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 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.