The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Editorial: Narratives distort affirmative action

Margaret Cartee
“Affirmative action” has transformed into a buzzword, ironically leaving behind the nuances of the policy and transforming into a reason to blame others.

In an environment as dedicated to excelling in the college admissions process as Harker, every policy and factor matters. Affirmative action always stood out, bringing the topic to center stage this June. Some mourned the ban of affirmative action, some anticipated a more equal shot at college admissions, but everybody had an opinion. Will the ban really enable equality? 

Affirmative action as we know it today originated in the 1960s in order to create equal opportunity for people regardless of race or ethnicity. More recently, colleges used affirmative action “as one element in a range of factors” for the purpose of “achieving the benefits to be derived from a diverse student body.” In this same case from 1978, the Supreme Court forbade colleges from using race-based admissions to right past discrimination or create race-based quotas. On June 29, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in 6-2 and 6-3 decisions, citing that affirmative action is a form of racial discrimination.

In a 24-hour survey conducted on the Harker Aquila Instagram on Aug. 14, 34% out of 118 respondents agreed with the Supreme Court ruling, with an additional 23% who strongly agreed. 21% disagreed, and 22% strongly disagreed. A sentiment especially prevalent at Harker, opponents of affirmative action characterize it as forms of “reverse racism” and “reverse discrimination” which undermine the idea of a meritocracy. 

The model minority myth depicts a minority group that achieves a higher socioeconomic status through their hard work and innate talent. This myth of success represented as the truth of an American meritocracy is a way in which individuals can dismiss systematic disenfranchisement and lack of access to resources like Advanced Placement (AP) classes or qualified teachers as a lack of ‘hard work.’ All demographics boast success stories, but their existence does not negate greater trends and barriers certain groups face. Students do not exist in a vacuum, so should the analysis of their efforts take place in one?

At Harker, we are fortunate to be able to learn from qualified teachers, meet with easily-accessible college counselors, utilize resources to pursue a variety of activities and have access to many other privileges. Even though this doesn’t guarantee admission, it significantly helps our chances of being admitted by contributing to a strong college application. With these advantages, we should look to acknowledge the greater barriers other students may face and prevent the model minority myth from coloring our perception of the world. 

Though affirmative action succeeds at creating diverse classes, it only acts as a band-aid to deeper-rooted racial and socioeconomic disparities. Even so, we cannot ignore the imperfections of the real world in favor of tearing off band-aids for not being all-in-one fixes to the skewed status quo. Affirmative action bans, such as the one in the University of California (UC) system in 1996, result in little impact on white and Asian students’ professional opportunities after college. However, underrepresented minorities, like Hispanic, African American and Native American students, suffered both in matriculation to higher education and salaries after college. 

The narrative of college admissions serving as a zero-sum game only drives further wedges between minority groups, as the internalized model minority myth correlates to anti-affirmative action and anti-Black sentiments. Even though the model minority myth provides the illusion of success and of upward mobility, minorities pushing each other down only preserves a system which maintains the status quo of inequity. Additionally, as a majority Asian community dedicated towards education. This allows competitiveness to pervade the environment at Harker, where many students have a similar cutthroat notion of college admissions.

“Affirmative action” has transformed into a buzzword, ironically leaving behind the nuances of the policy and transforming into a reason to blame others. We must aim to look past generalizations and towards nuance in order to ground ourselves in the real world and other people, not in hypercompetitive anxiety and narratives like the model minority myth.

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About the Contributors
Margaret Cartee
Margaret Cartee, Aquila Co-Managing Editor
Margaret Cartee 12) is a co-managing editor for Harker Aquila, and this is her fourth year on staff. This year, Margaret wants to do more illustrations and meet all the new journalists in the program. In her free time, she likes sketching on paper, playing volleyball and sitting in chairs.

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    Will GonsiorSep 20, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    Great article, well researched and opinionated as I like them 🙂
    How do you know that this is seen as reverse discrimination at Harker? A rebuttal to affirmative action that I have heard is that it has kept schools complacent when they should be making admissions more socioeconomically equal than they are right now, that the best way to help underprivileged ethnic groups is to target those with worse economic situations, because when those getting helped first are members of disadvantaged groups who have more resources, then few things change for that group on the whole.