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The Effectiveness of The Implementation of Race-based Affirmative Action in College Admission

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Race-based affirmative action refers to a policy which imposes remedies against discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. The implementation of this policy within college admission processes has stood to be a highly controversial topic. There are many individuals who are in opposition of race-based affirmative action due to how institutions cater to minorities rather than the majority. These opponents tend to consider the policy to be a form of “reverse discrimination.” On the contrary, race-based affirmative action has many supporters that perceive the policy to promote social inclusion for minorities, rather than be implemented for discriminatory reasoning. In favor of the policy, in regards to education, implementing race-based affirmative action, within college admissions, is highly effective due to its approach towards three main principles: overriding former discrimination, remedying the products of past discrimination, and preventing future discrimination.

Some may ask, where did affirmative action begin? Well, the notion of affirmative action made its initial appearance during President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 in the 1961, which created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The initial philosophy of affirmative action was to obligate institutions to abide by the nondiscrimination mandate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was created to counter the racial discrimination that existed within employment. In later years, additional factors, such as gender and disability became protected under this policy. Following the introduction, the policy’s trajectory to a shift towards both sectors of education (public and private).

However, the surfacing of race-based affirmative action within educational facilities did not become vital until The Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which occurred in 1954. Brown v. Board did not only permit minorities and the majority to attend the same schools with no regards to race; it, additionally, created a chain reaction in which black students were granted the ability to access the same academic institutions as their white counterparts. Racial integration of colleges and universities had been decided upon by the Supreme Court before Brown v. Board had occurred; however, equal access to quality education and the public discourse on race became more focused upon with the Brown ruling. Schools, then took it upon themselves to implement race-based affirmative action by reserving spots for minority students to be admitted within their student body. This case set the precedent for plenty of future affirmative action cases.

For instance, one race-based affirmative action case that surfaced subsequent to Brown v. Board was Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, which occurred in 1978. Regents v. Bakke was a Supreme Court case that sought to challenge race-based affirmative action within postsecondary institutions. Many court cases that have challenged affirmative action have been unsuccessful due to the fact that most colleges and universities support affirmative action. Within this case, white applicant, Allan Bakke, submitted an application to the University of California’s Medical School at Davis twice, with both times being rejected. Being that the university followed affirmative action, 16 out of 100 spots were reserved for minority applicants. Bakke, then, filed a lawsuit against the institution because he believed that their admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger were also two very important cases that dealt with race-based affirmative action. Grutter and Gratz correspondingly initiated as filed lawsuits against the University of Michigan for the university’s admission process. The university’s main goal was to have their student body be comprised of students with a variety of backgrounds as a better way for them to understand and learn from each other. However, the University of Michigan did not only follow the affirmative action policy, but the university, unjustly, used race as the sole determining factor for admitting their students.

One last case involving race-based affirmative action is Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, which occurred in 2007. Parents Involved in Community Schools is a nonprofit organization consisting of the parents of the students that were, or possibly could have been, affected by the admission process of Seattle School District. The organization filed a lawsuit against the school district in opposition of the constitutionality of their admission process. Students were granted admission, to their school of preference, only if their contribution to the school racial balance was positive.

Next in this essay I will discuss the three main principles of race-based affirmative action. Race-based affirmative action is highly effective, within the college admissions process, due to its overriding of former discrimination against minorities. Many misconstrue this compensatory policy to be a discriminatory practice towards the majority, which is not catered to by this policy. For countless years, white people have been historically recognized for racially discriminating against minority groups, especially against African Americans. This historic discrimination is a legitimate reason as to why minorities achieve academically at a lower rate than their white counterparts and need compensation through affirmative action. Race-based affirmative action supporters encourage its implementation as a means of compensation for all of the former discriminatory performances that were posed against them such as slavery, black codes, and Jim Crow laws.

These former setbacks cause minorities to trail behind those in the majority in key areas such as income, health, and housing, which, ultimately affect education. All of these key areas were strategically rigged to keep minority groups at a disadvantage. For instance, statistics show that white people that lie within the top percentage of income-earning families are more likely to get admitted into an elite school than a minority group participant from a bottom percentage income-earning family.

According to the Washington Post, in 2014, The College Board announced that they are focusing less on the timed essay portion and vocabulary of the SAT, and more on accommodating all types of income-earning households. This gives students the equal opportunity to get a desired score to get into their desired college, or university, within the future. The College Board statistics showed that high income-earning families tend to score higher on the SAT. The students of high-income households typically have parents that have an ample amount of money, obviously, and some sort of college degree or higher. he students of low income households typically have parents that have less money and a high school diploma or lower. According to The College Board statistics, students that come from households in which their parents have their graduate degree, tend to do better on the SAT than students with parents with a high school diploma.

Also, the students who had the opportunity to take preparatory courses before taking the SAT tended to get higher scores on the test. According to The College Board, students that were given their PSAT before taking their actual SAT, tended to receive a high score compared to the students who did not receive the privilege of a preparatory test or course. In addition, the parents of the students with lower income housing may not even be able to afford the SAT preparation course once, let alone twice.

This is evidence that institutions should lend a helping hand to minorities, which typically reside in lower income households and have less quality parental education, because these students are resultantly more at a disadvantage. These major setbacks for minorities are major issues that called for governmental response. By the government implementing race-based affirmative action within colleges and universities, it would override former discrimination by granting minority students a fair chance to show their potential despite all the odds that are posed against.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states do not permit affirmative action for college applicants. Affirmative action really should not be of much concern of the majority, being that they reap so many benefits of their ancestors. Most of the student bodies of elite schools consist mostly of affluent, white students. Then you have the minority students that come from a less affluent background that, typically cannot even afford to go to their dream school, or a school of that stature. These states that are banning race-based affirmative action are leading me to believe that they purposely want to rid away with the one possible thing that may make minorities overcome their disadvantages and rise. The small percentage of reserved spaces that institutions have for minority applicants is not that large to be challenged as much as it is. I believe that the individuals in the majority that want race-based affirmative action removed only feel so strongly about it because it is a policy that their people do not directly benefit from. However, what they do not understand is, even though minorities may directly benefit from it, so do the institutions. I do not feel as if colleges and universities implement race-based affirmative action for the well-being of minorities and to see them prosper. But, they do it to put up a facade that their student body is diverse, which, in the end, fortunately, benefits the minorities given the preferential treatment and the majority.

Second, implementing race-based affirmative action, within college admissions, is highly effective due to its approach towards remedying the products of past discrimination. Former discrimination, as I have previously stated, has put minority groups at an extreme disadvantage. The government believed that when they integrated schools, they have balanced out the opportunity for both white students and minority students to receive a quality education and compete within the future. During the 1965 commencement address at Howard University, President Lyndon B. Johnson explained the overall reasoning behind affirmative action: “But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say ‘you are free to compete with all the others’ and still believe that you are being completely fair. This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity – not just legal equity but human ability – not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” Thus, people that come from harsher circumstances and have more struggles should have similar treatment as the people who have everything together. That is why the implementation of affirmative action is necessary because it favors the minorities, which are the students that tend to struggle more are more likely to come from a less, privileged background. You cannot expect to give both groups equal treatment and the less privilege have the same opportunity to succeed. All-in-all, race-based affirmative action, basically, gives minorities an opportunity to become acclimated within the real world so they will have a fair chance to compete with the majority that has had an overabundance of years having the advantage.

The mistreatment of minority individuals by white people is the blame for the historic inequalities that continue to exist today. The legal acceptance of racial discrimination has allowed room for the majority to remain at an advantage over minorities. If such preferential treatment of minority groups did not occur, then all avenues of politics, profession, and education would remain dominated by white people. Additionally, the past discrimination that was posed against minority groups has manifested in so many different areas currently such as socio-economic deprivation, social exclusion, and stereotypes.

Lastly, the practice of race-based affirmative action, is effective because it will gradually pave the way for minorities to achieve equality in the future. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the enrollment rate for minority students from ages 18 to 24 have made it way to 41.7 percent, which is a tremendous step up from the 15.7 percent enrollment rate which existed in 1976. The minority graduation rate has also made much improvement since the implementation of this policy. Of the African-American students admitted into a four-year college in 1996, 39 percent of the students graduated within six years. For the African-American students entering a four-year college in the year of 2008, the graduation rate went up two percentage points. The graduation rate of Hispanic-Americans rose from 45.7 percent to 53.5 percent within that same time frame, which irrefutably shows improvement.

Also, by implementing this preferential act, it would force educational facilities to diversify their student bodies. Many schools perceive having “diversity” as having a student body in which the racial quota does not reach the extremes. For preparatory purposes, it would be ideal for college students to be taught within an atmosphere similar to the one of the real world that they will eventually confront when starting their career. To connect this to an analogy, its set along the same lines as a getting a new goldfish and putting them in water. It is highly recommended that when you buy a new fish, that you should place the bag of water, with the fish inside, into the desired body of water so that the fish’s familiar water temperature can adjust to the temperature of the body of water that he will eventually confront. To tie a bow around this, the new fish is a representation of the students and the familiar water is the diversity that is needed to get ready for the “pool” of diversity that the students will eventually encounter. While taking on these opportunities, the student will become submerged in the diverse atmosphere of the real world.

Furthermore, race-based affirmative action creates an environment in which diversity will be understood, experienced, and be perceived as being acceptable amongst the students. It will cause educational facilities to make better choices due to the fact that they will be more likely to take into consideration the concerns and backgrounds of minorities. This will cause a chain reaction to occur in which the longstanding prejudices about minority groups will then become less prevalent due to the students’ inclination to a diversified student body. Students can benefit in multiple ways from being given the experience to learn amongst schoolmates whose viewpoints and life experiences differ from theirs. Many people mistake this want for diversity as reverse discrimination, but without affirmative action taking place, think about how much of a misrepresentation that college campus will be without implementing this policy? Not only will it cripple the nonminority students, but it will cripple the whole student body due to the demographics not representing that of the United States of America. Without this policy being implemented, I, honestly, believe that the institutions will remain to allow their student bodies to be Caucasian dominated. History has not proven my assumption to be incorrect yet.

A personal connection that I made to this subtopic of diversity is the affirmative action that occurs within William & Mary. The topic of race-based affirmative action holds a special place in my heart because it is something that directly affects my life and education. For instance, I am an African-American black young lady who attended a predominantly black high school in Virginia Beach, Virginia. During college admissions time, I applied to many colleges and universities: some predominantly black and some predominantly white. I got accepted by a large amount of the institutions that I had applied for. However, the College of William & Mary offered me a scholarship that covers my tuition and fees for up to eight semesters. The scholarship is called The William & Mary Scholars Award. It is presented each year to a small group of academically distinguished students who have overcome unusual adversity and/or are members of underrepresented groups who would contribute to campus diversity. This minority scholarship paved the way for me to have the ability to receive my degree, so I can have a fair opportunity to be able to compete in the real world.

In conclusion, race-based affirmative action is highly effective because it gives compensation for former discrimination, remedies current discrimination, and prevents future discrimination towards minorities. There are not many disadvantages to race-based affirmative action, in my opinion. This compensatory policy is often looked at as reverse discrimination and people do not want this policy implemented. However, if this policy is not implemented, it is going to make it way harder for minorities to even become close to being equivalent to the majority, due to all of the major setbacks posed against minorities currently and throughout history. 

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The Effectiveness Of The Implementation Of Race-Based Affirmative Action In College Admission. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from
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