Letter to the Editor: Affirmative Action

Letter to the Editor: Affirmative Action

Dear Pitch Opinion Editors,

We are writing in response to a recent article your opinion editors wrote on affirmative action. While certain aspects of the “pro” side are sound, such as uplifting black and Latino college applicants, we found other aspects of the article to be oversimplified and stereotypical. We do not intend this letter as a personal attack, or to discourage freedom of opinion. We did, however, find discrepancies in the writing that we feel are necessary to address.

Firstly, we are concerned about sourcing in the “pro” argument, specifically the lack of it (one source was cited for the entire argument). The “against” argument, by Blake Bailey, cites a valid legal case in California relevant to his argument, and uses it to supplement his argument of decreasing diversity in California schools. The “pro” argument states that “70% of college students would be Asian women”, but provides no statistic or link to a potential source that would corroborate this information, and fails to connect this information to uplifting black and Latino students. While it is also plausible that girls develop faster than boys, it would be beneficial to the argument to include a source, and how exactly this impacts learning differences between genders. Much of the cited evidence is used in a way that attacks irrelevant parties: for example, the argument links white and Asian groups’ access to resources like SAT tutoring and Kumon to higher-income groups being advantaged in college applications. Writing of “various developmental and cultural reasons” Asian women are better, even if it is intended to discuss discrimination against their “incredible talent”, insinuates that Asian women are advantaged by virtue of being Asian. In fact, many of the advantages attributed to race in the article are attributed to differences in income, and while race and ethnicity are correlated to income, generalizing an entire group of people oversimplifies the issue and implies that white and Asian students benefit equally

Further, we find the use of “Asian” throughout the argument to be a gross oversimplification of race’s role in college admissions. Using “Asians” as an umbrella term for all Asian students fails to acknowledge differences between Asian people. The article references an entire race and sums them up to be equal to white people — the “developmental and cultural advantages” mentioned in the article do not affect all Asian people equally. There are thousands of different cultures in Asia — to equate a Bangladeshi applicant to a Chinese applicant ignores differences in their cultures and implies they have enjoyed the same privileges. To that point, using “Asian” is very different from using “Asian American”, and to sum their experiences up as “advantaged” is to project a flat, stereotypical view onto white and Asian people.

While most of the argument is sound, its wording suggests ideas that deviate from its intent. For example, the author writes that it is “no secret that [Black and Latino] candidates are less qualified… than their white and Asian counterparts.” While this statement is intended to acknowledge systemic disadvantages, it conveys the idea that Black and Latino people are fundamentally inferior. The article takes a clear stance in stating affirmative action is used to uplift Black and Latino students, but its argument suggests policies that mostly target higher-income students (see above discussion on race and income).

We are not writing to disparage free expression and the importance of affirmative action — we support affirmative action as a way to uplift disadvantaged groups. We are writing to criticize the lack of research, citing, nuance, and general oversimplification of this issue. We hope to see more oversight to opinion editing in the future, and for you to include voices of students and minorities in your next article.


Concerned Students

Further reading:
https://www.americanprogress.org/article/wealth-inequality-among-asian-americans-greater-tha n-among-whites/

https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2018/6/27/17509140/admissions-bias-personalities-harvard-af firmative-action