Spencer T. California

Affirmative Action in Education

A letter concerning racial discrimination in the acceptance rate of Asian Americans into colleges and the idea of affirmative action.

Dear Mr. / Mrs. President,

Affirmative action in higher education needs to go.

As a sixteen-year old student in eleventh grade, I will have to consider college applications in almost no time at all. Getting accepted into a decent or high ranking college is one of the most important short-term goals for many students, myself included. However, there is an enormous issue that is related to a singular race, namely, Asians, which completely contradicts the ideology of meritocracy and equality. Specifically, Asian Americans who have the same kinds of test scores and academic records as their peers of other races face a much larger challenge in being accepted into top colleges because of existing preferences towards those other races, which comes in the form of affirmative action. 

The initial purpose of affirmative action in higher education was to promote equality and prevent racial discrimination, but currently, it actually has the opposite effect. There is a clear correlation between affirmative action and the skewed percentage of Asian Americans being accepted into high-ranking colleges, relative to that of non-Asian Americans. Essentially, there is a bias against Asian Americans that cause them to have a significantly lower chance of entering top colleges, even if they are noticeably superior to their non-Asian American peers in terms of accomplishments and scores on tests like the SAT. This is most clearly seen in Princeton sociology professor Thomas Empenshade's No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life, which notes that "to receive equal consideration by elite colleges, Asian Americans must outperform Whites by 140 points, Hispanics by 280 points, Blacks by 450 points in SAT" (2009). This means that an Asian American that attains a score of 1600, which is a perfect score, is on equal grounds with a white student's 1460, a Hispanic student's 1320, and a black student's 1150, which is completely outrageous and unfair to the students who perform objectively better. Another example of this kind of racial bias comes from personal experience with a sibling's college application. As an Asian American with a large Hispanic background, my brother and I both have an advantage over other Asian Americans who do not have a favored ethnicity to legally mark on their college applications. Instead of identifying ourselves as Asian Americans, we elect to put down Hispanic as our ethnicity just because it raises our chances of being accepted into most universities. If a school would consider the exact same person any more or less based on what race they are, then the system is utterly broken and needs to change instead of perpetuating this inequality. 

In order to truly promote equality and reward merit, the discrimination that affirmative action has created in much of America must be eliminated. Admission policies should instead follow one of the few states with a more equal system like California, which passed Prop 209 in 1996 and banned public universities from considering race while admitting students.. This is clearly the most logical solution to the blatant injustice that only one group of innocent people has to suffer. While advocates of affirmative action may protest that this solution would decrease the diversity of students and their exposure to various cultures, as well as create an imbalanced playing field for the disadvantaged, there are inherent flaws in this thinking. With the claim that diversity in college diminishes without affirmative action, supporters of the policy are essentially degrading every non-Asian ethnicity by implying that Asians are superior to them and would be accepted into elite colleges much more frequently. Additionally, by the same logic, current American students can feel inferior to others because they received "help" from affirmative action that allowed them to be accepted into a top university. As for the matter of students with disadvantaged backgrounds, affirmative action doesn't solve the issue, and instead pushes it onto Asian Americans. While severe financial deficits may be different from the current problem that Asian Americans face when applying for colleges, it does not change the fact that they have become disadvantaged by unofficial acceptance quotas and have been unfairly rejected in favor of less qualified students. To put this into perspective, if sports teams functioned like higher education under affirmative action, then many talented athletes would have to be rejected in order to allow for a racially diverse team that would be objectively worse than a team that was comprised of players who were chosen based on skill and performance. Ironically, the race of people that is typically not seen on any major American sports team, whether it be college or professional, is Asian, yet no one seems to be complaining about how that is unfair to them whatsoever. I hope that you will prevent this injustice from plaguing future Asian Americans by abolishing affirmative action sometime in your presidency and uphold a true American spirit in doing so.

Thank you for considering the contents of my letter.


                                                                                                 Spencer T.

Newbury Park High School

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