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In Response to “I Didn’t Get In Because I’m White” (nothing personal)

April 10, 2011

This blog is in response to “I Didn’t Get In Because I’m White”. First off, I would like to correct you in saying that there were two cases against the University. One was Gratz v Bollinger and the other Grutter V Bollinger. Grutter was about the Law School’s admission program which was designed to achieve a “critical mass” of minority students by requiring admission officials to consider all aspects of an application including whether the applicant was from a historically disadvantaged background. They did not do this for all minorities but it was determined on an individualized basis. The purpose was to determine whether the applicant contributed to the University’s goal of a diverse, well qualified law school class. This is the case that you are referring to in which the Supreme Court upheld the LAW SCHOOL’S admission process declaring that it was in the interest of the states to achieve diversity in their universities but also remedy past and ongoing racism. Justice Ginsberg wrote ” The racial and ethnic groups to which the College accords special consideration historically have been relegated to inferior status by law and social practice; their members continue to face class based discrimination to this day”.

The idea is to give historically disadvantaged students an opportunity to raise themselves out of their situation. By being in a world class University with all of these different opportunities, it allows students, like myself, to be on the same playing field as other non minority students who had access to the resources. Let me also clear something up, when I say historically disadvantaged I mean all minorities, women and low income whites who historically have been discriminated against as well.

The case that was relevant to us as undergraduate students was Gratz v Bollinger, which fought against the University for giving African American, Hispanic, and Native American applicants 20 points out of 100 on their application. The Supreme Court ruled that this form of admission criteria was unconstitutional and violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. I would agree that the point system was unfair and unconstitutional. That being said, the undergraduate program does not use the system anymore because of the Supreme Court rulings.

My Senior Year

Also in 2006, Michigan voters approved Proposition 2, prohibiting the use of racial preferences by any state agency including colleges and universities. I refuse to sit here and allow people to think that all of the minorities on campus are here because of Affirmative Action. Even when there was, those students were just as qualified as the non minority students that were here. Those students were able to create opportunities for their children and their community. I remember when Prop 2 passed and my white friends rejoiced. I told them that I bet that I still get in. When I did get in and they didn’t, they really believed that I had taken THEIR spot. No! I and other minorities have EARNED this spot. Whites are no more turned away from the university because of their race than minorities are today. 

I am not surprised by the responses of many white students who claim “reverse racism” or that they “feel like a minority”. I would like to warn you that saying I feel like a minority is just as offensive as saying “that’s so ghetto” because it implies that being a minority is the opposite of what everyone wants to be and it assumes that all minorities are disadvantaged and unsuccessful. A lot comes with being a minority besides the educational inequalities and the problem is beyond not getting admitted to Universities. If you truly feel like one, welcome to the club, it doesn’t feel too good does it? But I digress.

The reason I am not surprised is because in Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men Pt. 2, Rousseau argues that inequality began when signs of wealth had been invented and that those who acquired the wealth “ had no sooner known the pleasure of domination, than before long they disdained all others…they thought of nothing but the subjugation and enslavement of their neighbors..” (401). He also said that the selfish pursuit of wealth stifled natural pity and made men “greedy, ambitious, and wicked”. Finally, Rousseau state “regardless of the light in which they tried to place their usurpations, they knew full well that they were established on nothing but a precarious and abusive right, and that having been acquired merely by force, force might take them away from without them having any reason to complain”.

Justice

Rousseau can be read in light of historical privilege. Keeping this argument domestically, the U.S. was founded on the basis of freedom and equality. Where inequality was introduced was when citizens gained wealth through industry and as he puts it “inheritances had grown… to the point of covering entire landscape.. .some could no longer be enlarged except at the expense of others”, hence the subjugation and enslavement of their neighbors, who happened to be minorities. One of the reasons for the backlash against giving slaves their freedom was economic reasons. If the slaves were free, who would enlarge the landscape and build wealth for already wealthy slave owners and the United State’s GDP. As Rousseau declared people became greedy, ambitious and wicked and because of that they lacked natural pity for the freedom of others.

Selfishness and the desire to protect privileges is how discrimination in this case was formed. Why would I want to give others rights if it takes away from my personal profit? People are always talking about “pulling one’s self by their own boot straps”. Well, keeping with the boot metaphor, what if the U.S. has historically prevented you from buying boots? Or you have boots just not the boot straps? What if they separated schools by race and gave one better resource but called them “equal”? What if they enacted laws that prevented you from voting, allowing racist policies to be employed for years, adversely affecting your families economic, social and intellectual growth? I am beyond talking about how the institution of slavery set minorities back, that was over 200 years ago. I’m talking about the Era of Disenfranchisement, the Separate but Equal clauses and the Jim Crow laws, things that happened in the 20th century alone.

Equal Playing Field?

These laws were what Rousseau would call “force”. He would say that some of those with privilege in the U.S. acquired it “merely by force” or the laws that prevented minorities from having the same freedoms and access. While people recognize their privilege and that it was acquired by force, they are threatened by the idea that another force, that is an Amendment, Supreme Court ruling, or even rebellion, can take away that privilege. I ask everyone, to reevaluate why they feel so strongly against affirmative action laws. If you look more into what they were for, it was not that they were denying white students because they preferred minorities; it was because historically, institutions like the University of Michigan denied minorities and women in favor of white males, causing economic and educational disparities among these groups. Think less aggregately and more in terms of the general will, “what is good for all” instead of “what is just good for me”. It is in the interest of the U.S. to provide equal opportunity and resources to minorities as by 2050, they will no longer constitute the minority and then white citizens will be the minority. If the majority of our citizens are underprivileged, how do you think the U.S. will fair in the long run?

Sources:

Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men: Pt. 2,  (401-402)

Walton and Smith’s American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom 5th Edition (239-240)

 For more interesting conversation,check out this CNN article about how Whites feel racially oppressed: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/12/21/white.persecution/index.html#

Here is more information about the lawsuits against the University of Michigan: http://www.law.duke.edu/publiclaw/supremecourtonline/commentary/gravbol.html

Here is an article from the Michigan Daily about an event that talked about how identity shapes one’s experience at the University of Michigan…(my orgs event): http://www.michigandaily.com/news/black-male-group-heads-emphasizes-u-diversity

5 Comments
  1. Nicholas Steiner permalink
    April 11, 2011 12:46 PM

    Mark,

    I want to point out that the reason I made this post was to generate discussion about this issue. Saying that, I think you are missing my point. I am in no way saying that you only got in because you are a minority because I am positive you are more then qualified to be a Wolverine. In fact, I do not appreciate you lowering me to that level and considering me to be that narrow minded. My argument is that I do not agree with the consideration of race in admission decisions. The University of Michigan website (the link is listed on my original post) clearly states that although a point system cannot be used, the Supreme Court decision did, ” still [allow] for the consideration of race in admissions.” If we are talking about equality, which I believe ALL ethnicities have equal capacity for knowledge, I do not think that ethnicity should matter in decisions. To consider ethnicity is only further implying that there are differences in ethnicities.
    When you said, “I refuse to sit here and allow people to think that all of the minorities on campus are here because of Affirmative Action” I again am extremely offended that you are saying this. You may feel that SOME people think this, but I DO NOT. Some people may still think that minorities need ‘a boost’ when gaining admittance into college, I however, think that the best and quickest way to move forward is to drop the distinctions. I respect your opinion but I just don’t think that affirmative action is promoting equality. I know that I would never consider race when doing business with someone or hiring someone so maybe this is why I feel so strongly against affermative action and why I feel that universities should not consider race either. I know that in the past, there has been major injustices against minorities. No, we are not at 100% equality but we are getting there and I feel the best way to get there faster is to quit distinguishing people based on whats on the outside and look to whats on the inside. I feel like we are going to disagree here but I respect and liked to hear your thought on this topic.

    • Nicholas Steiner permalink
      April 11, 2011 3:58 PM

      Trying to tie this in more with our class, I feel like the existence of affirmative action implies that minorities are inferior to non-minorities in academics when it comes to college admissions. To go along with the false assumption that men are superior athletes compared to women, I get the same vibe from affirmative action. I feel as though that the competition between minorities and non-minorities is fair and this bad connotation that affirmative action carries does not give minorities the credit that they can do everything just as well, if not better, then non-minorities. Aimee Mullins had what some people would call a disability and she showed everybody why they were wrong. Although I do not, by any means, agree that being a minority is some sort of disability, I feel that affirmative action is implying it. Eliminating affirmative action will make sure that people can’t ignorantly say that the only reason (blank) got in to (Blank school) was because he/she was a minority. Minorities are slowly but surely rising in our society when it comes to political offices or positions in a company. Removing policies that divide the people will, in my opinion, help us live in a world where people don’t even notice race or ethnicity in private and public opportunities.

      I apologize if the title to my post was offensive or misleading to anyone. I was trying to get people to get interested, read, and respond.

    • marklgreer permalink
      April 12, 2011 9:49 PM

      Nicholas,

      I understood exactly what the post was for. My title included nothing personal. I was not saying that you think that way but was adressing the blogosphere. I have had intense conversations with other students about this subject and was just dispelling myths about affirmative action. The only time that I was addressing you was when I presented the other court case that was pertaining to undergraduate admissions.

      The court did rule that they could not use the point system but allowed race to be considered. As I mentioned in the blog, Proposition 2 outlawed even considering race as a factor. I agree that all ethnicities have the capacity to get here but statistically not all have the same resources. There is a huge resource gap between non minority and minority communities. Under the law, we are all equal. But the current structure of the educational system widens the achievement gap.

      You said that you believe that competion between minorities and non minorities is fair. I believe that to the extent that the competion between those with the same opportunities to succeed. My approach to the blog was not considering affirmative action in the work place. I believe that is only necessary when a company has historically discriminated against qualified minorities. The blog was about how the university attempted to address education and resource disparities with affirmative action. It allowed admissions to look at the whole package. I will say that it seems to put white students at a slight disadvantage and the methods that they used were unfair. But when you factor in the disadvantages that admissions considered, there efforts were to factor that in in order to level the playing field. The idea was not to make minorities more desirable than whites. That would be racism. The idea was to put a check on admissions boards who historically discriminated against minorities.

      I personally would not want to live in a world where my ethnicity is not noticed. I do not want to be judged,discriminated against, or helped because of it. But to ignore my race is to disregard my personal identity which I take very seriously. I apologize if you feel that I attacked your character. My response was heartfelt because as I read your post and the comments below it, I felt that I had to present the otherside of the arguement. On this campus, I have so often played the role of educator when it comes to minority affairs, especially dealing with the African American community.

      I wanted to ask if you were opposed to a socio-economic form of affirmative action. I plan to be at least upper middle class and I would not advocate for my children to benefit from affirmative action policies because they will have the necessary resources. But my worry is that people who fall below the poverty line and even working class citizens will not have the resources to be competitive in the U.S., let alone the global economy. Anyone can answer. I personally rather it be a socio-economic thing. Actually I would prefer that everyone have equal educational opportunities. That way no matter what your history or your current situation is, you have equal opportunity to succeed. Some may feel that it is that way now however I would strongly encourage everyone to do their research on these disparities.

      Have a great rest of the semester.

      Mark

      • Nicholas Steiner permalink
        April 14, 2011 11:33 AM

        I totally understand Mark. I enjoyed our discussion. You have a great rest of the semester as well and good luck on exams.

  2. jdadamo permalink
    April 11, 2011 2:30 PM

    I think it’s high time affirmative action is abolished in America. I agree with Nicholas in that in order to achieve equality, we must abandon racial barriers like those presented in affirmative action and become one people. It is unfair that when decisions on one’s admission are made, and a white man and a black man have good qualifications, race will tip the scale in the black man’s favor. It is unfair, wrong, and something that we need to fix. While I will agree with Mark in that there are still socioeconomic problems in this country that disproportionately trend towards lower-income minority environments, giving one group an unfair leg up is not the fix for that. Instead, we must endeavor to help these families get out of the situations through a mixture of a government social safety net and a job network that allows them to provide food for their family and a roof over their head, and allows them to start rising up the ladder.

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