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:
Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Your institution accepted you because they thought you could succeed. Period. You belong in college.