How Is Anyone Whining About Affirmative Action While Legacies Are Still A Thing?
Once upon a time, there was a fella. A fella from a very rich, very old, very white family–descended from both Mayflower passengers and royalty. Like many a scion of a very rich, very old, very white family, he attended a very prestigious boarding school–Phillip’s Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Though, if you’re from the kind of family he’s from, you just call it “Andover.” At that boarding school, he was a C student, and–reportedly–kind of a bully and an asshole.
Yet, because he was from a very rich, very old, very white family, he got to go to a little college in New Haven called Yale, where many members of his very rich, very old, very white family went. He did not do so well in school there either, frankly. Later on, in the 80s, he became an alcoholic at some point, and then Governor of Texas, and later, that man became the President of the United States, and sent young men and women who did not generally come from very rich, very old, very white families to die in a bullshit war. A war that is by the way responsible for many of the problems we are facing today.
And that, my dear friends, is just one of the ways that we as a country have been screwed by the legacy system.
Once again, the topic of Affirmative Action is in the news. Last week, the Supreme Court heard the case of Abigail Fisher, a white woman who believes that she was passed over for admission into the University of Texas at Austin in favor of minority students, because of Affirmative Action.
As you may be aware, this is not entirely the case! Or even sort of the case! As Rutgers professor Elise Boddie explained in the New York Times last week, “Although one African-American and four Latino applicants with lower combined academic and personal achievement scores than Ms. Fisher’s were provisionally admitted, so were 42 white applicants whose scores were identical to or lower than hers. Similarly, 168 black and Latino students with academic and personal achievement profiles that were as good as, or better than, Ms. Fisher’s were also denied, according to the university.”
Now, the Univerity of Texas at Austin doesn’t have a legacy program. They do, however, have a history of admitting students with less than stellar grades if those students are the children of influential state legislators. If I were a Texan, I would be way the hell more pissed off about that than five minority students getting provisionally admitted to college.
The fact is–we have affirmative action for minorities to counteract the affirmative action that already exists for white people. Now, clearly, not all white people are legacies at Yale, not all white people are the children of influential state legislators.
Studies show that job applicants are 50% more likely to hear back from an employer if they have a white name. When we live in a system in which the majority of people in power are white (and male), and if those people are more likely to favor those that look like them–we have a problem that is not going to be fixed on its own. A white person who isn’t rich might not be a legacy, but they could still benefit from the fact that most legacies are white people, due to the way hiring practices often work.
Hell, people with black sounding names are even 16% less likely to hear back from a damned AirBNB host. Most of the things Abigail Fisher will do in her life, from getting a job to taking a vacation, will be just a little bit easier because she is white. If one time, she feels that something is more difficult, then perhaps she–and anyone else who feels they need to complain about affirmative action–needs to take a minute and reflect upon that.