The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

    Affirmative action reinforces stereotypes

    Nearly 10 years after the controversial Grutter v. Bollinger case in which race was deemed an acceptable factor in the University of Michigan Law School admissions, we revisit Justice Sandra O’Connor’s lingering phrase regarding the illegitimacy of affirmative action policies: “25 years from now (2003)” would not be needed. Clearly, University of Texas at Austin graduate Abigail Fisher had no intentions of waiting on O’Connor’s words.

    Because she did not graduate in the top 10% of her high school, Fisher was not guaranteed admission to UT and was considered as part of a separate admissions process that allows race to be considered. As a white applicant, Fisher argued that this consideration of race was discriminatory and inhibited her from being considered equally among applicants. She asks the court to reverse Grutter or declare UT’s admissions process inconsistent with Grutter. Here’s why I agree.

    Inclusion is exclusion

    By spending so much time focusing on identifying underrepresented and excluded minority groups, we do the opposite of what affirmative action policies intend to do. Other non-specified races are essentially excluded or at least exempt from provided advantages by creating specified races.

    Glance at a job or college application that asks for you to indicate your race. Personally, if I indicate “white,” it implies that I consider my race a determinant of my abilities for the job. It doesn’t. Those abilities were determined by my self-efficacy and determination, not my whiteness.

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    If race is innate, then how come we don’t consider things like eye color or height that we also can’t control? We don’t because it sounds ridiculous, but then people start discussing race, and things get eerily serious. (Little do most people know that race is a social construct that only exists in society because we continue to let it affect our perceptions of people). I don’t want to be considered among other whites, not because I believe this puts me at an advantage over other racial groups, but because I believe I should be looked at the same as my African American or Hispanic counterparts and vice versa. Affirmative action’s legacy has certainly increased minority and women representation, but at the cost of subordination.

    I mean, how would you feel if your race was more of a determining factor to your college admission than the hard work you put into your GPA, ACT, SAT and work-related experiences?

    Reinforcing stereotypes 

    Although the idea of an equal balance of represented racial groups sounds ideal, the current model of affirmative action is vastly oversimplified. Yes, there have been steady increases in enrollment in schools for women and minority groups, but what happens after that?

    A phenomenon called “mismatching” often occurs when a student is admitted into a field of study through affirmative action policies that ends up being inconsistent with their actual abilities. The “mismatching” theory only exists due to affirmative action because without its enforcement, students would be matched to their major based on personal and academic motives rather than their race. We take so much time praising the rising statistics that we forget that high numbers does not always equal individual successes. Students who drop out or transfer from their majors due to “mismatching” are often victims of reinforced stereotypes.

    I’m all for increasing the prevalence of African American lawyers and Hispanic federal employees but through individual merit. If, for example, an African American student goes into law because of an affirmative action policy and they later drop out, how does this reflect on their race in general and affirmative action policies? 

    Unfortunately, this type of situation reinforces the idea that people of certain races are only capable of succeeding in certain occupations. 

    Twenty years ago, these policies would have been necessary, but I think America is beyond the idea of race and certainly beyond the idea of race as a consideration. In fact, the United States Census Bureau reported that from July 2010-2011 minorities accounted for 50.4 percent of all births in the United States – whites are now becoming the minority. America is full of color, but that doesn’t mean we need to revolve around it. 

    If we are going to promote a society that is “color blind,” we must accordingly implement “color blind” policies to reflect this theme. The concept of race originated to classify people into distinct groups, and affirmative action does this exactly. Perhaps the flaw in this system is that people aren’t being classified by factors that would lead them to be successful and accomplished but by factors that aren’t flexible or malleable — race is uncontrollable. The only way to end racial discrimination in education is to stop racial-based policies all together.

    Adam is a junior in ACES. He can be reached at [email protected].

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