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Author opines on affirmative action

Sarah Mayer | Thursday, September 20, 2007

Author Tim Wise spoke to a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday about affirmative action, saying that affluent white America is given a head start in the college admissions game.

Wise, author of “White Like Me” and “Affirmative Action in White America” spoke at the Stapleton Lounge at Saint Mary’s College Wednesday as part of a lecture series entitled “Undoing Systems of Racism: Privilege and Equality in Higher Education.”

The series was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Wise presented his views on affirmative action and the difference in opportunities available for white and African-American students. He also discussed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how he felt the government made no effort in helping African Americans evacuate.

The educational system failed the African Americans who were not able to evacuate their homes, he said. Because of a lack of education, some of these people did not have the money or connections to move to safety.

Wise quoted William Bennett, a former U.S. Secretary of Education, who said the biggest problem with the educational system “is that too many people are going to college.”

Bennett meant that in order for America to stay on track economically, people would be needed for manual labor, Wise said. Bennett was referring to racial minorities.

African Americans do not have certain advantages that increase the odds of college admission, Wise said. White students, on the other hand, have more access to scholarship funds, large libraries and programs to increase standardized test scores.

“White people who end sentences with prepositions, make grammar mistakes and struggle with answers do not stick in the minds of admissions counselors nearly as much as people of color do,” Wise said.

Wise said wealthy white students start two laps ahead of African-American students and, in turn, the African- American students feel pressure to catch up. This pressure is created entirely by white people, he said.

“White folks created race as an issue and decided it would be an issue,” he said.