If We’re Undoing Affirmative Action, Can we Undo Unconsious Bias Too?
Like many people, I too couldn’t believe my eyes reading the comments Justice Antonin Scalia made during oral arguments in the Fisher v. Texas case this week, suggesting that black students should not be admitted to “advanced” schools but “less advanced” or “slower track” schools and wrongly exclaiming that black scientists don’t go to advanced schools like University of Texas. (tell that to UT graduate Neil deGrasse Tyson)
It’s shocking that a sitting U.S. Supreme Court could utter such racist things from the Bench. There was no legal value to the statements and they went beyond the scope of his duty while hearing arguments.
Many people kind of already suspected he held racist thoughts and ideals based on his past opinions, so these inflammatory statements were just confirmation to some.
But I’m not going to address that here.
I would like to challenge all those who want to see an end Affirmative Action.
If we are to do away with all perceived application of race in the college and work setting, then we should eliminate all unearned benefits explicit and implicit, in fact and in effect.
Understandably, many won’t be as easy to dismantle as through a series of court cases because they are so ingrained in the fiber of our society and history.
First, Affirmative Action is not quotas.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act expressly forbids quotas and states that it is unlawful to make a hiring decision based on race or gender.
Affirmative Action is more nuanced and has been instituted, traditionally, to make up for past injustices and bias, and for ongoing unequal education in America’s public school systems where White students, generally, are afforded more access to quality schools and education than Black and Hispanic students, generally.
Despite its purpose to redress past wrongs against Black Americans, the majority of beneficiaries of Affirmative Action programs has been White Women; and some argue students of recent African or Caribbean heritage whose immediate ancestors were not subjected to Jim Crow, Slavery, or any other historical injustice that Affirmative Action is created to redress.
In college admissions, Affirmative Action plans utilize various tactics to ensure a racially diverse student body. (like the University of Texas’ Top 10 Percent from all Schools in the state auto-admit policy)
However, as in the Texas case and in many schools around the country, race is but ONE factor out of many that is taken into consideration.
If we are going to be nixing the race factor because it is explicit, we should also do away with factors that have the effect of excluding Blacks and Hispanics
- A “Daughters of the American Revolution War” scholarship that is administered through a school will most likely always be awarded to a White student.
- Any points given to local residents of a town that is 98% White will benefit mainly White applicants.
- Points given to legacy applicants whose parents attended the school will often benefit White applicants in schools with little racial diversity historically.
- Consideration given to family of wealthy donors when most donors have been White.
All of these factors are based on things that have nothing to do with an applicant’s test scores, grades or other qualifications, yet because they do not explicitly mention race, despite the fact the effect/impact is race-based, then no-one raises a stink about them.
Also, what do we do about unconscious bias in the workplace that usually benefits white and Asians to the detriment of blacks, Hispanics and in some instances women?
It’s those deep seated stereotypes, preconceived notions and subconscious personal biases to favor someone from your background, gender, race and culture over those not.
And they work against minorities many times.
My husband, for example, was once not given a job because the last black person in the position he was looking to get was late all the time. An insider at the job leaked that information to him.
Although he was amply qualified, race-based bias did him in.
Not hiring a woman in a supervisor position because one may not think males on the staff would respect a woman supervisor is bias that isn’t spoken but exists and impacts decision-makers in hiring many times.
We all have them but when the majority of people in power positions are from one race or culture, that sometimes explain imbalance in fields where there is ample qualified applicants of all race, yet the workplace remains monolithic.
People hire people who look like them.
Side note: Everyone should watch this superb Google Ventures presentation which breaks down Unconscious bias perfectly.
That is unearned advantage based not on skill, background, test scores or grades.
Sure, take back Affirmative Action but give up the privilege of being on the winning side of unconscious bias too.