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📝: Stacy Vazquez 📅: July 2, 2023 🔗: /affirmative-action-outlook
Job Stealer, Spot Stealer, Dream Stealer: an outlook on Affirmative Action from an FGLI, minority college student
In the twenties, while some enjoyed their fortunes and lavish lifestyles, others discovered that the American Dream extended beyond financial success and entailed social and self-acceptance. Even the rich discovered the American Dream was unattainable. Their sentiment was further strengthened in the decade to come.

In today's twenties, while some enjoy their legacy college acceptances and generational wealth, other students discover that people view their success as a handout in the name of 'diversity'. And, as a result, the American Dream remains unattainable. Our sentiment was further strengthened by the ruling of the Supreme Court a few days ago which favored institutional barriers and the social unacceptance of minority students in higher education.

When I read the Great Gatsby in eleventh grade, I learned that not all money and success were seen as equal. I was introduced to the distinction between old money and new money. And, my perspective on the country I lived in changed.

I grew up a strong believer of the American Dream. My immigrant parents have always been extremely grateful for the life they were able to build in this foreign country. So, they shared their American Dream with me: to see me and my sister as college graduates. As an American-born daughter of immigrant parents, I never doubted my ability to make their dreams come true because this country praised fairness and opportunity for all.

However, as I grew older I began to see past the haze of promises and 'inspirational' words spoken by our leaders. The struggles and obstacles faced by immigrants and their children became clearer and clearer. We are not welcome here, and a significant number of fellow Americans only see us as trespassers and “job stealers.” Many of our communities continue to live in impoverished conditions, our success limited by government policies and language barriers. In the words of Michelle Obama, “the ground is anything but level.”

Those who do see us as the backbone of this country perceive our role as toilet-cleaners or fieldworkers. We are simply not considered capable of being part of the “select few” who excel. We are viewed as the lower class necessary for the success of other groups.

Nonetheless, I completed eleventh grade believing that times were changing. The growth and celebration of self-made individuals served as proof.

But, college admissions tell a different story.

I discovered the complex nature of college admissions too late. In ninth grade I learned that good grades and academic achievement did not suffice to compete. By tenth grade, I began pursuing more extracurricular activities, challenging coursework, and intellectual enrichment. I had two years to obtain commendable test scores, engage in impressive extracurricular activities, and discover the world mission and outlook I would provide on my college applications. By the end of eleventh grade, with my college admission fate practically sealed, all that was left was to condense my life and dreams into a compelling application.

So, why did I put so much effort into getting into a Top 10 school? For the same reason any American, minority or not, would want to attend one: funding, research, and the opportunity to create change.

Did I need the “affirmative action handout”? Absolutely. While some students were writing textbooks, I was saving up to afford them. While others were purchasing extensive private tutoring, I was browsing the internet for free practice SAT exams and applying for fee waivers. While others were starting nonprofits to help their communities, I tried to embody the change in my community by being the tutor others couldn't afford. I needed my college admissions officer to know that though my accomplishments were not as striking as some of my peers', they were still my pride and joy because I was able to organically flourish despite the adversity I faced as a minority student.

I was simply too late, too poor, and too uninformed to compete under the same standards. My sister pursued a completely different path in regards to college education, so I lacked a mentor to guide me through the process. My parents had to save up to drive me to advanced math seminars, and the closest testing center for certain math competitions was 100 miles away. By the time I discovered the strategies and resources that were at my disposal, I was already a high school senior.

Many Black and Latine students come from communities where resources are scarce and conditions are unfavorable for them to achieve success as early as some White and Asian American students. As a result, they cannot compete against the same standards.

Affirmative action is not intended to discriminate against White and Asian American students or make them pay the price for the struggles of Black and Latino communities. Rather, it is meant to be a bandaid on the bullet hole caused by the historical marginalization of these minorities. Our goal is to one day rip off the bandaid when the wound has healed. Our goal is to someday find affirmative action unnecessary.

Like everything, affirmative action has its pros and cons. Although it is not entirely good, by today's conditions, it is necessary. I will not ignore the feelings of stress it may generate in White and Asian American students. I understand that it can be discouraging to feel that the bar is raised higher just because of your race. However, affirmative action is not to blame for this, but, rather, the meritocracy system surrounding college admissions and financial success, where spots are scarce and only a few can excel. Affirmative action or not, class sizes are sealed and some will be rejected, others accepted.

But, I will also not ignore the impostor syndrome and discouragement of Black and Latino individuals when they are labeled “spot stealers” or “diversity recruits.” Those who choose to diminish the efforts of students and professionals because they did not have a high degree of achievements at a young age hold similar sentiments to those that looked down upon new money and self-made individuals. It is hard to be born successful when your ancestors died feeling worthless.

As college students, we are forced to live in a society in which the wedge between old money and new money remains strong. It is unfortunate that society has pitted first-generation college communities against one another when legacy admissions enjoy their own version of affirmative action.

Maybe I needed the standards to be lowered. But, legacy students often find the standards to be non-existent. Only those students are capable of being born successful. And, while it is not their fault that they were born into those families, if society expects all students to compete on the same playing field regardless of what their ancestors faced, they should also earn their spot regardless of what their ancestors achieved.

Many argue that affirmative action is a form of systemic racism. Perhaps that is true. But it seems that we need systemic “racism” to combat the true systemic racism that minority students face. Since the SCOTUS found that it was necessary to defend the Constitution and ban this form of systemic racism, I hope that they also find it urgent to combat racism in healthcare and police brutality.

We cannot preach equality when our communities need equity.

I feel terribly sorry for the students that are barely making their way into higher education, and are finding out that they can't receive the handouts in exchange for what this country has taken away from them for centuries. Additionally, I feel for all the students who will no longer be able to speak on how their cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds have shaped their identities and the perspectives they will bring to their institution. To enforce “colorblind” college admissions is to ignore a crucial part of many students' identity. Our lives and experiences are not colorblind. And, the opportunities presented to us aren't colorblind either.

If any student thinks that I stole their spot at MIT, I want them to know that (though it should not be necessary) I will do my absolute best to show the world that I deserve and have earned my spot at my institution and that, now more than ever, I will strive to become the leader and the mentor that my fellow latino students deserve and need. I may have found my voice a little later but that does not make it any quieter.

To all other minority college students and professionals, let's become the representation we want to see in our communities. Let's create the equity that our government has denied us.

Lastly, I hope that as minorities, we are once again able to mend this wedge that the elite few have drawn between us. I hope that we stop seeing each other as “dream stealers" and, instead, begin seeing each other as collaborators and fellow warriors against racism and adversity. I hope that one day affirmative action can be a topic of the past and that the ground is leveled.

I pray that one day there won't be any parallels between these twenties and the 1920's. As minorities, we can become our ancestors' American Dreams.

*Disclaimer: The following blog post is intended to provide insights into affirmative action from the perspective of a college student who was recently admitted into college. It is important to note that I am not an expert on the topic, and the information presented in this post is based solely on my own experiences and observations, as well as those of the students around me. I do not claim to represent the opinions or experiences of all minority students or college applicants.

Furthermore, it is essential to understand that my perspective may evolve over time, and my opinions on affirmative action may change as I gain more knowledge and understanding. The purpose of this blog post is to foster constructive dialogue and offer a personal viewpoint, but it should not be interpreted as an authoritative or definitive account on the subject matter.

Readers are encouraged to explore a variety of sources, engage in further research, and seek out diverse perspectives to develop a well-informed understanding of affirmative action. It is vital to consider the complex nature of this topic and to approach discussions with empathy, respect, and an open mind.
Thanks for reading!