The Race Card

I’ve been thinking about race a lot recently. Mostly it’s been in the form of “I hope grad schools have a quota, I hope grad schools have a quota, I hope grad schools have a quota.” But I’ve also worried about the deeper implications of getting accepted over another, equally qualified person solely on the basis of race.

And I’ve got to say: I have no problem with that.

The argument against affirmative action is thus:

Who cares that your ancestors were brutally assaulted by my ancestors. It has no bearing on your abilities now. You should play on an even playing field against people, regardless of race.

The argument for affirmative action is thus:

If my ancestors hadn’t been brutally assaulted by your ancestors, I would be in the same position as an average white person. This isn’t an even playing field, minorities start off with a handicap: affirmative action attempts to fix that.

The Race CardMy high school was chosen as one of Dateline’s 10 worst schools in the nation. I can name a dozen people from my graduating class that had a child before they turned 18. Statistically, only half of my school will graduate high school and only one tenth of those will graduate from college. My graduating class was 414, which was down from 811 my Freshman year. So you can see that the odds were stacked against us. [1]Note: this has as much to do with race as with class. Were there a Social Class Card, I’d use it here, but there isn’t. Hopefully there’ll be one soon, because I think affirmative action misses the aim by focusing on race rather than class.

I don’t know if that makes the thought of being accepted based on race any better, but it sure does ease my conscience. Had I been born in New Jersey rather than New Mexico, [2]Okay, Texas I would have had a chance to go to Rutger’s or another top-notch school. As it is, even with a great GPA and GRE scores, I’m fighting an uphill battle because my college wasn’t one of the top programs.

So, although I never pull the race card, I’ll do it here. Hopefully it’ll help me get into grad school. And my ego can handle it, because I know that if the playing field truly were equal, I would be able to compete with the best of them.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Note: this has as much to do with race as with class. Were there a Social Class Card, I’d use it here, but there isn’t. Hopefully there’ll be one soon, because I think affirmative action misses the aim by focusing on race rather than class.
2. Okay, Texas

About Pixel

Pixel Q. Styx refuses to talk about himself. If thou wishest, thou may infer from his blog what thou wishest.

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7 Responses to The Race Card

  1. Lee says:

    I hate the race card, I try to use it but I guess I am not seen as a race so I cant… Why is being white not a bad thing? Anyway… I think you have a good attitude. I think everything should be based on what you can and cant do. If someone is better then you and worked harder then you then why should you get the place just because of your colour… That’s racist and if it was based on a white kid getting a place over a coloured person (Can i use the word coloured? sorry if its bad) then it would be in the main news.

    I agree that what happened all them years ago was bad, but I don’t see why my kids should pay for what our ancestors did. I also think that we could go back in time and find many things that many races did but have not paid for it in anyway.

    I don’t judge anyone on the colour of their skin, and I don’t think anyone should judge me on mine too… Which happens but is never talked about.

    I always want to know that the person doing the job is the best for it, I read about firemen being picked because of the colour of their skin… I thought “If my kids died in a house because some guy could not do his job I would go mental” things are getting out of hand… and I think its abuse of the past…

    Sorry if I offended anyone 🙁

  2. courtney says:

    I wrote a paper on affirmative action once. In high school. When I really knew nothing about anything. Nice, right?

    You make a valid point though. The playing field is uneven for a number of reasons, and if you don’t use the “tools” available to you, whatever they may be, to get where you want to go, knowing you deserve to go there, you’re cheating yourself. Ends don’t justify means in every case, but I’m with you on this one.

  3. Pixel says:


    It’s weird how I completely agree with you, but still don’t see my position on this as a contradiction.

    In a lot of cases, race is irrelevant. Diversity for diversity’s sake seems ludicrous in many walks of life. Academia is not one of them.

    College is the culmination of 12 years of primary education. If a certain group was underrepresented in much of the process, I can understand why affirmative action would try to over represent them later on.

    Compared to some people, my community got a raw deal. The reasons are probably pretty simple (i.e. it was cheap land, so poor people moved in), but it doesn’t change the fact that I grew up in a disadvantaged part of the country. Thus, though I got all A’s in high school, I could not get into a better college for financial reasons. That seems to be working against me now that I’m applying to grad school.

    I truly would like to go one on one with all of my competition. I’m sure I would win. But right now I’ll take the hand-out because I don’t think I’ll get that competition if I don’t.


    It’s a tricky issue, I know, but I think I’m on the right side here too. Thank you for the support. It means a lot. Seriously.

  4. Lee says:

    I see your point, and there is no right answer because both sides have different issues.

    What sucks about most of it is its all based on History which “we” have zero control over, but have to live with it.

    I agree that you should take the hand out, remember you got it and oneday repay the handout if you get in a position to do so… Good karma is always good.

    I think that you can look at your state in a good light though, you have come from a “Community with a raw deal” and did the best you could… if not better, so you have learnt many things that the people who had it easy will not learn for many years (If ever) and that will benefit you more then you know.

    Good luck, really, don’t throw away the hand out though! Remember someone lost out because of it.

  5. Deutlich says:

    Ya know, I got into a pretty heated argument with some kids about this. If we didn’t have entire fucking school districts lacking in basic necessities like UP TO DATE BOOKS or decent freaking COMPUTERS or proper motherfucking TEACHERS this point would be moot. And these sort of situations tend to happen in predominantly black/latino communities.

    I definitely agree on the classist thing. That’s for sure.

  6. Kate says:

    I wrote one of my Honours papers on affirmative action (it’s a reasonably significant debate in NZ, and I looked at contrasting American/Canadian legal/judicial perspectives). Fascinating stuff, and I wasn’t persuaded away from my original “heavily “pro”” stance (I’m a white girl).

    White males have a tendency to forget that, historically, they are the beneficiaries of the most extreme “affirmative action” campaign in history (some philosopher said that, I forget who, but it resonated with me). History has everything to do with us now, and it’s naive to think it doesn’t. Maybe *I* don’t deserve to be punished for my ancestors’ actions, but Pixelation doesn’t “deserve” to still be living with the indirect consequences of my ancestors’ actions either.

  7. Pixel says:

    The tricky part is that it’s nobody’s fault, so everybody gets less than they deserve.

    Affirmative action is a sloppy solution. A combination of factors influence one’s future: Family history, school system, area, income, and other disadvantages. The reason AA works is that minorities often get the short end of the stick on a lot of those factors.

    In any case, what matters is not that I get in, but that I do the most with what I’m given. In that respect, I suspect I’ll work harder and do better than most. I don’t think about it like I took their position. Instead, I just think of them as keeping it warm until I got there. 🙂

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