Statue of LIberty holding uneven scale in representation of affirmative action's effects

Below is an op-ed by Olivia Hoang in response to a bake sale by UC Berkeley students that gives discounts based on your race. The opinions expressed are that of Olivia’s and does not necessarily reflect that of VTP.

Recently, a Republican club at Cal held a bake sale opposing affirmative action, leading student senators to vote on de-funding clubs that exhibit discriminatory behavior.   This article discusses two separate issues involved in this debacle.  First, while the bake sale was a poor way to communicate opposition to affirmative action, it was not hate speech.  Secondly, affirmative action doesn’t work.

Although it was communication in poor form, the different pricing on the cookies wasn’t meant to degrade any particular race, and it wasn’t intended as hate speech.  It was meant to illustrate what affirmative action does: made it cheaper for the university to admit certain races.  Those who have been over-exposed to the polarizing curriculum that some ethnic studies professors teach may develop oversensitivity to these kinds of things, and therefore feel that the club is being racist.  But in fact, the bake sale targeted a piece of legislation, not any particular race.

As such, the club shouldn’t be defunded.  However I can understand why the university wouldn’t want the bake sale to take place.  The announcement of the bake sale caused hundreds of people to oppose it on Facebook, as well as an outpour of complaint letters to campus administrators.  This created more work for the already-burdened school officials and diverted them from the institution’s purpose of quality research and education.  But the act itself was not hate speech because it wasn’t condemning any particular race.

Underlying this whole debacle is the issue of affirmative action.  I’m of the belief that affirmative action doesn’t work to empower the people it purports to help.  Success in college and in life requires building habits and mindsets that just mere acceptance to a college doesn’t give to a disadvantaged student.

Cartoon lampooning affirmative action

Affirmative action is meant to level the playing field and help neutralize the injustices inherent in being born into a certain racial group.  But in fact, being a minority doesn’t put you at a disadvantage when it comes to upward mobility and education as much as being born into an environment that doesn’t value those things enough.  Family and peer values matter more than race; the skills and mindsets required to do well in school and life are taught in the home and acquired through absorption from interactions with peers and role models.

Accepting a student who is not qualified to be there is equivalent to dropping into the ocean someone who doesn’t know how to swim.  Accepting a student who is qualified yet is chosen over an also qualified white candidate due to her race casts a shadow over her journey.  It breeds a sense of victimization and entitlement into the student.   It’s also an unrealistic way to transition into the real world and doesn’t prepare them for the corporate world, where C-suite executives are largely white males, which often under-represents the minorities that are employed in the company.

What will help disadvantaged minorities is making more accessible to them the people and environments where they can learn the right mentality and habits that help them become successful regardless of which college they go to or whether they even go to college at all.  Success in college and beyond requires a combination of social and emotional skills that go beyond the scope of affirmative action.

Affirmative action doesn’t affirm the minority at all.  It just helps to suppress them by giving them an easy target to blame when things don’t go their way instead of really getting them to learn the skills and acquire the necessary self image that will provide a lasting impact on their lives.  Furthermore, from the perspective of Asian American interest, affirmative action has been debated as hurting Asians’ admissions.  While this may not be true, at the very least, the effect on Asian Americans’ admissions to college is not definitely positive. So there’s another reason why affirmative action doesn’t gel.


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