Hey, guys! I’ve been dead for a while. Just long enough for the tons of shit to go down without my totally necessary commentary. Soccer hooligans are running amok. Religious people don’t have to bake cakes for gay weddings, under the pretense that wedding cake tastes too shitty to be considered food. A democratic socialist with very hard opinions on things and very vague explanations for how she’s going to achieve anything on her policy platform got elected in New York. Trump got called Literally Hitler for continuing deportation practices that have been going on for a decade. Then he promptly lost any sympathy by talking about how he wants to Liberate Venezuela, because trying to import freedom to a tropical country fucked over by socialism has never backfired on the US before.
I don’t feel like talking about any of that, though. None of those topics are close to my heart. But, would ya look at that–there is a topic I’m actually invested in being discussed right now, one nestled right in between by ventricles.
It’s race-based affirmative action. I guess I should say it was race-based affirmative action, because that shit’s probably gonna be gone soon. It looks like Donald Trump is just going to continue down this path of doing one thing that I can actually get behind to make up for the five instances of utter buffoonery coming before and after it. The last thing was the Space Force–not kidding. It’s the future, we’re gonna need a space army eventually. And the US is gonna be on top of that shit before anyone else. Gonna be great.
But back to affirmative action. I have never been a fan of it. It encourages minorities to have a very dangerous inferiority complex + entitlement issues combo that does no one any good. It encourages the soft bigotry of low expectations and is generally incredibly elitist and condescending to entire demographics of people who deserve to be treated with more respect and agency than that. I personally have a deep-seeded fear of being the Black Woman (TM) affirmative action hire, because that comes with the implication that I am comparatively incompetent and interchangeable with other black women. And I like being an individual human who is competent, so any indication that I’m not that doesn’t do great things for my self-esteem.
“Affirmative action” has managed to weasel its way right up to the top of the pack alongside terms like “social justice” and “diversity”–you know, the things that you are in no way allowed to point out the flaws or inconsistencies in the application of at all without being deemed a racist bigot with a contempt for minorities. I have been, still am, and probably will until the end of time be called an Uncle Tom for being against race-based affirmative action because being in favor of race-based affirmative action is seen as synonymous with not being racist. So I’m going to make a handy list of logical, non-bigoted reasons that you can be against race-based affirmative action for you to consult.
1.) It is outdated and doesn’t reflect modern-day issues or disparities.
For some background, the Supreme Court (under the Obama administration) ruled that race-based affirmative action was all well and good back in 2016. The Bush-era administration discouraged the practice but didn’t do anything to actively confront it, for the most part. Affirmative action, in some form, has existed, though, since the mid-1960s after LBJ signed an executive order requiring state/federal sectors to actively hire more minorities in an attempt to combat the systematic racism that remained after integration. Most colleges and universities followed suit by the early 1970s with their own affirmative action policies.
Affirmative action has existed in a liminal zone wherein the courts have outlawed racial quotas but have allowed universities to “consider race in admissions” in a vaguer sense. The inherent gray area with that allowance, combined with more blatant racial quotas (wherein they had an minimum/maximum percentage of insert race here students that needed to be sent acceptance letters every year) that resulted in many California universities rescinding the policy in the wake of the backlash, has contributed to the continued controversy.
A very important note that many people do not make is that affirmative action was never intended to be permanent. It was first instituted in a time where integration was a new thing that many places and people fought tooth and nail against. LBJ saying that integration was a thing did not magically make systematic barriers to integration go away. The feds requiring a previously all-white company to start accepting applications from black people resulted in little more than those companies taking the applications because they had to . . and throwing them away immediately, under the pretense that the black applicants weren’t qualified. Affirmative action was instituted to stop that practice: People who would have been considered qualified had they been white were being rejected largely because the world wasn’t used to Jim Crow laws being gone. Affirmative action was intended as a temporary but necessary measure to help the first generation of minorities in an integrated United States get their foot in the door in an environment that, just a year ago, systematically and legally discriminated against them even if they were well-qualified and able.
The problem was that it didn’t go away even after achieving the foot-in-the-door goal that was originally set for it. Affirmative action, like 60s-era welfare, was turned into a highly symbolic political issue. Welfare was considered pseudo-reparations to the black community, and affirmative action grew to be seen in much the same way. It grew to be seen as something the black community was entitled to, which meant rescinding it after 10 years as planned was a no-go. Then, throughout the 80s and 90s, with racism retreating more and more, affirmative action changed connotations. It went from “qualified black people need help getting their foot in the door” to “under-qualified black people are under-qualified because they’re black, so they need help getting their foot in the door too.”
You can see where there started to be a problem. Affirmative action was a policy designed for a very specific purpose at a very specific time. And even if you think we should have something like it–which I do, by the way–affirmative action in its current form is just not how we should be dealing with education gap issues in 2018. Our problems are different. The causes of those problems are different. The people being negatively impacted by those problems are different. Using a policy that has gone largely unchanged since its conception in the 60s to deal with the constantly fluctuating issue that is the education system is not a good idea.
For instance, women are still considered a minority under most affirmative action standards even though women, in 2018, make up more than half of all college students and are graduating both college and high school far more than men (who’s retention rates for high school in particular have been plummeting since the early 2000s). Black women are one of the most educated demographics in the United States (largely thanks to nursing programs), and that’s just not even mentioned whenever you bring up “statistically under-educated demographics.” Asian Americans are so well-qualified that affirmative action policies have actually backfired on them. White male literacy rates are plummeting to the point where there are almost as many illiterate white guys as there are ESL speakers, and yet white men are still considered the standard of education to which all other groups must be leveled up to.
Affirmative action, how it is now, does not reflect any of those things. So even if you support it, you should be in favor of huge sweeping reforms that make it a policy that actually reflects the demographic disparities we have now.
2.) It doesn’t do what it says it does.
I’m just going to pull some quotes from the linked article to get across the motivation of those who support affirmative action without paraphrasing.
“[It] involves favouring minorities during the admissions process in order to promote campus diversity . . .”
“Learning environments comprised of students from diverse backgrounds provide an enhanced educational experience for individual students . . . by choosing to create this kind of rich academic environment, educational institutions help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills.”
” . . . encourage diversity [by] granting admission preferences to students from certain schools based on demographics and considering a student’s race ‘among other factors in its admissions procedures’.”
Fun fact: Black and Latino retention rates at universities that proudly wave the affirmative action flag suck. Affirmative action’s way of “encouraging diversity” is to screw over black and Latino kids by letting them into programs that they’re under-qualified for, that they then do poorly in grades-wise and drop out of after two years–a huge dark spot on anyone’s academic reputation. Call me crazy, but I don’t think having a bunch of brown kids there for half the time as everyone else, who don’t even get a degree out of it, and who are now faced with the new roadblock of having to explain their educational failings to potential employers and other universities is a good thing. I don’t think that helps diversify that campus’ portfolio. And, more importantly, I don’t think that helps the minority students that affirmative action claims to be helping.
Now, I agree that having students from diverse backgrounds and experiences actually does contribute to a more dynamic learning environment. But how is setting someone up for highly probable failure a nice thing to do? How is that the liberal position? This is like giving a dog chocolate because Spot saw you eating food and looked sad, and you felt mean for not giving him something, so you gave him a piece of chocolate to make him happy. No, bitch, dogs can’t eat chocolate. You’re not a nice person for giving Spot food that will make him sick because he looked sad about not getting a treat.
This is not me calling black kids dumb. The retention rates of minority students at places like UCLA who got admitted without affirmative action policies are just as good as everyone else’s. But when your policy to “improve diversity” is one that is so obviously lowering the bar for some people, even though that bar is at that height for a reason, you are doing nothing but hurting them in the short and long term. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say.
I went to a liberal arts college. It was overtly in favor of affirmative action. It tried really fucking hard to have the “diversity” that enhanced people’s educational experience so much. Guess what it didn’t offer? Help. It was real interested in letting ya in so they can put that Racial Demographics pie chart on the internet for progressives to nod their heads approvingly at, but it wasn’t too keen on addressing the educational background disparities once people actually got there. Speaking of that . . .
3.) It doesn’t help.
Affirmative action is, and has always been, a band-aid. That’s why it wasn’t supposed to last forever. That’s why it’s so unintuitively unhelpful toward the “diversity” goal. It’s there to fix the symptom of a problem. And it fixes it poorly, to boot (I refer you to the “flunking out after sophomore year” part above). To put it very simply: Affirmative action at the university level is coming in too late to do any good. It’s there to try to account for educational disparities that start in pre-K by dealing with the aftermath of that 18 years down the line.
The damage has already been done. The black kid from Compton got a shitty public inner-city school education where getting all As means close to nothing because the educational standards are so low. The “standardized” classes are little more than teach-to-the-test courses designed to evaluate the teachers more than the students, that don’t stimulate the critical inquiry skills needed for higher education whatsoever and that don’t account for that shitty school’s limited resources. The standardized testing game needed to get into most universities is an economically exploitative racket run by two major corporate oligarchs that charge hundreds of dollars for the SAT and hundreds of dollars for the resources to study for it. And that information about fee waivers is buried so fucking deep that the only kids who’d be able to find it are the ones who are studying on their own anyway, because it’s not like Division B 121 George Washington Carver High is giving them any test prep, optional or otherwise.
That’s all totally ignoring the culture of most low-income high schools in both city and rural environments that utterly shits all over academic achievement and has non-existent encouragement from the burnt-out teachers and faculty.
Saying that you’re “going to get more brown kids into college” by coming in during the third act of that clusterfuck and ushering them into an academic environment that they are not prepared for doesn’t help, believe it or not. If you want to address educational disparities, start doing more university outreach to low-income areas. Support college access centers that provide guidance and study help that kids won’t get from their families, schools, or peers. Provide mentorship in the form of something other than an exploitative charter school. Hell, get over this 90s mentality that every kid needs to go to a four-year college and start giving them information about lucrative 2-year degrees and trade schools.
In short: affirmative action is a really shoddy band-aid that only makes the bone-deep problem worse by perpetuating a cycle of underachievement and lowered academic standards. I know a lot of people who support affirmative action also support those things I listed above, but they don’t seem to ever make the connection that affirmative action is actively making their goal harder to reach.
4.) It’s like class-based affirmative action, but less helpful and more racist.
I’m not totally against affirmative action as a concept. There are very commonly occurring extenuating circumstances that I believe actually should be taken into account by universities. A smart kid being hindered by some perpetual illness or sudden injury deserves some leeway. A smart kid who’s grades took a hit after his dad died in the middle of his junior year deserves some leeway. A smart kid who just has the misfortune of growing up in a shitty place with limited academic and extracurricular opportunities deserves some leeway. And yes, this comes with the aforementioned problem of someone going into a university unprepared. In my ideal world where affirmative action gets its much-needed reboot, there would actually be measures taken by colleges and universities to help the kids who got screwed over by life circumstances out of their control play catch-up and get to where they need to be. It would still be a band-aid to temporarily address much larger problems than college admissions pie charts.
You know what problems my version of affirmative action wouldn’t have, though? It wouldn’t be racially discriminatory. It wouldn’t mark an exceptionally qualified Asian kid lower on personality and likability (whatever the fuck that means) just as an excuse to reject her. It wouldn’t look at a kid with the name Samari and automatically assume that the standards would have to be lowered for him. It wouldn’t presuppose hardship and adversity where there was none just because the kid was brown, or presuppose comfort and easy access to resources even if the white kid was from rural impoverished Arkansas.
It would actually be about more than the easy racial demographics that you can point to and brag about “being diverse” because you had a 25% admissions cap on Asians and a 10% minimum on admission for black kids. It would actually be about addressing real, confirmed adversity on an individual basis and not just pre-supposing that Keisha, the girl with two professor parents from the nice part of Palo Alto, must be disadvantaged somehow, so she gets a pass for comparatively lower grades. And it would still apply to that poor kid from Compton who deserved a better high school education, too. It just wouldn’t be something that gets you sued for being racists. That’s a win/win, isn’t it?
Oh, who am I kidding, armchair progressives could give two shits about poor people.