Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 9.44.53 PM

Affirmative Action: Pro & Con


It’s easy for me, as an Asian American who has access to SAT preparatory classes and lives a comfortable life within relatively affluent families, to paint affirmative action as something that is discriminatory and harmful. But the reality is that many students cannot afford the same resources I have access to and do not have the same inherent opportunities.

The general premise of affirmative action is to level out a rocky playing field. While the term affirmative action refers to any policy that favors the disadvantaged, it is most well-known for defining the advantage among certain racial and socioeconomic groups in an educational context. More specifically and relevantly, it refers to the college admissions policy that attempts to diversify its student population by accepting more minority groups. Privilege, or the lack of it, is not tangible or clear-cut, but the undeniable existence of it requires the checks and balances that policies such as affirmative action have created.

Of course, my economic situation is not reflective of every other Asian American in the same situation. To associate a socioeconomic status solely on the “check next to your race” box can seem unfair, so many argue that such generalizations should not be as heavily emphasized. But the current system that focuses on race promotes diversity, which is just as important of a reason as socioeconomic status, or the combination of social and economic factors, to support affirmative action.

After all, according to the American Psychological Association, racial minorities are more likely to experience a lower socioeconomic status than their white counterparts. Affirmative action has undoubtedly increased diversity in colleges — doubling or tripling the number, according to the National Conference of State Legislature — which is critical in ensuring they are accurately representative of the surrounding communities. So while it may seem like there are no objective or material benefits to diversity, it promotes productivity, acceptance and a variation of perspectives. Working with others who come from a different culture allows one to develop more progressive mindsets. In an educational context, it prepares students for the practical world where one must interact with many people who speak, look and think differently. People not only begin to learn from each other, but also be more accepting and less susceptible to discrimination.

Diversity is an important component of every environment, and while affirmative action is nowhere near perfect, it has been integral in ensuring proper representation.

By Angela Cao, Opinion editor