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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Racism in Academic Admissions

Taking race into account for academic admission is a heated topic. But objectors rarely examine the challenges that minority students face in accessing higher education. Rarely is there ever a recognition of the history of advantages that white students have that put them ahead from the get-go. It's true that a given white student might have disadvantages to overcome, but white folks have a long history of attending college, and that success begets itself:

If your grandparents served in WWII, they could take advantage of the GI bill and go to college (unless they were black and most colleges wouldn't accept them). They could build economic security by buying a home though that same GI bill, maybe with a little help with the down payment from their parents (unless they are just staying afloat themselves). They could become part of the growing middle class of the 1950s and 60s (unless they got redlined into a declining neighborhood).

These same white ancestors could also earn better wages through union negotiations (unless the union wouldn't accept them because of race, or they couldn't get a job at all because of biased hiring practices). Then they could make sure their kids went to a good high school (unless the redlined houses didn't have high enough property values to produce
the tax revenue needed for successful public schools). And since they had been to college, they could encourage their children to attend as well (and perhaps benefit from legacy-based admission policies),  provide their children with guidance through the admissions process, and perhaps financial support to fund their higher education. Then their children could graduate from college, get a higher paying job, in a good neighborhood, with successful schools, and start the cycle over again with lucky little you!

Contrast this history with the oppression faced by other groups for generations: [Video] Slavery By Another Name.

Kaplan charges up to $3,600 for SAT prep
Folks will sometimes cite low Black and Hispanic graduation rates to suggest that these policies are actually not good for anybody. They may imply that universities are lowering their standards to admit minority students that never had what it takes to do well in college anyway. But, the truth is that many highly qualified POC never get the opportunity to even think about applying to college and those that make it face all sorts of barriers and prejudices that members of the majority never have to worry about as they go through their studies.

Opponents love to mention disparities in standardized test scores, but again rarely discuss from where those disparities come. First of all, tests like the SATs say very little about a person's intelligence, but are simply a measure of one's ability to perform on said test. So if you come from a school that coaches test taking, or if you have the time and financial resources to take multiple practice tests, buy College Board books, and take Kaplan classes, you are likely to do pretty well. 

If we were truly living in a meritocracy, a race-blind system of admissions would work pretty well (see post: Saved from Meritocracy). But we live a country that routinely and systematically stacks the odds against people of color. From early on, children of color can expect less nurturing attention from the teacher, more frequent and severe disciplinary action, and lower expectations for their long term academic performance. How well would anyone fair in these conditions? 

In addition, if one happens to be poor or has a disrupted home life, the challenges can become insurmountable. Who can keep a high GPA, have all the necessary extracurricular involvement, and hold a part-time job that helps put food on the table

On a final note, diversity in admissions needs to be accomplished, as much for the benefit of the majority population, as for students of color. In the same way that diversity in church is essential for spiritual development, diversity in schools is crucial for academic development. If I were trying to learn perspectives I already know, I could stay at home and save the $20 grand/year! It is the university's responsibility to provide its students with the environment of broad and deep education that they are paying for!




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17 comments:

  1. Super interesting post, Katelin. Good luck on that polite thing!

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  2. heh...keeping it with the love of Christ. I know I can get carried away sometimes. Reigning it in...

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  3. ps. I'll take advice from readers...

    When I write a post like this, I can have trouble
    siting specific examples and barriers that POC face without generalizing about 'the black plight.' For example, struggling and underfunded school systems is a major hindrance for many races, but it disproportionately affects black kids. But I hesitate to site examples like this for fear of perpetuating the stereotype that a black student must have come from a bad school.

    Suggestions?

    Still learning lots. Thanks for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post! This is what you should adapt for your letter to the editor!

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  5. From the Uweekly Editor:

    "Hi Katelin,

    I'm just writing to let you know I received your letter to the editor and it will be published in the next issue of UWeekly. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

    Thanks for your feedback!

    -Justin"

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yeah...it was an abbreviated, polite version of this post.

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  7. I don't have a lot of time for recreational reading so the only time I ever "read" UWeekly is when it's left open in a classroom to the Fashion Police section. Real quality stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if it was printed on discarded 'Natti Light boxes. I wonder how many kids believe this garbage, anyway...

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  8. haha...well we'll see if the letter runs next week.

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  9. on a related note, brought to our attention by Ryan:
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/12/21/white.persecution/index.html?hpt=T2

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  10. Tim Wise is long winded, but he usually speaks the truth. His thoughts on the 'white guy' scholarship in the link in the previous comment:
    http://www.timwise.org/2011/03/a-bad-year-for-white-whine-college-scholarships-and-the-cult-of-caucasian-victimhood/

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  11. A very good discussion from What Tami Said:
    http://whattamisaid.blogspot.com/2011/03/do-race-based-scholarships-successfully.html

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yeah...it was an abbreviated, polite version of this post.

    ReplyDelete
  13. ps. I'll take advice from readers...

    When I write a post like this, I can have trouble
    siting specific examples and barriers that POC face without generalizing about 'the black plight.' For example, struggling and underfunded school systems is a major hindrance for many races, but it disproportionately affects black kids. But I hesitate to site examples like this for fear of perpetuating the stereotype that a black student must have come from a bad school.

    Suggestions?

    Still learning lots. Thanks for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  14. heh...keeping it with the love of Christ. I know I can get carried away sometimes. Reigning it in...

    ReplyDelete
  15. haha...well we'll see if the letter runs next week.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you very much for this important post. The unfortunate reality today is that white privilege, racial prejudice, and institutional racism still translate into a very uneven, unfair, and unjust playing field for people of color. Another very unfortunate reality, from my observation and experience, is that most white evangelical Christians are either unaware of or simply do not believe that such things even exist or, if they did at one time, they are all but gone today.

    Again, thanks!

    Jack

    @JKooyman

    ReplyDelete
  17. Truth! 
    Both very accurate and important points. 
    Continue the good work for change!

    ReplyDelete

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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