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Why we can’t wait for affirmative action

Andrea de Vries | Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Affirmative action would not be necessary if race was no longer a factor in everyday life. Greg Parnell, in his Jan. 26 column, seems to forget that race is just one factor in deciding admissions; it is not the only factor. If you want a completely “fair” system, then all forms of identity should be taken out of the admissions process. If we should not use race as one of many factors then we should not use athleticism, legacy status or geographic location. Let college and graduate admissions be a straight numbers game. The applications could consist of four things: Social Security number, SAT score, GPA and an essay on Thomas Jefferson. If you want a completely fair system, the application should consist of 3 things: Social Security number, GPA and an essay on Jefferson since it is possible to basically buy a higher SAT score. Maybe I am just over cynical because I saw first hand how SAT scores and college admission can be “bought” for the right price. My high school put its $20,000 tuition to good use by hiring three college advisors to council 54 girls. The SAT was a complete and utter joke as girls used Kaplan, Princeton Review and private tutors to study their way from low 1000s to 1400-1500s. My best friend’s parents shelled out almost $8,000 on SAT prep courses to help raise their daughter’s score from a 970 to 1420. She now attends her daddy’s alma mater – Princeton. Now, I know that these experiences are not the norm but they do exist on a fairly large scale. Where is the outrage? Spending thousands on SAT prep classes is out of the question for most blacks since the average black family income is $31,778 and 26.1 percent of all blacks live in poverty while white families are earning an average of $51,244. For Mr. Parnell to use Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. against affirmative action is a distortion of all Dr. King stands for. While it is true that Dr. King wanted people to be judged by merit not by the color of their skin, this is not a reality in American society today. Dr. King had the ability to recognize that “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.” In his speech “Why We Can’t Wait,” Dr. King also stated “Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree; but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic.” Maybe if Mr. Parnell was more familiar with Dr. King’s work and speeches he would know that in 1965 a reporter asked Dr. King if he “feels it is fair to request a multi-billion dollar program of preferential treatment for the Negro or any other minority” Dr. King replied, “I do indeed.”

Andrea de VriesseniorCavanaugh HallJan. 26