'Affirmative Action Seemed to Tarnish My Achievements'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The most compelling email I’ve seen in our discussion so far:

I am a black student who went to an Ivy League School for undergrad and now applying to graduate school. I am very split about affirmative action. On one hand, I hate it. I am never recognized for any of my accomplishments, never given the respect I feel is due because of affirmative action. When I got into my Ivy League undergrad (and unlike Abigail Fisher, I was actually in the top 10 percent of my class when I was applying to college). I took the second hardest course load in my school, had a 2250 SAT, and pretty much knocked the Verbal section out of the park by getting a cool 800.

But the same classmates I went to school with, spoke to, and beat in competitions grumbled behind my back: “It was affirmative action.” That cut me deeply in a way that I have never forgiven them.

I do believe that even without affirmative action, I, and many other smart black students, would have had a good chance of getting into a top school. Instead, affirmative action seemed to tarnish my achievements like a black mark. More than that, some students I went to school with underperformed because they “had AA” or were told to rely on “AA.” So I’d like to see AA go.

On the same hand, I do not want to see AA go. Why? Because our college system is not fair. At my Ivy, I met some very dumb people who were legacy admits (why should you go to school because your father or mother went there?), development admits (mom and dad gave the school money), prep students who play obscure sports (polo, squash, sailing, horseback riding, etc.) and mediocre sons of professors, famous people, or CEOs.

Yet there is no outcry over that. No one cries over precious school spots going to Bobby Goldberg from Andover who plays squash for Yale. But a black girl whose race was the tipping factor? Cue the cries of unfairness.

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