Reverse Discrimination: Affirmative Action From the Other Side

  • Share on Tumblr

Last week the internet was buzzing over Abigail Fisher suing the University of Texas over what she claimed to be reverse discrimination. In Fisher v. University of Texas, Fisher says that her race was held against her.

“I’m hoping that they’ll completely take race out of the issue in terms of admissions and that everyone will be able to get into any school that they want no matter what race they are but solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it.” Never mind that Texas said that she wouldn’t have been admitted even if race had played no role in the process. Texas also claimed that it has the right to assemble an assorted student body as part of its academic and societal mission.

Last week I also came across a facebook post that shared Jamilah Lemieux’s article on Ebony.com.  She wrote about how she relates affirmative action to white privilege in cases like this. Check it out if you can, it’s a great read. As I read the comments under the post I came across this comment:

Did the other minorities accepted graduate in the top 10 percent? You can’t assume someone that is white is privileged, just as you can’t assume someone who isn’t white is underprivileged. It’s disgraceful on both accounts.

This comment came from a 26 year old white woman who lives in Portland. What bothered me was that she automatically dismissed the notion of white privilege. It’s not always about how much money a person has. It’s about them getting the benefit of the doubt where a minority would not because of the color of their skin. They are afforded certain advantages. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions so I decided to engage her and see where her head was:

See the thing is you’re not a minority. You don’t know of the assumptions and setbacks that minorities have to overcome just because of our skin color on top of proving ourselves just as competent. A lot of the “majority” has no idea of the privilege they are afforded because its so ingrained into their everyday lives. Affirmative action is in place to try and level the playing field somewhat. Whenever the balance is weighted a little in the direction of a minority its quickly labeled reverse discrimination but we’re just supposed to earn it on our own merits and credentials huh? kind of like “pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps”?

Our back and forth went on for a while and I tried not to let the viewpoints of a person of a completely different background and upbringing upset me. I thought that maybe she just didn’t understand. I didn’t want to believe that she was racist (even if she didn’t believe she was). Then I saw this comment:

Everyone gets help in one way or another. You’re right. I understand the underlying intent, I just feel it would be better allocated to class discrepancy. I’m refuse to be called illogical for refusing to be a quota or not being good enough on my own personal merit. I appreciate everyone’s comments, and I enjoy debating the topic as everyone needs a view unlike their own.

At this point she finally agreed that she believes in programs which counteract class discrepancies, but she doesn’t believe that programs should be in place which try to remedy racial discrepancies. It’s hard for me not to look at that that line of thinking as racist. Still I tried to argue with her using logic. When I tried to point out to her that women also benefited from affirmative action this was her response:

I would feel uncomfortable if I was hired, chosen, or recruited because I checked a box on my application noting I was a woman. How can you argue that? Am I afforded something because of that?

I’m pretty sure she went on an interview for her job, and even if she didn’t, her name is Lauren. I don’t know many men named Lauren so her point is moot. Even if being a woman had absolutely nothing to do with her getting her job, some women do get jobs or get into school based on an attempt at disparity. She failed to acknowledge that. It seems like every category that she might fall under, “help” doesn’t exist because she earned everything she had.

I learned a long time ago that it’s often not worth the effort to try to point out logic to people who refuse to acknowledge logic. Regardless of how talented a person is or how much work they put in, no one got where they are by themselves. They can believe it or not but they got some help along the way.

What are your thoughts on affirmative action for minorities and other protected classes? What are your thoughts on the Abigail case? In general, should public institutions of higher learning be allowed to use affirmative action to help create the student body they desire?

- TUNDE

  • Share on Tumblr

From Our Partners

  • don't have one yet

    Being white in this country means something; whiteness has material value in our society. Also, racism can operate in many ways and just because someone is not consicous of their inherent racism doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      you hear a lot about dog whistles on a lot of cable "news" channels nowadays. this is a concept that has been around for decades and its something that a lot of the "majority" still won't get. for instance take this story at the saint louis zoo:
      http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/zoo-chan

      for some reason will cain (white anchor at cnn) couldn't see how this could be offensive. smfh

  • don't have one yet

    Also, why do white people ASSume that people of color are only admitted in colleges because of skin color? I wonder if it is possible for a white person to fathom that people of color ARE qualified!

  • Adonis

    The obliviousness of white people when it comes to racial matters is a thing of legend.

    It wasn't that long ago (Great Depression, 1930's, 1940s) when American whites were broke as hell & committed crimes they way people in tight urban environments do now (maybe guns were not as prevalent as they are now.)

    The New Deal, the GI Bill featured many social programs that gave whites REAL help, and help them to pass on wealth to their children & to their children's. Blacks couldn't enjoy those same privileges (if I am talking out of school, break it down for me).

    This idea that whites are just BETTER & awesome than everybody else is crock as sh*t, I cannot even call it lies. Preferential treatment, and it is not even close.

    Add Jim Crow to that, all that is AFFIRMATIVE ACTION for whites.

    Also, minorities is a sneaky term. White women are minorities. Gays are minorities. Immigrants are minorities. Asians, Indians are minorities. So, yes Blacks do get help now, not the kind of REAL help that would level the play field of whites, cause we are competing for scrap with other groups.

    • Adonis

      And for the record, I love s*xing white "female" skin, but these white women be living in la la land, and when their SMP bottoms out, and they can't find a husband with the black woman, I will not shed one tear, I will just offer them some d*ck for a "small" fee.

      • Dana

        aer you serious??

    • Adonis

      scraps*

    • Adonis

      Oh, their is no such thing as reverse discrimination, because their is NOT one law in this country that benefits blacks & deprives whites. Not one.

  • Smilez_920

    I feel like ppl focus on a very small aspect of affirmative action and dot focus on how it has assisted in helping a lot of ppl other than black ppl. Like the woman you were talking to. How can she not understand how affirmative action has helped millions of white woman get the jobs they have now. Not because they were not qualified but because of yrs of institutionalized sexism.

    If anyone gets a chance plz watch the Colbert report from 10/16/2012. As a white man even he understood that affirmative action and understood that its intent and doing has not disadvantaged ppl like they are trying to make it out to be.

    Hopefully we can get to a point where race and sex is not an issue, but we are not there quite yet. Even if they take race and sex off of an application, they still have your SSN, it’s not like your information won’t pop up. Also I need ppl to stop acting like the definition of Affirmative action is ” something that only helps black ppl”. Affirmative action has help many groups that face discrimnation on the job and in other areas.

    I’m actually all for economic affirmative action. I mean I’m sure a certain group of ppl will feel left out and not understand the ramifications that economics plays on education . While it won’t work in every college setting I think it should be applied to all K -12 . Poorer school should have first dibbs on extra assistance from the state and fed government since K-12 is where you are groomed for college .

    I will say if they feel affirmative action should be taken out of the college admissions process , then we should also remove kids the opportunity to attend certain schools based on legacy ( which had gotten a lot of under qualified kids into shool) , and employess of the university kids getting first choice in attending the schools their parents work at.( trust if your parent works for a university more than likely if you want to go there you, will be able to attend ).

  • niknikky

    "I will say if they feel affirmative action should be taken out of the college admissions process , then we should also remove kids the opportunity to attend certain schools based on legacy ( which had gotten a lot of under qualified kids into shool) "

    I totally agree. Ironically, I can almost guarantee that the young lady in question was hoping to benefit from this totally undeserved, yet strangely accepted, form of privilege. According to the NY Times article, both her father and sister had attended UT, Austin. Ironic much?

    Another thing that gets me about these reverse racists is their trend toward scapegoating racial minorities. Who's to say that the young lady was rejected because the admissions board opted to accept a student from an economically disadvantaged background instead? Or an international student? Or a female STEM whiz? Or a first-generation college student? Admissions officers actively court potential students that fit into these categories. Of the plethora of underrepresented groups that one could blame, why focus on racial minorities – particularly, African-Americans?

    • Adonis

      Of the plethora of underrepresented groups that one could blame, why focus on racial minorities – particularly, African-Americans?

      @Niknikky Because saying that negroes are holding you back gets you sympathy from your racial peers. Saying you are a "mediocre white girl" that didn't make the cut is a "mediocre WG" problem,

      When white privilege / nepotism has a malfunction, white people catch an aneurysm.

  • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

    my issue with people who want to get rid of affirmative action is that they really believe that if organizations, companies, schools aren't forced to admit minorities (not just black people) then they will do it out of the kindness of their heart. because that worked before.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan.

    No to say racism, sexism and homophobia doesn't exist in admissions and employment searches but to some degree, one needs some accountability, sometimes you're just not good enough. In regards to affirmative action, there's plenty of colleges for specific demographics already, so public universities should aim to be as diverse as possible
    My recent post Today’s Word is… DATE

  • http://glippost.wordpress.com Darrk Gable

    Reverse discrimination is a bunch of bull. The people who decry affirmative action are the same folks who don’t acknowledge that much of what affirmative action attempts to rectify is institutional. It’s ingrained not only in thinking, but rules and policies. All groups of minorities are fighting the same fight in terms of getting assistance, but the ones who straddle the line have a slight leg up (white women, poor whites, gay white men). Until the actual discussion includes the policies in place, and not the ones in place to rectify them, the reverse discrimination drum beaters will continue to beat their drums.

  • http://www.iamrichjones.com Slim Jackson

    As has been noted, I find it funny that affirmative action only seems to be associated with Black people with these stories break. Or maybe I'm just missing all the articles about white women, Latinos, Asians, etc.

    What's interesting about the Abigail story is that her complaint in and of itself demonstrates white privilege. I feel like anytime a white person makes the argument she's making, it's because of white privilege. Why else would they be so shocked they didn't get admitted or get the job? Do they really think the other person/people weren't qualified? Have they done an analysis of their applications? What good does it do a school and/or business to admit/hire people that won't cut it?

    I can hear the crickets in the suburbs now.

    My recent post How I Used LinkedIn As My Career Consultant

    • Smilez_920

      YES!!! +1

      The fact that she though some Black/Latino under qualified minority took her spot says a lot. She wasn’t in the top 10 percent of her class. Yes her grades were good but I’m sure there are plenty of students in the state of Texas and the other 49 states that have higher GPA's and applied to UT. And you know what some of those more qualified applicants were probably Black or Latino.

      How does she know another white woman or man didn’t take her spot? Maybe the Dean of Admissions golf partner's son took her spot. Maybe an international student took her spot? The percentage of Black and Latino’s at that school is some where between 5-16% at most. So I highly doubt they “took her spot” and even if they did SO WHAT?

      • hustlingfemme

        You know what's funny? In the court briefs, UT argued that 46 -48 other Caucasians were more qualified than she was with similar scores to hers, while only ONE BLACK and FOUR HISPANICS received admission with similar scores to hers.

        So basically, after not making the Top 10% and still being considered based on other factors, she still did not make the cut. Yet, this is the fault of 1 black person and 4 Hispanics?

  • bellatrice1

    Great article and awesome topic. What's not to get about affirmative action and why it is still necessary in the society we live in today?? I think people who cry reverse discrimination GET IT, they just don't want to diversify (or if we were back in the Jim Crow days) integrate, and likely are racist.

    It is obvious that minorities (especially Black) are at a disadvantage because of the unwavering effects of slavery. I'm not still on "the man is holding us back tip," but we as Black people still have NOT "overcome." As a native of California, and Los Angeles, when I was graduating high school, the UC system decided to do away with affirmative action. This had an interesting effect on enrollment, where Asian Americans outnumbered whites and Blacks! It also lessened my desire to attend a UC because of its lack of diversity.

    However, I attended a school that had affirmative action policies in place, yet Blacks were still only 2% of the population of 30,000 students, and whites were the vast majority. I said all this to say that it is obviously clear that there's a problem with many systems in our society, and you'd have to be blind not to realize it. Many systems are set up to exclude, not include. That's the bottom line.
    My recent post Why Men Should Hit on Women at Church

  • Muze

    YES. this entire post!

    i saw that facebook status (and spent a good half hour of my day reading ALL of the comments. lol) and i couldn't believe how convinced that woman was that she had gotten to where she is solely by herself.

    "I learned a long time ago that it’s often not worth the effort to try to point out logic to people who refuse to acknowledge logic"

    ^ LOL. i have to use that.

    what makes me sad about people like her is that she ACTUALLY believes, even knowing the history of the U.S. and minorities, that our systems are fair and just and those who merit are the ones who receive the opportunities. there are Harvard and Yale grads that attended solely on the basis of their father making a call, or their grandparent's big donation, and those acts were, without a doubt in my mind, made possible by white privilege somewhere along the line.

    class and race are so intrinsically connected, it's kind of moot and naive to try to divide them.

    My recent post Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

  • niksmit

    My thoughts on affirmative action policies basically go: I support the policies but I'm not really about them.
    They're a bandage on a wound that's not healing. Yes, I think it's smart to bandage a wound to prevent infection and more issues. But what about healing the wound too?
    There are so many factors that go into the status quo where we still need these policies that can be addressed. I'm more concerned with those.
    That cute top 10% rule public universities in Texas leads to a somewhat diverse student body, but it does not address the disparities in schools K-12 that leads to a high school valedictorian still not being prepared for their first year of college.

    Even in the fantasy world where all things are equal, I do think it's beneficial for universities to be able to put together a diverse student body. Education works better when there are voices of dissent and multiple perspectives in the room. I really don't think a homogeneous population sharing a singular cultural, socio-economic, regional, political, etc. background makes for good discussions; more like an echo chamber.

  • HereToday

    I don't remember where I saw the picture, but the image of people pointing the finger at minorities when there are legacy, wealthy family, etc. students getting preferential treatment as well. The difference being that minorities have government help. I think it makes the situation with Diddy's son even more interesting…