Redefining the victim: How colleges will soon justify affirmative action-for whites

March 18, 2013 3:25 PM

Waiting for the Supreme Court ruling in Fisher? Forget it. The fix is in. Affirmative Action for Whites is coming as more colleges use class to trump race in college admissions.

Didn't you read the front page of the New York Times on Sunday?

The right column front is always where editors place "the big story," and there on the right column was the story on the new report that is likely to redefine affirmative action as it's practiced now--regardless of what the Supreme Court does on the Fisher case.

The headline, "Better Colleges Failing to Lure Poorer Strivers," (that's the slightly different headline in my national edition), and its subhead, "Qualified but Unaware; Study Says Most Don't Apply Despite Skills, Hurting Diversity," isn't exactly as earth shattering as, say, "Budget issues solved; GOP comes to its senses; World Peace next."  

But you'd understand it to be front page news, if they just gave the news to us straight: "Influential report to become new justification for affirmative action--for white people."

That's a big deal.

The comprehensive national study by two longtime Harvard and Stanford researchers analyzed everyone who took the SAT recently.

What they found was that only 34 percent of low-income students (defined as students from families with incomes under $41,472) attended the country's 238 most selective colleges.

Meanwhile, 78 percent of students from families earning more than $120,776, attended the best schools.

We're talking about qualified low-income kids. The top students. They either didn't know about the colleges (Is Washington University really in St.Louis?). Or they weren't aware the schools were interested in them. They also didn't know anyone who attended these schools in the first place. They felt more at home with a hometown water tower, not an ivory tower.

That means the students end up staying close to home, where the schools often have fewer resources and students go unchallenged intellectually. The tragedy is they end up dropping out in even greater numbers and fail to reach their full potential. They lose. Higher ed loses. Society loses.

Trumping race with class isn't exactly new, especially if you've observed the debilitating internal debate among liberals over the question of equity for the poor. Liberal commentators of the '80s and '90s found themselves guilt-ridden about the rural kids from the Appalachias. Why do they get the shaft, while the mythical "Cosby" kids get into Harvard? The criticism opened the door to the new critique of affirmative action as "reverse discrimination." It also led to the hijacking of MLK, as when anti-affirmative action campaigns called for "color-blind" admissions. 

Now as affirmative action is threatened again in the Fisher case, this new report comes out as a kind of preemptive strike. It seemingly allows liberal detractors of affirmative action to save face on the matter simply by showing how on a class basis, among qualified candidates, there is national tragedy. Before we even get to the race question. We don't look at their grades and skin color. Just their grades and their parents' bank accounts. And boy, how colleges had better do the right thing by reaching out to those "poor, qualified strivers" who don't know that the elite colleges really want them.

And what about race?

Oh, yeah, that's buried in the Times story after the jump and in the deep text.

According to the new study, here's the racial make-up of the low-income students:

African American, 6 percent
Latino, 8 percent 
Asian American, 15 percent
Whites, 69 percent.

Which brings us to the real lead. The report names the real victims of college admissions inequities as the poor whites! They still may not choose to attend the elite schools, but the report virtually assures we will see more and better outreach to them now.

And suddenly we have an alternative to affirmative action that conservative anti-affirmative action types will love.

A compromise? The only thing compromised is the chance for admission of students of color. Because race is de-emphasized, affirmative action based on race will be simply coincidental.

Meanwhile, white students' chances are vastly improved-now that they will be defined as "acceptable victims" for admissions outreach.

Colleges really don't have to wait for the Supreme Court's ruling on Fisher. Admissions officers simply can take off the race-colored glasses now, and put on the class ones instead.

Asian Americans, Latinos, and African Americans? If race is further de-emphasized in favor of class, there's no telling how many of us will be deprived of opportunities deserved.

But the report solves one tragedy and sweeps another under the rug. It shouldn't be a choice of class over race. After all these years, it is evident that affirmative action should be about addressing both.
Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, @emilamok.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AALDEF.


1. I was viewing a talk from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars today. The topic was about illegal immigration/immigration reform etc..Near the end, this illegal African women spoke about going to school at George Town University and how great of an opportunity it was, and how she wonders how she got there because she did not work that hard?!? Undeserving minorities get admission to great schools over Whites all the time, simply because of the race/ethnic background they come from. This is a White Country after all, and we are free to do as we please to help our people and heritage. We became the most powerful nation on earth through our hard work and creativity. The Vanderbilt's, Rockafeller's, JP Morgan's, Edison's, Tesla's, Ford's, Wright's, Wozniak's, Job's, and Gates of this world. It's about time we rid ourselves of Affirmative Action.
Posted by: Zach Cortz | Mar 27, 2013 5:00 PM

2. Just read Zach Cortz now...Last I heard, we are still part of the Human Race with both the deserving and undeserving here and abroad. I'm truly glad, you don't deserve to decide anything in admissions!
Posted by: sjx | Apr 15, 201310:44 AM

Leave a comment

required, but will not be published


Remembering AALDEF board member Vivian Cheng-Khanna,1955-2017


2017 AALDEF exit poll: 2,538 Asian American voters polled in 4 states: VA, NJ, NY, MA


Nov. 15-16: AALDEF calls on Asian Americans to mobilize in DC for a clean DREAM Act


AALDEF to conduct exit poll & monitor poll sites in NJ, VA, NYC, & Boston on Election Day


Feb. 15, 2018: AALDEF lunar new year gala honoring Preet Bharara, Linda Greenhouse, and Chan Lee


Oct. 24: AALDEF "M. Butterfly" theater party and talkback with playwright David Henry Hwang


Oct. 1: DACA renewal clinic at Flushing Library


AALDEF denounces ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; new DACA fact sheet


Federal appeals court upholds ruling in AALDEF case that Texas election law violates Voting Rights Act


AALDEF denounces introduction of RAISE Act to restrict legal imigration


AALDEF exit poll presentations in Miami, Las Vegas, Atlanta & San Diego


AALDEF statement on the president's voter fraud commission


Screening of new PBS film "Chinese Exclusion Act" and Q&A with Ric Burns and Li-shin Yu on May 23


New AALDEF report: The Asian American Vote in 2016


AALDEF joins amicus brief in State of Hawaii's challenge to revised Trump travel ban


AALDEF condemns Trump Administration's revamped anti-immigrant travel ban


AALDEF joins Korematsu Center amicus brief in challenge to Trump travel ban in Brooklyn federal court