when AA was removed, and then make some small drops over the next 4 years as the schools became ever whiter and more hostile to non-whites, and then would start to gradually rise again), if you are quibbling over the larger idea of enrollment not dropping, it is pretty clear from California’s example that you are wrong, faith or no faith.
My impression is that California’s example shows no net drop in enrollment, just some redistribution of where people enroll. (In exact conformance with what would be predicted by the ratchet effect, btw.) If that is incorrect, I welcome a correcting cite.
Robert, I think you are partially correct in #36. The most elite state schools saw a drop, but the others did not. But the theory that you cite, also arguing that “unqualified blacks” were getting into these schools. I cannot accept that kind of assertion unless I were to see data that specifically showed an increase in Black graduation rates post affirmative action in admissions.
That crazy theory that conservatives promote (the blacks self esteem is hurt by AA programs) is clearly not supported. The most recent studies indicate that the handful of Black students at these schools feel worse about themselves and their college experiences because they are so out numbered, and they perceive the school as turning its back on them.
I were to see data that specifically showed an increase in Black graduation rates post affirmative action in admissions.
I will be happy to collect the data and send it along to you just as soon as it becomes available. ;)
I submitted a comment in this thread a couple of days ago. Is it still in the moderation queue, or did it get deleted for some reason?
Sorry about that, Brandon. It’s not in the moderation queue, and I didn’t delete it.
It’s possible that the spam-catcher accidently caught it. I just skimmed through several pages of the spam, and didn’t find any non-spam – but there’s currently over 5,000 posts in the spam trap, so I might have missed it.
This is true. UCB and UCLA saw drops. I think much of the increase was seen at UC Riverside.
At my high school, one or two students from the top ten were admitted to Harvard every year. My friend, Black, a good but not stellar student from a stable middle class family, daughter of an attorney, was also accepted to no fanfare. She was not even in the top 20 and the general idea was that her acceptance didn’t really count as an honor, since everyone knew it was because she was Black.
I know that if I were hell bent on being accepted into a top -tier school, I’d be happy to get it by hook or by crook and appearances be damned. Thus, I understand that a person who is Black that wants to grab an opportunity will be glad to get the opportunity any way it comes. Any of us would, and if we can feel justified at being given an unmerited reward because of racial injustices, then fine. Yet that “conservative reasoning” that states that AA stigmatizes Blacks cannot be dismissed. It DOES stigmatize Blacks, because, like my friend, a thing ike accpetance into Harvard is diminished if standards are lowered. The perception is that in order to get into a top tier school you have to be excellent if you are Black, exceptionally excellent if you are white. IN fact, this is not a perception at all, but reality. Ironically, AA may have made White people’s degrees worth more, the way their admissions are more of an honor.
To whom and for whom, Whites? Why is that surprising? Part and parcel of White privilege is to decide the value of something and then speak for everyone else on what is valued.
For one thing, do Whites who get into prestigious universities because they are children of alumna or donors feel that it’s less of an “honor” or less valued if they get in? FTMP? No. Why is that?
Ask George W. Bush and many other politicians who got into Ivy League through these routes. They would argue that they were admitted due to their own merits. In part because no one challenges the credibility and worth of those who are accepted to universities based on these two standards.
My English teacher in high school used to call airy arguments with no specific information attached to them ‘glittering generalities’. Your statement:
“Part and parcel of White privilege is to decide the value of something and then speak for everyone else on what is valued ” would curl her hair, if she’s still alive somewhere.
I don’t think that this sort of circular reasoning is part and parcel of AA proponents- I hope for their sake that it is not. A reasoned response to such a statement is impossible because first I have to get over the conspiracy theory aspect of this idea- that Whites, distinct among all humans, somehow reach a consensus about what is of value and then cooperate to exclude all other races. This somehow translates to it being fair to make white 18 year olds suffer a penalty for historical racism by making them work to overcome the advantages of a good neighborhood, family and a decent education. Any protest over being held to a higher standard, even if you are, like my cousins, white students from a shitty urban school and dangerous neighborhood, is racist and merely an expression of “White entitlement”.
I don’t think your arguments are fair or intellectually honest. You must know that legacy admissions may help a group of people who are overwhelmingly White, but it’s hardly an unfair advantage Whites enjoy as a group. Why not just admit AA is an unfair and crude remedy, but that any one of us would accept help from an unfair crude remedy if it benefits us. I don’t blame Black people for liking or even advocating for AA, but there is really no way to call it fair and just, or to pretend Whites are devils for not being magnanimous about it.
Radfem didn’t suggest a conspiracy theory in any way, nor do AA proponents believe that racism is a conspiracy. So your “conspiracy” argument is simply a strawman argument, something I hope your high school English teacher would not have approved of.
(Edited to add this paragraph and the next one:) Radfem can speak for herself, of course. But my impression is that when she says that whites are able to say what value is, she’s not suggesting a backroom conspiracy, but rather the idea that, due to racism, beliefs shared by a critical mass of white people are more likely to be accepted as norms, and are taken more seriously. Whites who are let in to exclusive colleges because of wealth, athletic ability, or legacies are not seen as getting a less valuable education; but blacks and latinas who attend these colleges are, you claim, seen as having gotten a less valuable education.
I’d say that going to an exclusive college gives people a chance to prove themselves through their work; graduating from a place like Yale or Harvard requires some degree of effort and talent no matter how you got in (although probably a bit less ability and effort is required from wealthy legacy students who can hire tutors, get help from their exclusive frats and clubs, etc). The value of a Harvard degree is not based on what a person’s SAT scores were when they entered Harvard. And the sort of person who looks at a black person with a Harvard degree and assumes they’re incompetent, would probably have made the exact same assumption if that black person had instead had a degree from Oberlin. (I am not accusing you of being such a person.)
Secondly, AA is a response to historic and ongoing racism, not just to historic racism. Implying that racism is only historic, and not a current concern, is inaccurate. (I’m not saying you intended to imply that racism no longer exists or matters, but since you referred only to “historic racism,” it could be read that way.)
but rather the idea that, due to racism, beliefs shared by a critical mass of white people are more likely to be accepted as norms, and are taken more seriously
In a world where racism did not exist, beliefs shared by a critical mass of white people would still be accepted as norms on numerical strength. Why ascribe to racism what is perfectly adequately explained by weight of number?
Also, it is funny that your example is Harvard, as it has already been pointed out (this thread? a different one?) that Harvard, being the cherry at the top of the sundae of elite schools, does not actually need to give much of an advantage to black students in admissions.
You mention that Harvard takes ten students from your school each year. From this, I take it you are/were at a top tier high school, probably in the North East. The reason that Harvard only takes ten students from your school may well be because Harvard has a system in place to emphasize national diversity, so less qualified students from Montana and Kansas are admitted at the expense of more qualified candidates from New York and Massachusetts. So the black student in your story may merely have been avoiding the discrimination against your high school, rather than benefiting from favoritism towards blacks.
While the favoritism towards national regional diversity has its origins in Harvard trying to come up with ways to discriminate against Jewish students, I think that it does serve a legitimate interest as well, but it strangely doesn’t lead to much hand wringing about how it contributes to stereotyping of stupid mid-westerners.
Robert, in a world without racism, while (in the US) white people would still form the bulk of the critical mass of accepted opinion, the dividing line of white/not white would be less likely to be a critical divide in opinions.
Also, it is hard to imagine “the accomplishments of white people are worth more than the accomplishments of non-white people, even when the accomplishment is the same” being an accepted opinion of any huge group of people in a world without racism.
It’s a bit tough weaving through all the strawmen in this thread. I’ll leave it to the pros at doing so and the pros at making them.
LOL. It’s dirty pool to drag out the “my English teacher” defenses, because I had great relationships with all of mine and while I may have said things that might have ahem, curled their hair at times, none of that had anything to with my ability to wage a good argument.
As for curling your teacher’s hair, if you do ever run into her, ask her if she would rather have loose waves, or tight curls?
I don’t think this is a fair argument, as legacy admissions do benefit Whites more than other ethnicities and races AND they are still in place and not being challenged by the same individuals and groups who have done so to AA. To explain why, I provided my interpretation of it and fairly well and in easy enough to understand language, I guess as long as White privilege doesn’t get in the way. Somehow, those who receive legacy admissions are still seen as getting in through merit and those who are assisted by AA are not. Part of that is based on who makes the decisions on what is valued and what is not, and for these two to coexist, White privilege as I have explained here, is one of them.
Any “penalty” Whites play for “historical racism” is more than made up for the benefits the race received as a result of both “historical racism” and present day racism. Black men and women still are not only penalized by past and present racism but also by the backlash they inevitably receive if any remedies are put in place to address past and present racism. AA lasted what, several decades until it was challenged and even eliminated, whereas racism against Africans and African-Americans in this country has continued for over 300 years. But which is viewed as the greater sin? Current day racism or alleged reverse racism? The drive to eliminate AA in this country should provide the answer to that.
Sorry Elena, can’t do so. Why, because admitting to something I believe is inherently false, would not be “intellectually honest” nor even “honest” for that matter. It would be caving into your desire to “win” this argument, through the dishonest use of strawman arguments.
So, if Whites(any one of us) accept help from an “unfair crude remedy” like legacy or donor admissions, then we’re just accepting a remedy that benefits us, but with people of color, primarily certain racial Asian ethnicities, Latinos, American Indians and African-Americans, they should not have the ability to do like, which they won’t if AA is eliminated. Which goes back to the question I asked, why aren’t legacy admission AA treated in a similar fashion? And don’t answer that it affects only a few people, because the practice of AA, regardless of how many people it actually benefits had been challenged, but legacy admissions have not.
Gee, thanks for not “blaming” Black people for advocating for AA, while at the same time you want to eliminate it. Oh, and Whites are hardly ever maganimous about giving up what we perceive to belong to us. If we were, AA might have made it to the 50 year mark. It won’t.
I didn’t say that ten students from my school were accepted to Harvard, or at least I didn’t mean to say that. I said that among the top ten, one or two were accepted. And this is a good high school in Michigan, not the northeast. My point was: the honor of the Black student’s acceptance wasn’t “real” the way the white students’ were. A Black student from the same good high school, who lived in the same town, same neighborhood as her classmates and whose parents were of the educated middle class. What injustice were the Harvard admissions officers correcting again?
I concede that donor/ legacy admissions probably can suffer greater scrutiny- but I won’t concede that this is because those who benefit are white, or that these benefits are enjoyed by most white people, because they are not. Most white people are not rich, and most white people are not sons and daughters of people who attended pretigious universities. I suspect people don’t protest these very much out of ignorance or cynicism, because most of us know that money and connections will open doors. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have these, Black or White. Does anybody think Barack Obama’s children are going to need AA to get into the university of their choice?
And Radfem: NOBODY is magnanimous about giving up power or priviledge.
Finally, I don’t think AA is regarded as a greater sin than racism. I think most people are fine with it- unless they happen to be on the receiving end of the ‘lesser sin’.
It comes down to this: a 17 year old student has done everything possible – good grades, good test scores, extra-curriclular activities, etc.- and is denied admission for something she can do nothing about: her skin color. Is she racist for resenting this? The argument seems to be: it IS unfair, but sorry, you’re the eggshell we have to break for this omelet. Too bad all these college bound kids and their parents aren’t all on board with this equality program that gives them the shaft. How unfortunate they are starting to make these prgrams ilegal. But can you really, really blame them- and are you seriously surprised when they do? It begs credibility that intelligent people can’t see that there is nothing particularly racist or unreasonable about this.
p.s. … and AA asks people to be magnamimous about giving up fairness, not priviledge.
Why not critique class based affirmative action in the same way? Everything you say in number 51 should also be true about class based affirmative action programs? Where is the animous towards those programs? What about the programs that use AA for rural people? Why not oppose those?