Many of us have misconceptions on how affirmative action works for college admissions, and it has been challenged on multiple occasions. But we need to make sure we fully understand the goals of affirmative action, why it was put into place, and who it helps before we rush to conclusions and say that it must be deemed unconstitutional or replaced with class-based affirmative action.

Here are some things we should think twice about before we rush to color-blind ideologies for the answer.

History of Affirmative Action 

Before affirmative action, “only 5 percent of undergraduate students, 1 percent of law students, and 2 percent of medical students in the country were African American.” Affirmative action was therefore put into place to make sure minorities had an equal footing when seeking employment and higher education.

Since then, college enrollment of blacks and Latinos has increased. However, an education gap still exists.

We still have racial discrimination today. That's very apparent. However, many suggest that affirmative action based on race and ethnicity is unjustifiable and should be based on socioeconomic status instead. Even I used to argue that if we switched to class-based affirmative action, racial minorities would still benefit from affirmative action for college admissions because proportionately we are more socioeconomically disadvantaged than our white counterparts. However, regardless of this fact, this would not be the case if policies favored class-based affirmative action.

The Truth Behind Class-Based Affirmative Action 

Many who favor racial diversity yet champion class-based affirmative action forget that although proportionately more blacks live in low socioeconomic conditions, there are more whites in low socioeconomic conditions numerically.

Also, the average test score for blacks is lower than the average test score for whites on all socioeconomic levels. Therefore, more whites would be eligible for affirmative action than for blacks and other racial minorities.

We all should know by now that blacks have as much intellectual potential as any other race and that studies prove that there is no genetic reason as to why blacks score lower on tests like the SATs than do whites. So what causes this score gap?

Why is this a Problem? 

America still remains residentially segregated, which leads to racially segregated schools. And schools with high black and Latino populations typically receive less funding or have less qualified teachers. Even when black students attend predominately white schools, the average scores for black students remain lower than those of white students.

Many like to take the merit approach to college admissions. However, merit can be a product of one’s environment. We cannot just simply disassociate race from class and treat them separately. Blacks, no matter their socioeconomic status, face institutionalized and other forms of racism. For example, studies show that black stereotypes have a negative impact on a black student’s performance and that black students do not experience school the same way as their white peers, even in predominately white schools.

Why do blacks need to be better represented in college admissions anyway? 

In America today, blacks still face discrimination in housing, education and employment. And this discrimination, as well as discriminatory social factors, have lead to lower average standardized test scores amongst blacks compared to whites. So if our country’s policies favored class-based affirmative action over race-based affirmative action, there is a fare chance that universities would admit less black students.

Affirmative action was created to actually give racial minorities a chance because institutionalized racism has and continues to keep our people lower in the ranks. How are we to progress if we do not have the same opportunities as other groups? We won’t be able have access to better jobs, housing and futures for ourselves and our children if we cannot receive the education we need.

So keep these facts in mind next time you advocate for class-based affirmative action.

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