Two people from my high school got into the same college I did. We were all in the top 10 of our class, but none of us were in the top 5. One was a white guy who was a brilliant piano player. The other was a white girl who excelled at sports. Then there was me. I had the “does lots of activities” application. You know the type of
d-bag kid I’m talking about: debate this, mock trial that, sports, school plays, bands.
Also, I’m black. Do you think that might have had something to do with it? I hope it did, since it seems to me that my race is at least as much of a factor in what I may add to an incoming college class as whether I could play the piano or dominate in field hockey.
Of course, saying race can be a factor in college admissions is controversial. A certain segment of the population gets all bent out of sorts when a “deserving” white student potentially gets “passed over” because a college official gave a person of color “extra points” when making up the entering class of students.
I find these arguments totally irrational. If the top five students from my high school were passed over — three Jews and two Asians (you know, the real victims of affirmative action, if there are any) — then who exactly “took” their spots? Me, or the sports chick? And if an Asian guy “takes” my spot, but I bump down the piano player who didn’t score as well as I did, and the piano player takes the spot of some poor Hispanic kid who has never seen a piano in real life, would everybody say that we all got what we deserved?
Coming up with an effective way to balance all of the relevant factors in college admissions is hard. But when race is involved, people don’t want to deal with “hard,” and they don’t want to hear “complicated.” They want simple rules and a few platitudes they can recite on television. After yesterday’s Fifth Circuit decision upholding affirmative action at the University of Texas, the only question is whether the Supreme Court has the will and intellectual rigor to think through something hard, or whether the majority will want to fall back on truisms and clichés…