Kaylah Goldrich, Editor-in-Chief

After four years of stretching yourself thin — taking advanced classes, being in every extracurricular, getting perfect grades — when it is finally time to apply to college, you feel pretty good about your chances to attend your dream school, Harvard. Your dad went there, his dad went there and so on, and you want to continue the family legacy. But then you get rejected.

It would be very easy to attribute this rejection to affirmative action, claiming that the reason you didn’t get in is because you’re white. But the fact is that not everyone will be accepted into a college of their choice, even if they have a strong application. But those who ascribe their rejection to affirmative action only perpetuate racist ideology. It leads to the belief that minority students are accepted because of their race, thus diminishing their accomplishments and intelligence.

Affirmative action was developed to provide everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, equal educational opportunities and access. This development is an essential step in achieving equality in a system historically built upon discrimination.

Most colleges have excluded minorities since their founding, so they have historically only focused on educational opportunities for white students. Without taking race into account during admissions, the racist systems from the past, if left unchecked, will dictate who is allowed access to selective universities.

For instance, “legacy students,” children of alumni, have significant advantages during admissions. These benefits are due to past racial exclusion where prestigious schools only admitted white families. Therefore, it is far less likely for minorities to be legacy students. Affirmative action initiatives, however, prevent this racist cycle.

These programs are often misconstrued as making race the determining factor in admissions. But this is simply not true. Affirmative action efforts include targeted outreach and recruitment efforts, after-school and mentorship programs and the widening of criteria for admissions.

A common criticism of affirmative action is that it is no longer necessary. That as a society, opportunities for minorities have expanded, so the conditions that used to justify it are no longer relevant in the modern-day.

But this is not the case. According to the ACLU, millions of Americans still “experience race and gender barriers in education, contracting and employment.” Legislation aimed at preventing this discrimination exists, but these laws are not enough.

For instance, in 2006, the University of Michigan halted its affirmative action initiatives, according to The New York Times. As a result, Black undergraduate enrollment declined from 7% to 4% as of 2021, even as the total percentage of college-age African Americans in Michigan increased. At the same time, Native American enrollment, once at 1%, dropped to 0.11% in 2021.

The Washington Post reports that white Americans are more likely to oppose affirmative action than other racial groups, with nearly two-thirds in opposition. While many claim to favor merit-based, “color-blind” policies, it is because they benefit from the current discriminatory system and don’t want to change it. They claim that when someone is accepted into college because of affirmative action, someone more “deserving,” oftentimes a white person, is denied.

I recognize that I benefit from these historically discriminatory systems, and so it would be easy for me to discredit affirmative action. However, I also acknowledge how close-minded and unfair that mindset is. If we all claim to support equality, why denounce initiatives that are bringing about necessary change?