Recently, UCLA has found itself in hot water due to its disproportionately small number of black male undergraduate students. The statistics are glaringly lopsided, with the school’s latest freshman class composed of only 1.9 percent black males, the overall admissions of black students not being much larger. Many people have taken to blaming this woefully low statistic on California’s lack of affirmative action and have used it as a platform of debate on the topic of minority students and college admissions.
Affirmative action, to me, is well intentioned but reactionary. It’s attempting to solve a problem by focusing on the aftermath of it, and people are somehow shocked to find that the problem is still there. I think it’s actually overtly counterproductive in its attempt to offset racial disparity by holding minority students to lower standards. That’s not encouraging equality, that’s just opening the door for all the ignorant bigots to make comments about how the minorities just aren’t as smart as everyone else and should be treated that way.
If affirmative action is the only option currently available, I’m much more in favor of affirmative action based on socioeconomic standing. If we’re trying to make the system fair, giving special regard to people based on familial income as opposed to race seems infinitely fairer. Kids who come from families with low socioeconomic status are going to get subpar educations no matter what their race is.
A good percentage of the minority students who would’ve been helped by race-based affirmative action would probably still be given consideration under an income-based system seeing as how lower standardized test scores are correlated with lower incomes as well as race.
If someone’s primary school education is no good, why is it a surprise that it’s difficult for them to get a better secondary education? How are working class teenagers — of any race — supposed to establish high academic goals when they have slightly varying degrees of nothing to work with? That’s what I believe the problem is, not a conscious lack of racial consideration on the universities’ part.
Something that many people often fail to take into account is that — generally — less emphasis is placed on achieving high levels of education in low-income homes. The stereotypical “my child is going to go to college and get a better life” mentality that’s often shown in media is true for some low-income parents, but for many people in that situation educational success is graduating high school.
I’m not coming from a background where I was leaking privilege from my ears, either. I’m black, lower class, have multiple siblings and am from a single-parent household. My family just so happened to be one of the poor families that put an emphasis on education, but the majority of people around me could not give less of a fuck if their kids went to college.
In many cases they outright discouraged it because college runs on the expensive side of things, and college education is often depicted as a useless drain on monetary resources that puts people in debt and doesn’t even lead to a decent paying job afterwards to deal with said debt.
Yes, financial aid exists. But when you have no idea where to go about looking for it because your parents are just as new to the idea as you are, and the resources provided by your high school are nearly non-existent, the better option is often just to look for a job or go to a trade school.
Those are both perfectly legitimate courses of action, and I’m in no way saying that they’re inferior to the university/college route; but that’s a reality that needs to be taken into account when asking the question of “Why aren’t they getting into college?”
The lack of minority representation in UCLA is obviously an issue. Of course it is. Should the disparity have been pointed out? Yes. But asking that school to have “enough” minorities like some people are proposing won’t fix the problem. The roots of the issue are far from the admissions office of UCLA.
I commend the UCLA students for bringing light to the issue because it needs to be talked about, but it has to be understood that it cannot be painted in broad strokes. You can’t just say, “You need to let in more black kids because diversity,” and leave it at that. There is indeed nuance to the situation.