I was genuinely shocked to read that Duke is actively and openly supporting affirmative action. A crude, unproductive, patronizing practice such as this does not suit an institution with the credentials that Duke has. Diversity in opinions and ideologies does indeed enrich our collective college experience, but coerced racial or ethnic diversity does not. I am not better for having “x” number of black friends or “y” number of Indian friends or “z” number of white friends. I am better for knowing people who can think critically and arrive at differing conclusions about the world and our role in it. If your racial or ethnic background has contributed to the person you are today, write about it in your application essays, and write about it well. If it hasn’t, then there are plenty of other interesting facets of yourself to write about. Should we not be judged by the content of our characters rather than by the color of our skin, as Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested?
The importance of race, or indeed, any congenital trait, is the personal identities its inheritors draw from it. Whether I am straight or gay or lesbian or white or half black or one-quarter Mexican or one two-hundred-fifty-sixth Senegalese, if I want to take such a classification into account when defining myself, I had better go to great lengths to think seriously about what that means to avoid lazily accepting the benefits of whatever group I was born into. If I want to attend the college of my choice strongly enough, I should be expected to work my fingers to the bone for every last admissions point—like everyone else.