Affirmative Action: To Stay, or Not To Stay

I remember when Abigail Fisher's story broke. I'm not much older than Ms. Fisher, so I was well aware of the stress and strain of attempting to go to college when her story broke. Her assertion that the University of Texas discriminated against her on the basis of being white was a front page headline (or at least it was all over the internet). She isn't the only one who feels like affirmative action discriminates against white people and is "reverse racism"—*rolls eyes* racism is racism people, there is no reverse racism. Now, almost 8 years later, and after graduating from a different school, her case against affirmative action is back. The Supreme Court will soon be ruling on whether to keep or end affirmative action.[1, 2]

In order to explain what I think on the matter, first let me give you a bit of a back story on my own dealings with such accusations.

As a black female who attended the #1 school in my home state, I'm no stranger to the accusations against affirmative action. The first time someone accused me of getting something I didn't earn was in high school. A classmate suggested that I was informed about more scholarships because I was black and the guidance counselor was black. She didn't suggest that the scholarships were minority based, and she didn't ask if they were need based. What she also never considered was difference in GPA and difference in major. You see, she just assumed I was of equal or less intelligence, therefore we should be getting approximately the same amount of opportunities. However, on paper, we weren't equal candidates. I scored higher on the ACT. I was in the top 2% of my class, while she was only in the top 10%. I was involved in more extracurricular clubs than her, and I did more community service. Being black wasn't what gave me a leg up, but she didn't bother to investigate that far. She simply assumed I couldn't be more qualified than she was. It's disheartening to experience these types of accusations; people don't even give you a chance to speak, they just assume you're dumb because you're black. Because two black people were involved, we had to be cheating the system? Nevermind that the other guidance counselors and all of our teachers were white. No one said to the valedictorian you just got there because you were white and all of your teachers were also white.

Around the time of Ms. Fisher's case, I experienced such an accusation again. This time, a student in the cafeteria said we (the black students) were taking up the spots of more deserving white students. The student went on to say their friend didn't get accepted because they "let" us in instead. At that point (the beginning of my Junior year in college), I still had a 4.0 GPA, even as a Mathematical Sciences major. I was Vice President of a sorority, involved in community service organizations, an undergraduate teaching assistant, involved in a research project, and a part-time mentor for minority students, in addition to keeping that 4.0, but the student never asked a single question about me. The student never spoke directly to me. He simply glanced in the direction of my friends and uttered his insult. Since then, I've stopped counting the number of people who seem to think the only way a black person can achieve is through affirmative action.

The question at hand is not about me, though. It's about the general population and whether it affirmative action is necessary. There are a lot of things that effect your chances of getting into college, primarily the schools you attend for elementary, middle, and high school. These are the building blocks to your educational career; imagine, if you go to an elementary school that teaches more than the other schools, you'll be more prepared in middle school, if your middle school is above average as well, you'll be even farther ahead for high school, etc. Living in a poor school district pretty much dooms you to a second rate education. Minorities are more likely to attend these schools. Even in the case of poor families attending better funded schools, they can't always afford the same opportunities (SAT prep classes, transportation to after school activities, etc.). Another major factor is the experience and education we are judged upon. The schools I attended never taught minority lit or history. I sat in classes where students blurted out the n-word without regard, remorse, or reproach. We read books that used the n-word heavily and if a black character was present, they were a slave. Yet, I was expected to ignore the hostility, put aside my feelings, and come out with the same interpretations as the white students. I had a teacher give white students a pass on one of the few books written by a black author we were given the opportunity to read (it wasn't even required, they could have chosen a different book) due to "cultural differences"—the teacher's words, not mine—but no one cut me slack when we read the countless books about white people.  I had teachers try to change my grades, tell me I was going to end up in jail or pregnant, and refuse me (and the other black student) a textbook. If I hadn't performed at the top of the class it wouldn't have been all that shocking, nor would it have indicated my level of intelligence.

I doubt being black had anything to do with me receiving any of the opportunities I have, but I often wish affirmative action wasn't in place so I wouldn't have to continually prove myself. Though people have proven that they would doubt my abilities regardless, so I'm not sure that would solve anything. I do think that upon repealing affirmative action, the number of minorities in top colleges across the nation would drop, though not as significantly as people assume. I also think a lot of these people crying "reverse-racism" would then scream "I told you so" and neglect what's in front of them. The fact that there are a number of Blacks that have excelled and continue to excel proves that its a matter of opportunity not ability. I think without affirmative action, people would be able to see the problems in primary and secondary education more clearly. The question is, will they do anything about to fix them?


  1. Liptak, Adam. "Supreme Court Justices’ Comments Don’t Bode Well for Affirmative Action". NY Times. December 2015
  2. Glum, Julia. "Who Is Abigail Fisher? Facts About The 2015 Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case". International Business Times. December 2015

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