Some of the most bizarre and interesting years in our lives are about to start.
The beautiful moment is one in which we allow for our lives to change.
The answer is, of course.
The other evening, I was sitting with a bunch of my roommates and their boyfriends down in the living room and the conversation turned to one involving affirmative action.
What disturbed me most about this conversation was how angry the two white men sitting in the room were - they talked about how affirmative action makes it “easier” for minorities, such as African Americans, to get into top universities and graduate programs, as opposed to whites. While they acknowledged that there are historical inequalities that make affirmative action necessary, they remained upset over the fact that a “rich black man” who “has everything” has a much higher chance of getting into, say, Harvard Law than a white man of lesser financial means.
No system (even ones targeting inequality) are perfect, but the fact is that both of these men used the “us-vs.-them” rhetoric in which minorities are inevitably privileged by their instructors (e.g. given higher grades on assignments, even if their work is of a poorer quality). Both men complained that they were the ones being discriminated against - that because they are white, attending Berkeley was more difficult because their teachers “liked them” less and expected more out of them. Even worse, one of these men admitted to making blatant references to his homosexuality when talking to his teachers so that they would be “easier” on him.
At no point did these men refer to their own white privilege. And really, they weren’t talking about affirmative action at all - they were displacing their own anxieties and failures onto others. One of these men dropped out of Berkeley, partly on the claim that the grading system is too subjective. The other man graduated from Berkeley, but claims that the Education minor is full of minorities that the teachers coddle.
The fact is, both of these men did not get the grades that they wanted, and they blamed this on how the “system” was unfair to them. Not once did they seem to think, “This person received the higher grade not because they’re African American or Japanese, but because they deserve it.” Not once did they seem to ask themselves, “What is it about my own study habits that I can improve on in order to get the results that I want?”
This conversation was particularly enraging because all the women sitting there (three of us) were minorities who have been taught from day one that not only are we at a disadvantage because we are female and women of color, but that we are the ones that must work harder in order to fit ourselves to the system, not so that the system can fit itself around us.