African Americans Should Oppose Racial Preferences

By Clegg, Roger | Black Issues in Higher Education, January 29, 2004 | Go to article overview

African Americans Should Oppose Racial Preferences


Clegg, Roger, Black Issues in Higher Education


Did that title get your attention? It's not clear how supportive African Americans are of racial preferences in the first place. Supporters of preferences like to use the term "affirmative action," which is supported by most African Americans, but it's not the same thing. The old forms of affirmative action--positive, proactive measures to end discrimination, and aggressive outreach and recruiting in markets shunned by those uninterested in the minorities there--are legally unproblematic and accepted by everyone. The only kind of affirmative action at issue today is preferential treatment, something African Americans are less likely to endorse.

To convince African Americans that they ought to oppose these preferences, they must be persuaded that the costs outweigh the benefits. The supposed benefit in the context of college admissions is obvious: It enables Black students to get into a school to which they would not otherwise have gained admittance. Better school equals better job opportunities and more money. What can possibly outweigh that? Here's the list.

* They're insulting. By lowering academic qualifications for Blacks, it inevitably sends a message that Blacks can't be expected to compete intellectually with other groups. This reinforces the stereotype of Black intellectual inferiority I that Blacks can't possibly be held to the same academic standard as Whites or Asians.

* They're literally de-grading. People will assume that all Blacks who are at or have gone to an institution made it only because the standard was lowered for them. So someone choosing a pediatrician, for instance, will now prefer to have a non-Black, and thus be reassured that she is not getting an "'affirmative action doctor."

* They mismatch. If Black students are admitted according to a lower standard than other students, then they will in the aggregate be less academically qualified than the other students at that university. But, aren't you better off going to a better regarded, more selective school, even if you are less qualified than most of the other students? No. You will learn less, you will get worse grades, and you will be less likely to graduate. …

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