« on: January 08, 2012, 05:58:42 PM »
As a proud Under Represented Minority (URM), I fully support affirmative action (AA), not just because it benefits my own group, but because it benefits this country and the legal profession. Unfortunately, opponents of the policy avail themselves of the pervasive myths that surround it, like: 1) recipients are less qualified than non-URMís; 2) only ethnic minorities are recipients of affirmative action; 3) affirmative action is a "benign discrimination" and actually harms the URM; 4) affirmative action is punitive for the sins of previous generation of white who oppressed and disenfranchised blacks; and the mother of all myths 5) race-blind admissions benefits all.
First, AA does not provide an overwhelming advantage in admission. Instead, race is looked at as an ASSET, one factor within pool of qualified candidates. For example, if someone is multi-lingual that may give them more points in the process than someone who only speaks English. Or suppose, a URM from a lower economic bracket had to work throughout high school and college, that real world experience would benefit them over a non-URM who did not have any serious employment. By the time the URM applies to law school they have: taken the LSAT, attended and graduated ( or are close to graduating) from college, taken the SAT or ACT, graduated from high school, dodged the hurdles of structural racism in a graceful fashion, and more likely than not, experienced the socio-economic disparities that non-URM's only read about in textbooks. If a URM did poorly on the LSAT and had a low GPA, a law school would not admit them over a non-URM that scored higher and had better grades. It does not happen. I know some would like to believe that, but consider that bubble burst. The law schoolís bottom line is profit, and admitting applicants that may not finish or bring prestige the school is unprofitable. So, the African American or Hispanic person that's sitting next to you or who was admitted instead of you is just as qualified as you, deal with it. A URM didn't take your spot, it wasn't yours to begin with.
Second, a URM may be of any ethnicity. White women are URM's. Typically the legal profession has discriminated against women of all ethnicities, where is the angst about gender being a factor in admission? Schools pay more attention to their male-female ratios than to race. Also, almost anyone from a socio-economic disadvantaged background is a URM. If you're poor, AA is your best friend because the legal system is notoriously elitist and schools recognize that the perspective of the poor is missing from the legal system, AA corrects that. A poor white woman has a greater chance of being admitted to law school than a white male who is from a higher income bracket. The disabled are also a class benefiting from AA. So a poor, disabled, white male has a greater chance of being admitted than an able-bodied white female. The bottom line is that AA is not about race, but the subaltern.
Thirdly, AA does not harm its recipients; it levels the playing field between the historically advantaged and disadvantaged. As mentioned above, URM's must go through the same rigorous process of getting to the application process that non-URM's do, no one is doing their work for them. Some seem to forget that getting admitted to an institution isn't the same as graduating from it, which each applicant must do to apply for law school. Colleges don't pay people to sit in class, take notes, study and take tests for the URM. Once admitted whether prepared or not they are on their own and the work is their own, most have been through much more than law school can throw at them. Many schools have programs to help first year students regardless of race assimilate into law school. Unfortunately, much of the animus for AA comes from those who can only compete against those who have been crippled by a discriminatory society in the first place. Consider the super-structure of our society as Tanya Harding, URM'S Nancy Kerrigan and Non-URM's Oksana Baiual, while you didn't personally sabotage the URM you are benefiting from its effects. A more scholarly analogy is the "racial contract" that perpetuates white privilege, while not all whites are signatories they're all beneficiaries. ( see Charles w. Mills) Another reason some non-URM's oppose AA, is that itís the first time in their lives they are not the preferred group, they have been in the socially accepted in-group.
Fourth, AA does not aim to punishing whites or other non-URM's (I know that rejection letter was painful, but find another scapegoat). AA aims to correct and make up for generations of invidious discrimination, the sabotage of out-groups through benign neglect, economic and social policies aimed at maintaining a status quo that benefits one ethnicity over another, one class over another. Many believe that the effects of systemic generational prejudice should have been remedied by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and subsequent programs, but the truth is racism has just found more seemingly innocuous ways to perpetuate itself. AA provides a critical mass of minorities, the poor, women and other underrepresented groups to combat these new forms of racism. This leads to my fifth and final point that color-blind admissions are not beneficial to anyone and actually a reactionary measure.
Those who have dreams of a color-blind, post-racial society can wake up, because it's not going to happen, nor should it. Ethnicity is important, thereís nothing wrong with recognition of ethnic differences. Different is not deficient! This is a multi-racial society and for law schools to ignore this, would be a horrific mistake. The racial demographics of the country are changing, and law schools that only look at numbers and not context will produce graduates that unable to understand much less compete in this diverse new atmosphere. To be colorblind in an admissions process or in any other facet of life is a disadvantage. Ethnicity, class, age, work experience, foreign languages, specialized knowledge, experience abroad , legacy, community service are all major factors in admission, as they should be. We should not feel that ignoring the issue is dealing with the issue and creating a fair process, because it's not. Non- URMís get plenty of boosts in the admissions process. I suggest we look at legacy, the ole boysí network, preference for members of certain fraternities or sororities, undergraduate institutions, and military status. Should a non-URM who attended a public institution receive preference over one who went to a private school, if they both have similar grades, LSATís and experiences?
As a side note, I find it ironic that as the white majority decreases, a society that once emphasized race, now wants to ignore it. LOL. Anyway, AA is not about population, but about whose voice has traditionally been excluded. Some have argued that more should be done to prevent fraud and over use of URM status, I agree, but eliminating attention to race is not the way to achieve this result. Will there be a time when AA will end? I donít know, because as one group moves from out-group status another will likely take itís place.