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Author Topic: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system  (Read 5359 times)

scholarchic

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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.


brettoni

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2012, 02:54:21 PM »
1st. The BEST students should get in. Your minority status should not matter at all. As a society we tell our children that we are all equals and to treat everyone the same, but when there are laws on the books mandating that that not be the case, it slows our society's progress towards equality. That said, you are correct in that you can't just assume your darker skinned classmate is less qualified, but the fact remains that an under represented minority applying to law school with the same stats as a non minority has a better chance of gaining admission. That is a fact that cannot be denied, and that is unfair. Two people with the same stats should have the same chance, their minority status should not matter. So actually, there is some truth to what you mentioned as being false. An underrepresented minority can actually take your spot. I actually know this from personal experience. When I was applying to colleges I was 50-50 at my number one school, I was denied admission, so I called the admissions office and scheduled an appointment with one of the administrators. I mentioned how several of my friends in the same advanced programs, with less credentials, worse grades, worse scores, and less volunteer work had been admitted. He asked me if they were minorities, I had not realized it, but yes, they all were. He says "well there you go. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is." You are seeing the issue with one eye closed scholarchic. The best students should get in, end of story. Your skin color should not matter. I understand the argument "well it's harder because they've had harder lives to overcome." Well frankly, that is bull *&^%. Sure, statistically minorities are more likely to be poor, but applying that to every minority applicant is just furthering racial stereotypes.
2nd. Regarding your female argument when it comes to under represented minorities, the lsac site says that you can't classify yourself as a URM based on gender. Although that does not necessarily mean that law schools don't try to equalize their numbers. The best students should be admitted; if a homosexual Mexican woman (randomly generated hypothetical extreme minority) has better stats then me, so be it, she nudged me out, she deserves the spot. Good for her. If her stats are worse than mine, she should not be admitted ahead of me.
3rd. I believe it really does harm the recipients because it promotes racial stereotypes and since it is written in law, it keeps the differences between us alive instead of allowing them to die out. That whole "leveling the playing field" idea, implies that all the urms need to be raised which is just not the case. We should have affirmative action based upon true disadvantage, not racial stereotypes. We shouldn't give a bump to "minorities" and assume we are giving a bump to the "disadvantaged," we should just give a bump to those "disadvantaged" we are talking about, IF ANYTHING AT ALL.
4th. agreed. There is no punitive intent.
5th. You are dead wrong here. Studies show that our society is getting less prejudiced over time (I'm a sociology double major). AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, our gene pool is becoming increasingly homogeneic over time. In fact, scientists have estimated that in the next 200 years minorities will all but completely disappear due to interbreeding and we'll all be one similar olive color. Sure this is in the distant future, but in the grand scheme of things it just shows that we are moving in the direction as a society that you claim is impossible to achieve. I find your posed question kind of funny, "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?" NO, NO THEY SHOULD NOT. So why should a minority student who has the same grades, LSAT's and experiences be admitted over the white student?

Looking forward to your rebuttal.

scholarchic

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 03:09:00 PM »
1st. The BEST students should get in. Your minority status should not matter at all. As a society we tell our children that we are all equals and to treat everyone the same, but when there are laws on the books mandating that that not be the case, it slows our society's progress towards equality.

I agree that the best students should get in. The problem is how YOU are defining the BEST (as a junior sociologist you should define your terms better). Proving yourself academically is one method of showing a student is capable of higher education, but not the only way. URM students have proven themselves both in the academic realm and the REAL WORLD.  Affirmative action emphasizes race because our society emphasizes race, and it allows for a holistic assessment of the student.  Laws that redress discrimination are not discriminatory, they do not bar white student from getting into any institution.  AS I mentioned in my original post whites are also beneficiaries of affirmative action, all members of an ethnic majority are not members of the economic majority. Instead these laws recognize that groups were mistreated and denied access to the legal profession. The policy facilitates not impedes equality.

That said, you are correct in that you can't just assume your darker skinned classmate is less qualified, but the fact remains that an under represented minority applying to law school with the same stats as a non minority has a better chance of gaining admission. That is a fact that cannot be denied, and that is unfair. Two people with the same stats should have the same chance, their minority status should not matter. So actually, there is some truth to what you mentioned as being false.  An underrepresented minority can actually take your spot. I actually know this from personal experienceÖ He asked me if they were minorities, I had not realized it, but yes, they all were. He says "well there you go. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is." You are seeing the issue with one eye closed scholarchic.

 Unfortunately, Berttoni, youíre not seeing the issue at all. Youíre generalizing from a specific event that may or may not have happened to you. Frankly, unless the administrator was familiar with your minority friendís files, then he was just making a generalization, as are you.  The reason a minority cannot take your spot is because admission to any institution is not guaranteed.  No matter how well you did on the SAT or in high school, you can be rejected whether you meet or exceed admissions criteria. The seat you may think a URM took from you is NOT YOURS until you get accepted.  Unless you are saying you were ACCEPTED to the school and THEN kicked out to make room for a URM, which is never the case.  The number of minority students admitted to any entering class is typically much less than the number of non-URMís, some of which may or may not have better grades than you.  Whites who donít get into a school want to blame affirmative action, when the reality is that even if no equality programs existed, they still would not get in. Did you ask the admissions officer if any legacy students were admitted? Did you ask if children of faculty or staff had been admitted?  What was the ethnic and economic composition of the entering class? Each of these groups are shown a considerable amount of favoritism in admissions.

The best students should get in, end of story. Your skin color should not matter. I understand the argument "well it's harder because they've had harder lives to overcome." Well frankly, that is bull bunnies. Sure, statistically minorities are more likely to be poor, but applying that to every minority applicant is just furthering racial stereotypes.

This is where you practice some selective reading.  I did not say affirmative action should apply to every minority applicant.   I said that in order for an educational institution to be relevant and provide a pertinent education, it must be reflective of society-- not exist in a vacuum.  Admissions officers have always taken race into account; the problem is whites donít like to say it.  The ďracial contractĒ is the unspoken pact whites have, whether they know it or not. Affirmative action is the first time many non-URMís are not receiving the extra boost their color affords them and as a result they perceive it discrimination.  For example, if there are 250 slots in an entering law school class (mine was 368) of those slots usually 15 or 20 will go to ALL URMís.  So the remaining 230 to 246 would be white or non-URM.  This is just an example, but the numbers are similar at many schools in the Top 100.  Within that white population you have people, who scored lower than minority applicants, but their parent(s) are alumni, or they attended the undergraduate school the law school is associated with, or worked for a public official or lawyer that attended the school.  So,  instead of focusing on 20 slots intended to redress wrongs, non-URMís  should focus on those who are already privileged and receiving undeserved preference. 

But what value do LAW SCHOOLS place on gender? The LSAC doesnít admit anyone.  In applying to law school youíll learn those in admissions do not ask irrelevant questions.  Most law school applications ask about gender, notice they donít ask your weightÖ thatís because itís irrelevant and gender is not. If admission was between a white male with above average grades and a white female with above average grades, the woman would get it.

3rd. I believe it really does harm the recipients because it promotes racial stereotypes and since it is written in law... That whole "leveling the playing field" idea, implies that all the urms need to be raised which is just not the caseÖ.

Ok, this statement is so wrong I donít know where to start.  What you believe and what the policy does are two different things (If you attend law school, never answer any question with ďI believeĒ. Never.)   These prejudices and stereotypes existed long before affirmative action, and are not based on any concrete data or upon limited, if any, personal experiences (such as yours with the ďadmissions officerĒ). Affirmative action assists in dispelling and preventing these beliefs from becoming entrenched in our legal system because minorities who graduate will be in positions to respond directly to systematic prejudices.   Affirmative action involves working within the system to change it, because many great politicians and Supreme Court Justices realized that racial prejudices are perpetuated through the legal system.   ďLeveling the playing fieldĒ does not imply that URMís need to be raised up, but rather that non-URMís have had an unfair advantage because they have not suffered CONSISTENT violent governmental and structural oppression.  White elites (not all whites) have been given a boost by unfair economic policies that favored them over minorities for decades.  Affirmative Action is intended to correct not punish and not award unjustly.

The other problem is you are viewing affirmative action on an individual level, when the policy is directed toward groups. So If a URM who has superior grades and achievements is admitted over a non-URM with similar grades and achievements, the benefit is to the URMís group. Not all URMís share the same viewpoint or experience, but their physical presence is a benefit to society and the educational institution. Children may see a Black or Latino lawyer and want to grow up to be one too. The benefit is not solely for the individual, but for society. 

5th. You are dead wrong here. Studies show that our society is getting less prejudiced over time (I'm a sociology double major).  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, our gene pool is becoming increasingly homogeneic over time. In fact, scientists have estimated that in the next 200 years minorities will all but completely disappear due to interbreeding and we'll all be one similar olive colorÖ.

Ok, letís delve into this argument.  And since you are still only an undergrad -- Iíll take it easy on you.  A double major is greatÖwonít matter in your law school application (from another double major to another)Ö but great none the less. As I hold an M.A. in the social sciences and have been through law school as well, Iíll enlighten your position a bit.

 A scientific theory is different than a social fact.  Ethnicity is important and thereís nothing wrong with that.  Thereís something wrong with assigning negative traits to an ethnic group, but not with ethnicity itself.  Ethnic identity is a wonderful thing, stereotyping is not the inevitable result of ethnic differences they the result of insecurity. The assumption of your argument is that because weíre all supposed to become one color that ethnic differences will not matter.  Thus, law schools should stop taking race into account today, because sometime, someday, maybe, possibly weíll be one color at some future undetermined point.   Such specious reasoning just doesnít hold weight. 

Without going in circles Iíll answer your question.  A minority student with the same grades,  LSAT scores  and experiences should be admitted over a similar non-URM because that person adds something to the educational environment that the non-URM cannot, their diversity.   As I stated originally race is a factor, but not the only factor in admissions, however, where  students are so similar race MAY be the deciding factor, though not in every case.   The Supreme Court has found that diversity is a compelling interest and race may be considered as a factor as long as it is not the only factor.  In the above scenario the URMís addition of his or her unique perspective as a minority distinguishes that applicant from a non-URM. 

prelaw12

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2012, 08:12:32 PM »
Several schools have just started implementing race blind admissions. Just fyi.

MissMelissRoths03

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 03:17:13 PM »
prelaw12, I have heard this too. Do you know which schools specifically?

steveymcfly

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2012, 08:57:09 PM »
Well, I wouldn't be so happy about having AA thing around. You say it benefits you and your group, directly yes. But it also creates the impression in the society that "it is a group that is too weak to do anything and leeches on society". Think about it.
-How does it feel to make somebody regret his decision?
-I don't know, ask a lawyer

jaycube

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Essential to ensuring a Just Legal system
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 05:20:48 AM »
In the end all you need to take the legal acceptance from the owner.