Racial Stratification Essay, Research Paper
There are several levels of racial stratification in post secondary education. One level is the heirarchy in these institutions of differing prestige that has been augmented by the collapse of affirmative action. America s top universities and colleges have utilized race-sensitive admission policies to increase the number of black, Hispanic, Chicano, Native American and other minority races for over three decades.
From the inception of affirmative action, conservative politicians and writers attacked this policy, and most recently the same rhetoric was used to dismantle affirmative action programs. The University of California announced that race would not be taken into consideration fin admissions policies, in 1995, where a 14-10 vote was cast by the regents of the university. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which prohibited any state institution can discriminate against, or grand prefrential treatment to, any individual group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethncity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” The wording of the entire text was deceptive and was quite different from the referendum in Texas that was voted against because in Texas the wording stated “affirmative action” rather than “preferential treatment.” California has been known in the past to be a
progressively “good” state to live in for minorities and Texas had been the “bad” state for minorities to live in, though with the past California Governor Wilson, that quickly was reversed.
By the following year at the Boalt Hall law school at Berkley, the top law school in California, enrolled only 1 black student, instead of the 24 black students enrolled for almost three decades. In Texas, the Texas Law school had previously enrolled 31 black students, only 4 black students were enrolled in 1997. Critics of affirmative action have argued that the affirmative action program hurt race relations within these higher learning institutions, rather than improved race relations. These critics also state that they have had to lower their admission standards to accept students who are not capable of benefitting from the education they receive, but further examination of this assertion must be reviewed.
The fruits of affirmative action have ripened for thirty years and without a doubt affirmative action has produced more successful black businessmen, proffessionals and community leaders. Although as studies have shown, when considering incomes as a primary factor, that black males who graduated from top universities with test scores equal to their white male counterparts in these same universities that white males found better paying jobs than did the black male graduates. A concrete statistic to refute those critics who avow that race should no longer be considered in admission policies and for those critics who have
exhaustively countered that racism is no longer alive in America.
The study, called the River study, showed that these same black males that graduated from the top universities fared a lot better and found better paying jobs than the black students from lesser known and prestigious universities. Black women who graduated from the top universities earned an average of 73 percent more than the average black women with a BA from other colleges. “While graduation from a selective college hardly guarantees a successful career, it may open doors, help black matriculants overcome any negative stereotypes that may still be held by some employers and create opportunities not otherwise available,” states Bowen and Bok.
It is proof positive that not only did the black male and female students benefit from graduating from a selective university, but this proved that these minority students were “fit” to attend the selective universities. If these minority students had not been “fit” to attend these institutions, they would have not been able to obtain or keep their well-paid jobs in business, law and medicine. Their education and ability allow them to offer valuable service to their employers and this is evident in the number of professionals in law, politics, medicine, science and the arts. Income is not the only indicator that affirmative action was successful in its goals.
From these selective institutes, black men are more involved with civic and community services than white men. This is in opposition from what
some critics have voiced their fear that an educated middle-class blacks would dispense with the concerns of the black communities. The River study shows that blacks have not shrugged off civic and community leadership when they have acquired success.
In 1989, when students were questioned how they would rank their college experience in improving their ability to “get along with” people of other races, 63 percent of whites and 70 percent of black marked “very important”. There was a 12 percent increase in the white students from the white students asked this question in 1976.
Critics of affirmative action have stated the negative impact of minority students in selective colleges that this merely augments racial tensions and causes racial isolation among the students. While black students comprised less than 10 percent of the student body in most of these selective colleges, when students were asked if they had “known well” two or more students that were different from themselves in the following areas, geographical, economical, and race, 56 percent answered in the affirmative.
Will the percentages of blacks in selective institutions be maintained without affirmative action and with race-neutral stardards utilized? The River study determines on a probability assertion, that a strict no-race admission policy will reduce the number of blacks in the prestigious universities by between 75- 50 percent. There have been some scholars that have stated that blacks and other minorities will be admitted in the same numbers by virtue that the minority students are poor. The number of poor applicants are dominantly white and not black as these scholars have suggested.
There are many factors that go into admission policies and the criteria used is diversified and many times these selective universities admit an applicant with a low SAT score over a high SAT score, by virtue of the community- mindedness the applicant has exhibited and at other times due to athletic ability. Is it unfair to allow race to be a criteria for allowing applicants in, when it is the future ability that they are being judged upon? Are 28 black students admitted at one of these selective institution unfair? With the fewer minorities admitted into these selective universities, it would be presumably so. Is it not a goal of these selective institutions to better prepare students for their future, not only academically, but with a community- mindedness that seems so absent in many white graduating students and isolating these students from exposure to different races can cause detriment to a sense of the American community mindedness so desparately needed for the future of this world. We should expect our institutions of higher learning to follow more than academic knowledge or we will only be educating those people who want nothing more than amassing wealth and power for themselves without any regards to better the community, states or country, from which they garner their living.
These kinds of people comprise the upper elite of this country, who have sheltered themselves behind gated communities or who have moved out of America entirely and have expected not to pay taxes, such as the heirs to Campbell soup, among others who have expatriated themselves. These are the kind of people who have created a caste system of life in America, for which they blame those people who have the least influence and power, for the American debt. They are the elite, who own most of the media, that spoon feeds us what they believe we should know and sets up a few of their hand-chosen candidates for the electorate to vote on, and vehemently deny that a ruling class exists in America; but as Mr. Lind explained in his article, “To have and not to have”, “the American oligarchy spares no pains in promoting the belief that it does not exist….”
These are examples of the kinds of people these prestigious institutions have provided our country. What should be expected from selective colleges is to admit people of a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including races, in order for our country to benefit from the variety of cultures and this would reflect throughout our entire system. Then more races and cultures would not only be better represented within the student body, but in faculty and administration, and only then could the statement that affirmative action is no longer needed.
The statement that affirmative action no longer is needed demonstrates the lack of real vision these selective colleges possess. It is imperative
that races come to know each other, in one of the best arenas life has to offer for such a pursuit, the institute of higher learning. What does it say for our country, when we are saying that the best mind of our future can not co-exist in our top universities? When we must ask questions such as this one, how much progress have we really made in our country? The irony is we are not speaking of some ignorant place in the far past that we are looking up at a movie screen, but we are speaking of the places where great minds are supposedly being honed by supposedly great minds.
There is friction between the races within these selective institutes, but there is also friction between the sexes, and between those who have more influence or more wealth and the list could go on, but racial friction seems to be the major friction that these selective institutes single out. Instead, these selective institutes should be handling the racial friction with a better approach than simply saying in essence, “let s get rid of the problem.” It is hard to believe these prestigious colleges have not considered better avenues to cope and deal with racial friction and if not, then why not? It couldn t be lack of resourcefulness, not at these institutions.
The proposals offered to replace affirmative action, such as a kind of colorblindness. Is this a proven theory? Where and when has this been successful? Is there statistics and studies that have shown that we have finally accomplished racial equality? The answers to all these questions is a resounding “No!” If we must go on evidence, all evidence has proven that we have not rid ourselves of racial inequality; to say we have, is to ignore the evidence we see surrounding us in our daily lives. “Anybody choosing to see the oligarch in its native habitat need do nothing else but walk down the street of any big city to an office tower housing a major bank, a corporate headquarters or law firm or a national television station. Enter the building and the multiracial diversity of the street vanishes as abruptly as the sound of traffic,” Mr Lind explains.
This proposal is based upon the fact that minorities have accomplished to succeed, but in very small numbers and the higher one climbs, the fewer the numbers of minorities can be seen. This is enough for these selective institutions to declare that affirmative action is no longer needed, but what they are missing to link is the minorities that have succeeded have done so largely because of affirmative action. The best evidence available supports the fact that affirmative action was not counterproductive but, indeed, accomplished its goals; and it would almost seem because it did accomplish its goals that it is being penalized by being abolished.
The Supreme Court decided that affirmative action was unconstitutional. The moral and practical costs of abolishing affirmative action far outweighs what costs have been to both white and minorities in the past thirty years. We have but to retrace the steps of our not so long ago past to see the costs of systematic racial discrimation, where these selective institutions were reserved for only one race. Somehow this has been forgotten or merely swept aside by those who believe that they don t benefit from affirmative action. Everyone benefits from affirmative action. The community itself has positive growth that enriches us all by adding their distinctiveness to our own, but it also creates a unity, when we are in such desperate need for unity.
It would be detrimental in ways that we are unaware of yet to not seek to re-enact affirmative action that only our descendents will suffer and look back on our time as a revisitation of “The Dark Ages”, where we reverted and turned against all enlightenment earned thus far, when comprehensive statistics and analysis have proven affirmative actions value. The detestable racial stratification will continue to grow without affirmative action and that some scholars have initiated and instituted its demise, can be only seen as a return to midevalism, but seen on the other end, it will accelerate the growing two-class system of elites and serfs this country has become.
The defeat of affirmative action is one of but many signals of the ending of an era that has been preoccupied with the amassing of wealth and power. More and more people are becoming acutely aware of not only the racial stratification and the gender inequalities that persist, though in a more diversified pattern than the out-and-out brand of yester years, but that our society has indeed become a two-class system, a caste system, and the diversionary tactics the elite used to pit the masses against each other, will no longer suffice, to keep us from demanding a better form of electing our officials, a better form of admittance into the best defense against a ruling-class—the selective institution.
1. Barnes, Julian E., “Houston Slows the Tidal Wave”, U.S. News, Nov. 11,
2. Bowen William G. and Bok, Derek, “The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions”,
Princeton University Press, 427.
3. Carelli, Richard, “Affirmative Actions Rulings Differ”, Associated Press.
4. Hacker, Andrew, “Goodbye to Affirmative Action”, The New York Review, July 11, 1996.
5. Graglia, Lino A., “Racial Preferences in Admission to Institutions of
Higher Education,” Howard Dickman, editor, The Imperiled Academy
6. Lind, Michael, “To have and to have not”, Harper s Magazine, June 1995.