Affirmative action policies in higher education help mediate the real race-based disadvantages that some minorities face, above and beyond class-based disadvantages that are faced by people of color and whites alike.  They have a nefarious dark side, though; a dark side that causes even people who otherwise support affirmative action to question the approach to alleviating racial inequality.  They sometimes undermine the self-confidence of minorities admitted into college, as this PostSecret confession suggests:

College students often have a pretty poor understanding of admissions processes.  In the absence of any real information, it’s easy to let stereotypes and biases inform beliefs about how any individual student got into college.  A student of color, then, may be viewed as less-deserving of admission regardless of their grades, test scores, and extra-curricular activities.

More perniciously, they may question their own qualifications for admission, even when they have significantly out-performed their white peers.

A simple message to college students of color, for what it’s worth:

Your institution accepted you because they thought you could succeed.  Period.  You belong in college.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.