I Didn’t Get in Because I Was White: Rethinking Affirmative Action

Can affirmative action in the college admissions process granting students from marginalized racial groups survive the test of the time? It seems to me that today, the claims of American “post-racialism” and “colorblindness” complicate that question significantly. The application of affirmative action within college admissions has been challenged by white Americans who feel polices that give a person an advantage due to their race is outright unfair and unjust. Ironic right? In 2008, Abigail N. Fisher, a white female, applied to the University of Texas, and once she was denied, she decided the best course of action was to sue the school for using affirmative action in their admissions decisions. She claimed, the use of race as a consideration in this process was in direct violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A concise definition of this clause, provided by the Legal Information Institute, “The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. In other words, the laws of a state must treat an individual with the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances”. Typically, claims of violation of this clause appear when the state privileges a specific group of people with access to participate in an activity while also denying other groups that same right. By definition alone, Abigail Fisher has a case, especially in a country that is attempting to restructure its racial policies in other fields as well, such as, voting rights. However, when brought to the Supreme Court, her suit lost by a 7-1 majority decision from the Court to uphold affirmative action in the college admissions process. However, on December 9, 2015, the case was brought back to the Court, and the unbalanced support for it that occurred in 2003 is no longer present. Does the does the shift toward the of the concept of “colorblindness” in contemporary American social thought  have anything to do with this change of heart? I think so. The question though is: will a shift from race based affirmative action to class based affirmative action have negative implications for minority groups?

I believe it will not. For once, “colorblindness” is presenting  a challenge to the social understanding of race and will bring class unity which will positively impact race relations within the country.Chief Justice John Roberts, was quoted in an article by The Washington Post  titled, “Why we still need affirmative action for African Americans in college admissions”, stating, the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In university admissions, this means becoming “colorblind,” taking no affirmative action to favor African Americans”. Here, however, it seems Chief Justice Roberts lacks the understanding of where race came from and the Court’s alternatives that promote a system of class-based affirmative action will still favor African Americans, even if he does not like it. What he fails to see is that class and social mobility in America is directly tied to race. Most of the “bottom” or “low-income” class is comprised by minorities and working class whites. We also find the most significant racial attitudes against one another coming from between those groups. Many view the “other” as a threat to their socio-economic mobility and is the underlying argument against racial programs. If we truly exam that argument, we can see, it is an argument between those within the middle and lower class who are constantly trying  to justify their inability to live the American Dream like “elite” white people should in the “Land of Opportunity”. Race, is the easiest defense.

Therefore, by making affirmative action in college admissions, we will be moving toward a country with greater class-consciousness which will result in better race relations and actual social mobility in America. Minorities, although the majority, are not the only ones in America feeling the impact of the exploitation and oppression by the hand of capital interests. Thus, by shifting it to a class based system, it will be a step closer toward unity. There are American minorities,  just as there are white Americans, who have the means to provide their children with the opportunities that will lead them to a college education. In those circumstances, affirmative action based on race does a great deal of injustice to those white students struggling in impoverished neighborhoods and face the similar circumstances that make college a far-fetched thought. Students from these communities, regardless of race, should have a fair chance at success. Although, I am not arguing this will result in a fair chance in the realm outside of college since white privilege is still a thing after we get our diplomas; I do believe it could start moving us toward a society where races unify by class, rather than, blaming the other for their circumstances. In result, race consciousness will progress due to a greater understanding of one another.


One thought on “I Didn’t Get in Because I Was White: Rethinking Affirmative Action

  1. I believe this idea of shifting towards class based affirmative action is much more fair than the typical race based affirmative action, however race based affirmative action is still necessary as obvious by the demographics of most colleges/universities. Attending a school as racially diverse at Amherst makes me forget the reality of most schools my friends attend, Midwestern state schools where the white population is nearly 90%. Whether the minorities being accepted come from low-income backgrounds, diversification is still largely needed.
    Schools also realistically still need to accept wealthier kids whose families can afford full tuition prices, especially public schools who do not have huge endowments and rely on meager state funding. This makes the idea of class based affirmative action less likely to occur as commonly as race based affirmative action.


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