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A common misconception about affirmative action is that it provides an unfair advantage for people of color. In reality, it equals the playing field.
White people have had an educational advantage from the start.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, in 2012 white students were over three times more likely to attend an affluent school. Similarly, black students were over six times more likely than white students to attend a high-poverty school.
This isn’t due to an income gap. As reported by The Root, “In 2015, a research scientist named David Mosenkis examined 500 school districts in Pennsylvania and found that — regardless of the level of income — the more black students, the less money a school received.”
Lack of funding within schools leads to fewer supplies, less staff and a lower quality education. This puts white students at an obvious advantage for receiving an education and being successful in school.
While a poll found that 65 percent of people disagreed with the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision to back the rights of colleges to consider race and ethnicity within the admission process, affirmative action is still entirely necessary within today’s society. In fact, even with affirmative action, white people are still favored over some people of color in the admissions process.
Twenty-three of the top 50 colleges reported that legacy status is taken into account during the admission process. And 25 percent of admissions officer in a survey admitted they have “been pressured to accept well-connected, less qualified students.” In addition, a Princeton study found that Asian students must score an average of 140 points higher on the SAT than white students to have the same chance of admission. Harvard is currently facing a lawsuit for discrimination against Asians in their admissions process.
Not to mention that 63.4 percent of students enrolled in “public flagship institutions” are white.
Outside of the statistics, an example of the importance of representation for people of color in college campuses surfaced recently at the University of Hartford.
Channel Rowe, an African-American student at the university, was poisoned and bullied by her white roommate over the course of a month and a half.
The roommate was caught after bragging about what she had done in a post on social media:
“After one and a half months spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more, I can finally say goodbye to Jamaican Barbie.”
Blatant displays of racism are not unique to the University of Hartford.
During welcome week this semester, CU Boulder freshman Monica Huacuja Espinosa experienced a clear instance of racism on our campus. Espinosa was playing an icebreaker game with her floor mates in Andrews Hall.
“There were questions on a ball and we would randomly choose a question. One of the questions was, ‘If you were a leader, what would you ban?’ and one of the girls said ‘black people.’ Almost everyone in the hall started laughing,” Espinosa said. “On my floor I’m one of three Latinas and there’s maybe two other Asians but the rest of them were white.”
Espinosa described the experience as making her feel excluded and unwelcome within her new home.
“Even though they didn’t target my specific race, it obviously showed that they were racist or okay with racism. Since this was one of my first impressions of CU Boulder, it made me believe that a lot of people on campus had that same mentality,” she said.
The ignorance underlying these actions was fueled by the lack of racial diversity on college campuses.
Allowing racist white students to continue living within their bubble of white supremacy is a disservice to people of color, to white people and to society as a whole. Affirmative action helps increase racial diversity and takes steps toward correcting a historical system that continues to provide people of color unequal access to education. It also contributes to developing an atmosphere where racist behaviors can be condemned and educated in colleges and universities.
Furthermore, in psychology, the Contact Hypothesis theorizes that equal-status contact between different groups reduces prejudice between them. Increasing the number of university students and staff of color would increase the equal-status contact between everyone in a college environment, decreasing the prejudices.
CU Boulder does not have affirmative action. Implementing affirmative action would be the first step toward fighting racism, like Espinosa’s experience, on CU’s campus.
While there is no quick-fix for the racism instilled within society, affirmative action is a way to address ignorance in the youth while also providing POC with equal access to a higher-level education in an environment where they can feel comfortable, not discriminated against.
The issue does not solely lie in student demographics, however.
In 2015, the National Center for Education Statistics found that out of all “full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions,” 77 percent are white, six percent are black, four percent are Hispanic and 10 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. Similarly, 83 percent of college presidents are white, 82 percent of teachers are white and 80 percent of school principals are white.
Having people of color in teaching positions has proven to increase academic performance and even increase high school graduation rates of students of color. In addition, teachers of color have been found to have higher expectations for their students of color than white teachers. Not to mention that studies have found students of all races like teachers of color better.
Increased diversity in all areas, in addition to extended support for students of color, would greatly benefit the students of color in CU, while also providing all students with an improved social education.
In a time where the majority of Americans feel that race relations are getting worse, affirmative action is more important than ever. The University of Hartford is just another example of why we need to do better.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hannah Metzger at firstname.lastname@example.org