Affirmative action in the news again

The Washington Post and the New York Times are out with stories about the Supreme Court’s decision to revisit the issue of affirmative action in college admissions. Just nine years ago, the court ruled that schools could take race into account during admissions when attempting to achieve a diverse student body. The affirmative action debates are more than 4 decades old now, and I doubt I have anything fresh to say about the issue. So instead of opining on and on, I will mainly leave the argument for Tim Wise in the above video.

With that said, one small thing about the affirmative action debate really frustrates me. Opponents of affirmative action almost always rely upon the following rhetorical construction: If the denied applicant had been Black (or some other marginalized race), they would have gotten in. Therefore, the denied applicant was a victim of racial discrimination. The problem with this is that one’s racial categorization is not something that can be conceptually switched on and off without other consequences obtaining. Had the denied applicant actually been Black (or some other marginalized race) and had to endure all of the structural barriers and oppression such an identity entails, it is not at all certain that they would have gotten in. In fact, judging from the aggregate data, it is clear that they are even less likely to have gotten in.