The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 42.0°F | A Few Clouds and Breezy

COLUMN

I am a Racist

Rick Rajter

Affirmative action is a hotly debated and extremely polarizing issue affecting every level of government, education, and business in this country. What upsets me the most is that both sides, the “disadvantaged” minorities and the “advantaged” majorities, actually tend to agree that hateful racism is despicable and should be eliminated from this world in favor of a color blind society. Non-hate driven racism, however, will always exist by the very nature of cultures and ethnicities being so full of pride, but that’s an article for another day.

In the battle between Nicholas Baldasaro [“Affirmative Action and Human Psychology”, Oct. 5], and the combined team of Jacob Faber and Pius Uzamere [“Affirmative Action Doesn’t Short Change Others”, Oct. 15], I’m going to side with Baldasaro. Thus, I have chosen my fate to be forever deemed a racist. This is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that there is no way one can objectively point out flaws in an affirmative action policy in the eyes of an affirmative action supporter. I might as well try and track down Santa Claus.

Faber and Uzamere make the claim that affirmative action only takes place at the very end of the selection process and therefore is only a process of splitting hairs between two highly qualified candidates. Well... who cares at what point along the path the decision occurs? If a person is a non-minority “advantaged candidate” (whatever the hell that means) and makes the first round of acceptable candidates, but then actually gets officially accepted at a lower rate, he is in fact (and here’s the important point) under qualified when you look at the entire admissions process as a black box (no pun intended). Think about this for a moment. An “advantaged” candidate made it to the final pool, but had an unequal shot once he or she got there. The only way that “advantaged” person could have been accepted then at an equal rate in the final round is if they were, as a group, marginally more qualified than the minority candidates and accepted into this final pool at a higher percentage. Since a system of accepting students is hardly as quantitative as one could possibly conjure up, it is quite possible that a person with marginally better qualifications gets overlooked anyway by not having the ethnicity qualifications (or in MIT administration speak “diversity”) qualifications.

Can you at least see how this thought process is not hard to go through? It took me all of five minutes. And honestly, I hope it’s not true, and certainly don’t preach that it is. But in allowing a systematic discrimination against non-minorities, you’re opening the flood gates to a whole lot of “yeah, he got the job because he was ___ and I wasn’t.” You may not like that line of thinking and call it sad and unjustified, but the only way you’ll eliminate any validity of such arguments is to eliminate the bias. Period.

Affirmative action supporters are also in a constant state of paradox with the actual effectiveness of the program. They play an impossible balancing act; downplaying the negative impact on majorities getting “back of the bused” for minority candidates, while screaming that it’s absolutely essential for the livelihood of the minority. To give an example, it’s like saying an advantaged kid getting pushed down from MIT to WPI has no impact whatsoever on his success and happiness for the rest of his life. The minority on the other hand, has to be accepted at MIT over WPI or will be forever doomed to a life of failure, which will then propagate for three family generations. I’m obviously exaggerating, but the point I’m trying to make is that you can’t have it both ways. I tend to have faith in that a driven person will be successful no matter what comes up in life. Therefore a difference between MIT and WPI (or even ITT Tech) will not slow them down. Just ask Harvard drop-out Bill Gates.

Then they make the argument that (paraphrased) “of course we don’t believe this should be a long term program, and should be dismantled eventually”. Not surprisingly, they were not the first to say this. Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League, made this very same point when he was rallying for affirmative action support back in 1963. In fact, he said that it should take only a decade to level the playing field. A Decade. Fast forward 41 years and affirmative action is not only still here, it’s expanding. The truth is you can offer no set deadline for affirmative action policies because there is no end in site. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and affirmative action is just such a paradox.

Finally, in looking to showcase a benefactor of affirmative action, who do they pull out as their ace in the hole? Why it is none other than... Condoleezza Rice? Is that it? Are you serious? At best she is controversial. At worst she is a puppet of the Bush administration, rattling off “talking points” when faced with real questions about specific failures in her actions, decisions, and leadership. Placing her on a pedestal while cheering and clamoring about the benefits of affirmative action is, well, pretty sad actually.

I would really enjoy an open discussion on this topic. Unfortunately emotions take over when debating the positives and negatives of affirmative action. As I said before, I know I am a racist simply because I dissent about affirmative action policies. Despite what you probably think of me, I actually want the same thing that Faber and Uzamere want -- a color blind society. I hope that even if you don’t agree with me, you can at least see how affirmative action will always prevent this from truly happening. No amount of diversity awareness programming or mandatory diversity requirement classes will ever remove the stigma surrounding affirmative action by those who don’t benefit from it. Perhaps someday, Faber and Uzamere will not identify Baldasaro with racism, but as someone who is fighting for the elimination of a system promoting it.

Rick Rajter is a graduate student at MIT.