Is it Because I'm White? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 23, 2013
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Open scene on a warm spring evening. John Smith, an average-scoring white male, strolls contently into his upper-middle-class home.

He has received a letter.

It is from the top college of his choice.

With the eagerness of a young child opening presents on Christmas morning, he tears the ­envelope open.

His expression is quickly changed.

“Dear Mr. John Smith, we regretfully inform you….”

A single tear rolls down his cheek, and his face begins to turn red and contort with a mixture of anger and confusion. The letter lands in a crumpled and torn heap at his feet.

With a thud of knees colliding with wood, he collapses to the ground. John Smith throws his hands up in the air in a fit of rage.

“It's … because … I'm … WHITE,” he screams into the cold whispers of the night in exasperation.

It hits him. His sobs break him down into a ball of tears. He rocks back and forth on the ground. “Curse you, Affirmative Action!” he cries, shaking his fist. “racism …” he chokes between sobs.

Mr. Smith wished he could say good-bye to the sick, cruel, unfair world we live in right there and then, but he kept moving. On to the college of his second choice, which he got into.

Yes, this may be an exaggeration. But sadly, it does indeed represent the truth. In the U.S. today, many organizations use affirmative action in order to consider race in their assessment of applicants, and improve opportunities for historically excluded groups. And ignorantly, because of that, many non-minority students, similar to my fictitious John Smith, are blaming their rejection on their race.

Opponents of affirmative action, primarily upper-class white applicants, say that affirmative action is “reverse racism.” Abigail Fisher, a rejected applicant from University of Texas at Austin and center of the recent affirmative action case in the Supreme Court says, “I was taught from when I was very young that any kind of discrimination was wrong, and I question the example the university sets by considering race as a factor in admissions.” She believes affirmative action should not exist since it is a clear form of discrimination. Some opponents believe that racism and sexism are practically gone, and affirmative action is no longer necessary.

If the tables were turned, and whites were where minorities are today, they would not have these opinions. They would not be accusing affirmative action of being a form of “reverse racism.” Until the 1970's, blacks were treated with disrespect and inequality, especially in terms of education. Segregated schools, separate schools for blacks and whites, were not even deemed unconstitutional until 1954.

In a 1965 speech that led to the groundbreaking implementation of affirmative action, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race, and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” For many, many years blacks did not have the same access to an education as whites. Even when blacks finally were allowed to go to the same schools as whites, it could still not be defined as equal. White men held nearly every important position. All our presidents, CEOs, professors controlled everything, and were not exactly eager to let others in.

With affirmative action, this cycle of inequality could be demolished. Poorer and minority Americans would be able to go to college, get well-paying jobs, provide their children with the education they deserve. Able to “catch up,” so to speak, to rich white people who have had the privilege of going to school for hundreds of years.

And some of this catching up has taken place since affirmative action was implemented in 1965. Since then, the number of black students enrolled in college has increased by four hundred percent. Nearly three million black students are enrolled in college, and that number continues to grow. Times are definitely changing. When the word college comes to mind, people do not quickly imagine a sea of rich white males. People from all ethnic backgrounds, all classes, and, of course, genders are finally represented.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that asking for race on college applications was not unconstitutional, so basically colleges could individually decide whether or not they would use race as a factor. Another ruling stated that colleges and universities could not have a quota for the number of minorities they would accept. On October 10th, 2012, the Supreme Court justices met with Abigail Fisher, her lawyer, and the lawyer for the University of Texas. Supreme Court Justice Alito said, “I assumed affirmative action was designed to give a preference to students from ‘underprivileged backgrounds,' not for minority students from wealthy families.” This is ­exactly what I thought, and what I still think.

I believe that affirmative ­action should exist to help those from underprivileged backgrounds, and that socio-economic status and monetary situation should be considered since underprivileged students cannot afford to take SAT prep courses or hire tutors, and should be given the same opportunity as those who can afford these. And consequently when they achieve the same grades as those from wealthier backgrounds, it should be viewed as an even greater achievement. Because of their history of exclusion, the majority of lower-class people are minorities, not because they're not smart. Or because they're not hard workers. But because of a past filled with prejudice and intolerance. Now it is time to help.

What opponents of affirmative action don't understand is that if we ban this completely it will only increase the problem. In states that have banned affirmative action, diversity in colleges has declined enormously.

I also believe that even though socioeconomic status and race should be factors in college applications, they should certainly not be the most important factors. In an interview, Bill Powers, the president of University of Texas stated, “Grades, board scores, essays and other factors like leadership, awards, community activities, economic circumstances and race … no university or employer would fill all of its available slots based on grades alone.” I completely agree. Many factors should be included when considering college applicants. How is someone getting a slight preference due to their background different from someone getting preference for being good at sports? It's not. Neither has to do with grades, but both benefit the college, so both should be considered. Overall, grades and the level of motivation, creativity, and drive a student has should be critical factors for college admission.

In conclusion, I do think affirmative action is still necessary. States should not be allowed to ban it, and the idea of considering socioeconomic background should definitely be more important. Opponents of affirmative action don't realize how it can benefit others. Until every person in America is truly considered equal, we still need affirmative ­action. And that may take a while, but we won't get anywhere by banning it. We need to take action, and move into the future. An equal future.

So, no, it's not because you are white.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 2, 2015 at 10:07 pm
You wrote, "How is someone getting a slight preference due to their background different from someone getting preference for being good at sports? It's not." Actually, it is. Achievement in sports requires talent, work ethic, determination, leadership, teamwork, perseverance, and various other positive qualities that a person can cultivate and for which he should be rewarded. Au contraire, having any race, white, black, or pink, requires nothing. Had you, however, made the argument that achievin... (more »)
Ashley.Noel said...
Sept. 19, 2014 at 11:09 am
I totally agree. Affirmative action should be based on economic status, not where you are from or what you look like.
Caesar123 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm
Colleges should consider socioeconomic status when looking at applicants, yes. They should not consider race. What about poor white people? What about rich black people? They do exist you know. I also agree that many factors go into selecting who gets in and who doesn’t, but giving someone an edge because of their race, black or white, simply isn’t fair. When colleges look to separate us based on the color of our skin it only advances the idea that there are two different Americas, c... (more »)
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Mar. 2, 2015 at 10:01 pm
Well-said. Thank you. There *is* a huge distinction, and denying that is straight up racism, forwards, reverse, or any other way you turn it.
SomethingWitty said...
Feb. 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm
I have to thank you, because I was about to get really angry about someone complaining about reverse racism.
AnInkling said...
Sept. 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm
But the question isn't if a white male can "aford to pay" for collage, isn't it? The question is who deserves the scholarships based on adacemic preformances, and not everyone has to go to collage. If you can't pay for it and you do not dedicate yourself to your work hard enough to get a scholarship then a collage shouldn't pick you just because you are a female or not a white colored person. It doesn't matter what skin color anyone has. No skin color should deter... (more »)
SomethingWitty replied...
Feb. 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm
but why do you say that? Because it's not fair, right? Well it's not fair that college is so expensive and some people can pay their way through while others struggle to attend highschool. Sadly money talks way too loundly and so people don't have the same opportunities as others because of the social class they were born in. Doesn't that sound a little inequal? The fact is that the poorer people (at least in the US) are more often than not of a minority racial clas... (more »)
Anonymous said...
Jul. 12, 2013 at 10:40 am
Upper-class white applicants say that affirmative action is "reverse racism"? That's pretty funny. Especially considering the fact that the upper class are the ones who can actually afford to pay their tuition. I'm sick of people saying that minorities only get into college because of their race. It is a fact that, on average, Caucasians make more money than minorities. That's nothing new. It's just the way it's always been. We'r... (more »)
Artgirl1999 said...
Mar. 28, 2013 at 7:06 pm
Great job! 
Site Feedback