DOJ stance on affirmative action is offensive to minorities


At the end of July, The New York Times published a report about the latest Department of Justice investigation. The report read like a work of satire: Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be looking into racial discrimination toward white college applicants as a result of affirmative action policies. According to the internal document obtained by the Times, the DOJ’s civil rights division is seeking lawyers interested in working on a project involving litigation related to race-based discrimination in college admissions.

The report comes roughly one year after Fisher v. University of Texas Austin, the landmark case that upheld the right of universities to consider race, ethnicity and cultural background in college decisions. The Supreme Court ruling additionally noted that race, contrary to widespread anti-affirmative action propaganda, is not a deciding factor in admissions.

The DOJ’s latest attempt to portray white students with subpar grades as martyrs of a diversity-driven American education system is frustrating and outright degrading to students of color by suggesting their achievements are a sham. But at a time when cries of “reverse racism” are becoming increasingly prevalent, it’s unsurprising.

Affirmative action is a complicated topic; it’s not meant to be a cure-all solution to systemic racism and economic inequity in the American education system, and frankly, it isn’t. The shortcomings of our national education system in addressing race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class and a host of other identity-based issues are barely touched upon by affirmative action.

Nonetheless, affirmative action is, if not perfect, necessary. In the absence of policies that allow educational institutions to consider and correct structural and intergenerational inequity, these institutions will almost certainly increase this inequity by allowing it to continue. Contrary to what the Department of Justice seems to believe, ignoring systemic inequity may be “equality” — but it certainly isn’t equity.

Inequity, a lack of diversity perpetuated by an inability to recognize inequality, benefits no one — not the low-income minority students who grew up with fewer opportunities than their white counterparts, and certainly not the white students who will be denied the deeply enriching experience of learning and working in diverse settings.

Notably, the DOJ’s efforts to curb this so-called discrimination also loops in a racial minority: Asian Americans. Shedding light on a 2015 complaint against Harvard University about race-based rejection voiced by a large coalition of Asian Americans, the DOJ now has a new, more diverse face for its agenda — one that points as if to say, “Look, this investigation is about everyone.” But the idea that some Asian American students may be denied admission to a university for no other reason than their race is, in the grand scope of the 2016 election and the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency, clearly not a priority for this administration. Any pretense otherwise is an affront to the vast and multicultural American student body.

Of course, Asian Americans experience significant privileges unique to their race. But they are excluded from Trump’s narrative of perceived white oppression, and the DOJ’s motivation is exactly that — not some spontaneous call to action for ubiquitous social justice. It’s a tactic as transparent as it is manipulative: It’s one of the most American pursuits to fight for equal opportunity and education for all. But to support Asian American students in their academic endeavors is fundamentally different from tearing down a system that has tried to leverage equal footing in education for minority students across the nation for decades.

“Colorblindness” is a game only the privileged can play: Young black boys who misbehave in the same way their white peers do face graver disciplinary actions in their schools as children. They grow up to be statistically far more likely to be singled out by police. It’s impossible for them to ignore the color of their skin. Similarly, Asian-American students who suffer from anxiety and other mental health disorders at higher than average rates, largely as a result of being held to standards dictated by the “model minority” stereotype can’t be “colorblind” either. And ultimately, the same could be said for every group except white people.

At the heart of opposition to affirmative action is a sense of frustration toward universities for refusing to overlook the past — a past in which people bought and sold other human beings because of the color of their skin, a past strained with segregation, lynchings and systemic, race-based denial of meaningful opportunity. Institutions of higher learning will not ignore a present colored with targeted police brutality and intergenerational poverty. In this very real past and present, white students are not the victims but the beneficiaries of inequality. Through generations of enjoying implicit and, at times overt, advantages, the pursuit of equity has become misinterpreted by white affirmative action opponents as oppression.

At the end of the day, as for white people being denied opportunity for being white, Jeff Sessions need not look further than President Donald Trump’s cabinet — stocked with more white males than that of any other U.S. president since Ronald Reagan — for some stark evidence to the contrary.

For its own part, USC has vocally supported affirmative action for years, and boasts an impressively diverse student body. The University has its work cut out for it in terms of meeting the unique needs of this student body, but at the very least its admissions panel is able to recognize that white students are not victims of discrimination.

  • Ras5555

    The authors of this article seem to fall into the same ignorant racist thinking that many liberals do when they broadly associate white people with money and privilege. There are so many poor white people who are tired of hearing they are born with privilege because of the color of their skin. Meanwhile they are scrapping by at similar poverty levels as any other group of people with more pigment in their skin. It is this ignorant broadbrushing of people base on skin color that got us elected a buffoon with cotton candy hair as POTUS. Poor to mid-income people constantly being told they are privileged because they are white thought they might as well elect someone who was not mindlessly chanting this liberal mantra. Keep it up people – you are just giving Trump a 2nd term.

    • b juardo

      Because they’re afraid that if they don’t fit in on the SJW bandwagon, that they’ll be ostracized. They got a herd mentality.

  • BostonTW

    The author needs to understand USC never has had to rely upon AA to build its student body. Given USC’s location in a traditionally diverse state, thousands of highly-qualified, underrepresented minorities have applied to and attended USC throughout the past several decades. In fact, USC traditionally has attracted many underrepresented minorities with top scores, including those who were accepted to Ivy League-calibre schools. The article might have more applicability to state-run schools, but throughout its history, AA has not been an issue at USC.

  • Man with Axe

    Your fundamental error is to believe that persons should be treated as members of a racial group instead of as individuals. If doing so is a valid approach, why would you complain about “young black boys who misbehave in the same way their white peers do face graver disciplinary actions in their schools as children?” I taught in a middle school in which every student was black. The difference in behavior was light years away from what I experienced teaching in a mostly white school. If treating people as members of groups is valid, why not treat the group that on average misbehaves the most with the most severe consequences?

    You seem to think that affirmative action is good for black students. It is not. They fail to graduate in numbers much greater than students who entered school without a preference. The ones who fail still have student debt but no degree. Why not insist that they go to schools for which they are academically and socially prepared? Perhaps they would not arrive only to find themselves inadequate, leading to a sense of being under attack.

    If you want real diversity, try admitting students who think differently from the progressive pack.

  • Sheng Long

    UCLA does not practice affirmative action and their undergraduate class is 26% white.

    USC does practice affirmative action and is 33% white.

    But remember kids eliminating affirmative action is all about helping whites and bringing up any other group is a distraction.

    • b juardo

      Ucla practices affirmative action. It’s a loophole called “holistic admissions.” USC does not use AA. Cheng and Cheung don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • bethie07

    I acknowledge that affirmative action is well-intentioned in that it seeks to overcome present and historic inequalities. But I have to ask, why did nobody predict that whites would come to feel resentment? It appears that Dr. King himself is the only person who actually thought this through to its logical conclusion. It is all well and good that educators can pat themselves on the back because they are promoting the disadvantaged. But what is a well-qualified white applicant supposed to think when he is told he will receive less consideration because of the color of his skin? Did you expect everyone to just smile and nod? How did you think they would feel?