Unlike many students who read the Nov. 1 letter “Rethink affirmative action,” I was not the least bit surprised by the author’s statement. As a black student, I deal with the stigma of somehow being less deserving of my Duke admission by people who don’t know me all the time. Though I have become desensitized through the years, remarks such as the ones made in this letter still strike a nerve.
However, what I am more concerned about is the hypocrisy in criticizing affirmative action without discussing legacy admissions in the same light. These two admissions practices could be considered similar, but it is only affirmative action that gets the court challenges and the letters to the editor. The purpose of affirmative action is to help reverse the hundreds of years of denial of opportunity to generations of minority populations, which undoubtedly created a disparate benefit to white people. Furthermore, the fact that only white students used to be admitted to most institutions means that they bear most of the legacies (especially at “institution[s] with the credentials that Duke has”), which brings me to my main point.
If you are going to take away affirmative action based on past discrimination, you should also take away admissions benefits based on past privilege. If you want to denounce every minority student you feel didn’t work their “fingers to the bone” to get here then you must also denounce all legacy admissions benefits as well. (Legacies account for 13 percent of the Class of 2015, according to a Feb. 2 editorial in The Chronicle.) I understand that most members of our generation justly feel that they aren’t responsible for past oppression. However, anyone who has taken a history class knows that the past affects the present and future. Past discrimination has created a huge disparity that our country has a responsibility to rectify. Meanwhile, I think the double standard of criticizing affirmative action while giving legacies and wealthy donors a pass should end.