Kylie Marsh, John Daugherty and Lander Eichholzer
THE SANTA CLARA
February 25, 2016
Last week, Andy Hudlow wrote an op-ed that sparked conversation about Affirmative Action among Santa Clara students. He argued that Affirmative Action unfairly grants undeserving students of color admission to universities over qualified white students.
He failed to acknowledge that people of color are systematically disadvantaged from birth, and Affirmative Action policies are necessary to help level the playing field. Race and class are tightly intertwined; people of color make significantly less money than white people and the wealth gap is growing.
According to the Pew Research Center, “The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010… Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010.”
Students who come from families with less money tend not to perform as well academically as those who come from wealthy families. Kids who come from rich neighborhoods get a better education than those who come from underprivileged areas because public schools in the United States are largely funded by local property taxes.
Furthermore, a study by Dr. John Jerrim at the Institute of Education indicated that students from low-income families often do not get in or even apply to elite schools, even though they have the academic credentials required. Underserved students often feel like the system is stacked against them and that they do not stand a chance of gaining admission to highly selective universities.
In short, Affirmative Action was not created to oppress whites, but rather to increase the chances of minority students gaining admissions to institutions of higher education. Opponents of Affirmative Action would be right—if everyone had the same opportunities. But this is far from the truth.
In reality, people of color are held back by institutionalized racism their whole lives. Affirmative Action and programs like it are designed to counteract the hurdles that people of color face.Mr. Hudlow began his op-ed against Affirmative Action with a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We understand the appeal of starting the article with a King quote, since he is hailed as the ideal, acceptable Black leader; someone who fought injustice with nonviolent protest. He is the nation’s “magical Negro.”
However, whitewashed history has painted him as the paragon of what our American system wants every black person in the face of racial inequality to be—quiet and docile. What people don’t often mention is that King was still jailed, assaulted and harassed by the white people of his day—because his ideas at the time were just as radical as Kendrick and Beyoncé’s are today.
Since American society tells us to emulate Martin Luther King Jr., people of color are set-up to fail from the beginning, because even though he used nonviolent methods and worked to unify people, the FBI still harassed him and he was eventually assassinated.
It speaks volumes that many white people are only concerned about racial issues once an action brings minorities up to their level of privilege. Mr. Hudlow’s piece ignores the effects of racism that impact students of color—which is why affirmative action was created in the first place.
Mr. Hudlow wrote, “Our society should be constantly striving to erase boundaries between groups of people, not reinforce them.” He is absolutely right. That’s exactly what Affirmative Action seeks to accomplish. As Professor of Sociology at Duke University, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva writes, there is a new racism in the United States. It is far more subtle and insidious than the old racism of the slavery and Jim Crow eras. One of its defining features is a lack of awareness of the disadvantages that people of color still face in our society today. Unfortunately, Andy Hudlow’s latest op-ed is a perfect example of the new racism.
Hopefully, Affirmative Action will one day be eliminated, because, hopefully, one day it will no longer be needed. But that day will not come until the “color blind” mentality is eliminated. It will not come until people of all ethnicities can play on an even field.
We hope that all our readers will see how racism is institutionalized in our society and remember this: when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality will feel like oppression.
Kylie Marsh is a first year political science major, John Daughtery is a first year sociology major and Lander Eichholzer is a first year communication major.
Articles in the opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.