Socioeconomic Affirmative Action Over Racial Affirmative Action Please

Socioeconomic affirmative action over racial affirmative action is something more of us should consider. After all, race doesn't make someone smarter or dumber. It is opportunity and financial circumstance that determines opportunity more.

For example, all the rich kids get to pay for after school tutors and SAT tutors for $3,000 – $5,000 a pop. That puts them at big time advantage over poor kids. And yes, there are poor kids of all races. Which is on of the reasons why the abolishment of entrance exams for Lowell High School and TJ High School during the pandemic were disappoint to so many.

Socioeconomic Affirmative Action Over Racial Affirmative Action Please

At first, I was pissed at the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR). The BCR hosted a pastry sale to promote racial awareness. The University of California is considering implementing “SB185”, a law that would allow the school to use race and gender in the admissions process.

The article was poorly written. It made it at first sound like the “White Pastries” for $2 and the “Black Pastries” for 75 cents are indeed white colored pastries and black colored pastries that reflect the respective races.  The author made it seem like White people are superior over Black people. Therefore, White colored pastries should sell for a 130% premium.

What the author N. Asimov should have made clear is that all pastries are the same. And that if you are White, you have to pay $2. But if you are Black, you only have to pay 75 cents for the same pastry. 

The pastry sale is trying to demonstrate that Caucasians and Asians need to score much better on your SAT's and get higher GPA's than other races (ie pay more) in order to get into UC Berkeley.  With this realization, my anger subsided to heavy disappointment.

Tough Being Asian To Get Into School

Yet, I wonder. If Asians make up 46% of UC Berkeley's student population, yet only represent 14% of the California population, shouldn't the price of pastries for Asians cost $5, since it's that much tougher to get into given the 3.5X over-representation? You have to wonder what the group of students were thinking. You might already know.

If the UC school system did discriminate based on race, the racial make-up of UC Berkeley's student body would limit the percentage of Asians to 14% instead of currently 46%, and increase the percentage of Caucasians to 40% from 30% to mirror California's overall racial distribution.

The whole problem with this entire pastry sale is that offends, discredits, and hurts minorities because it makes fun of their achievements. That's not right.

Here are more thoughts about affirmative action as an Asian-American father.

We Live In A Free World With Unequal Opportunity

I'm assuming most would agree that having different admission standards for students based on race or gender is wrong and discriminatory. You guys know that I believe in equality so much so that a flat tax above a certain income level is the most equitable way to go.  Regressive and progressive taxes are plain wrong.

None of my Black and Latino friends feel that race should have any part in the college admissions process.  They resent the fact that some people assume the only reason why they got into their colleges is due to their race. 

Instead of race as a determining factor for admissions, why don't we simply implement a socioeconomic affirmative action policy to help people improve their standard of living? There are poor Caucasians and rich African-Americans after all.

A kid who grows up in a household that makes $300,000 a year is going to have massive advantages over a kid who grows up with a single mother who makes just $28,000 a year. The $300,000 a year parents can afford SAT tutoring, math lessons, violin lessons, horse-back riding lessons, summer education trips abroad, and so forth.  How the hell does a single mother making $28,000 afford any of these things for a sustainable period of time?  She can't.

I am absolutely perplexed why any public or private school administrator would not want to use socioeconomic criteria over racial criteria in 2011.  Yes, it made more sense one or two generations ago, but much less so now.  I've heard excuses such as, “It's much easier to generalize among race than by income.” 

Well that's just lazy and stupid. The reasons are: 1) you shouldn't have a carte blanche generalization first of all, and 2) it's easy to do an income and asset check.  Banks and landlords ascertain such information all the time.

Related: Three White Tenants, One Asian Landlord: A Story About Opportunity Or Lack Thereof

Thoughts From A Berkeley Alum

The Berkeley College Republicans have raised awareness that racial discrimination is wrong. But they are doing a disservice to their school, the community, political party and to themselves. Their satire will get completely lost to the minorities they are digging. I understand what they are saying, and they have successfully made their point. I get it, trust me I get it. They are going about it in a tasteless way that is hurtful.

Unfortunately, the BCR students will probably be targets on campus. Just like Alexandra Wallace quit UCLA after making a video rant against Asian people.  There is little place for politics in the workplace or when you are looking for a job. 

Most companies must come to a consensus when hiring candidates.  Given the nation is split down the middle between Republican and Democrats, no consensus will ever be made by the interviewers. Therefore, the chances of these kids getting jobs other than running for political office is slim-to-none. Finally, the group just provides more stereotype fodder that Republicans are insensitive tools who aren't inclusive of of all races.

Readers, what are your thoughts about allowing universities to use race and gender as part of the admission criteria?  Do you think the Berkeley College Republicans helps or hurts the Republican image? Is socioeconomic affirmative action right o wrong? Do you think the College Republican kids are set for life and don't need jobs and money, since if they did, why would they want to piss half the population off?

Related posts:

Your Chances Of Becoming A Millionaire By Race And Sex

Income By Race: Why Is Asian Income So High?

43 thoughts on “Socioeconomic Affirmative Action Over Racial Affirmative Action Please”

  1. This is my take on education.

    Government sponsored schools should not have district lines. Parents should be allowed to send their children to any school.

    I support the voucher system, but on a somewhat merit-based system. If the government is going to give anyone free money, the person should at least be competent enough to earn it. This merit can be evaluated on a written test (I like written test, more on this later). This written test should not be difficult, just something that covers basic skills, and maybe a few advanced questions which make use of applied knowledge (using previously learned concepts to solve new problems) just to isolate the students who are truly learning than just memorising.

    In terms of college admissions, it should be only merit-based. No racial or socio-economic or any kind of Affirmative Action. Of course the only way to calculate merit would be a written test. One of my favourite written tests that are currently used are the Advanced Placement exams. These are few of the only exams which test your knowledge on a basis that is fair for all. There are some factors that can never be completely controlled (teachers, study sessions, etc.) but in general, the score on an AP exam correlates directly to the discipline of the student. (There are a few of the AP exams that are not necessarily challenging, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Also the language tests are usually easier for someone who is proficient in the language, but again they are exceptions.) Of course the AP exams have plenty of flaws, but I was just using them as an example.

    On the issue of merit- vs. need- based scholarships, my stance remains the same, however many of the need-based scholarships/financial aid come from private sources which should never have any restrictions on anyway.

    Now, the reason why I like written tests is because they are the best way to test an individuals discipline. A smart, lazy person is less likely to do ground breaking work than a studious, disciplined person. On the other hand, a studious lazy person may not be as quick at grasping concepts than a smart ,lazy person. A written test allows to evaluate both the learned knowledge and the applied knowledge of a person, allowing to narrow down both the smart, lazy and the studious, disciplined person, however eliminates the people who are neither smart enough to absorb information nor disciplined enough to find a way to learn the test material a different way.

    Anyway, I think I have talked enough. It’s just that education is something I am truly passionate about.

  2. I like the idea of socioeconomic AA over racial AA. Before, racial AA was in place to help those who were set back over 200 years and give them a chance to catch up. I would say that now the playing field for racial considerations has improved to the point that racial AA is no longer necessary except in extreme cases.
    On the other hand, there are still cases where children from less fortunate circumstances do not have the same opportunties to excel as their more fortunate counterparts and I think giving them better educational choices should start with the public educational system and by removing school district lines. College admissions would then be able to choose based on academics alone.

    I also think that applications should then have all possible racial identifiers removed.

  3. Equality of opportunity should be the goal of our society, not equality of results. We shouldn’t force people to live in a world similar to Harrison Bergeron.

  4. That is an absolutely TERRIBLE idea for a bake sale…

    I had always thought affirmative action was in place in the states for college admissions? I didn’t know that it wasn’t- we don’t have anything like that here, but you do get preference if you are aboriginal/ First Nations, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

    Life is difficult and we all need to learn to coexist harmoniously (somehow) :)

    I used to resent that I went to school here (vs somewhere where there weren’t as many Asian people) because then my marks wouldn’t be so bad in comparison LOL…

    They called UBC (the university I went to) University of Billion Chinese :)

    People are just angry, resentful, jealous about others who may be perceived as more successful then them. Life’s like that- it’s unfair. We all gotta just live with it.

    1. How about a bake sale where people who are overweight (measured by BMI) pay 2x the going rate, and obese people pay 5X the going rate, and morbidly obese people pay 10X the going rate?

      Oh, and underweight people pay 0.75X the nominal price.

      Just as controversial but probably a more logical pricing scheme.


  5. At the end of the day, so much is subjective in the admissions process. So yes, relative performance over surrounds is important. But who is to say what their surrounds level is rated?

    1. With new regulations there will also be new gamers and problem. However, to goose race over socioeconomic doesn’t make sense.

      For public schools, it should be their duty to help the public.

  6. Look to Malaysia to see how affirmative action is a failed policy.

    Malaysia has 51% of ethnic Malays, who happen to be Muslim, 30% Malaysian Chinese, 15% Malaysian Indian, and the balance of people are Caucasians.

    The policy in Malaysia is that the ethnic Malays need special treatment because they are generally poorer- as a result they get a lot of benefits like: guaranteed jobs with the government and state sponsored companies, 8% reduction on the price of their primary residence with no limitations to how often they can buy & sell, reduced tuition at university, child allowances, and other perks. Ethnic Malays tend to have more children and when races intermarry the non-Muslim partner needs to convert to Islam, so the percentage of Muslim Malays will grow over time.

    I have a lot of Malaysian Chinese friends and colleagues- the funny thing is that they, along with the Indians, do just fine because they are used to working harder so they usually take the top jobs in business- the Indians take the top jobs in academia and medicine. As a result the government feels the Malays are still underprivileged and want to extend the policies a few more years- the original plan called Vision 20/20 was to keep these benefits in place only until 2020 but it seems like it will continue longer.

    My Malaysian Chinese friend told me that if he was only a Malay he could easily be a multi-millionaire just by buying houses at 8% off and turning around and immediately selling.

    Let meritocracy be the system of choice.


    1. I’m well aware of Malaysian affirmative action, but I don’t understand your point in your comment. So they are treated more special… so? Are you saying b/c they are treated special, they don’t have to work as hard, and are selling themselves short?


      1. Yes, that’s exactly my point.

        Giving special treatment encourages complacency so all that happens is the folks without special treatment just work harder.

        It does nothing to close the gap, it just makes the gap bigger.

  7. I think your point of view is very well articulated, but I do have one bone to pick. Your question is “Do you think the College Republican kids are set for life and don’t need jobs and money, since if they did, why would they want to piss half the population off?”

    You basically contradict yourself with this question, as you associate all College Republicans with kids of high socioeconomic backgrounds. Why is that the case? Is it so far-fetched to believe that a college kid could believe in Republican values and be poor, and then be idealistic enough to speak out for what they believe in? One could argue that if racial criteria were used, since the higher-socioeconomic kids would still probably get in with their built-in advantages, it would disproportionately hit the lower-socioeconomic kids, therefore people from that socioeconomic background should be the most outspoken against that sort of thing. Unless, of course, you assume that more black and latino students would come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, in which case you would be just as guilty of stereotyping.

    My point is, excellent post, just don’t stereotype at the end of such a good argument.

    1. Yes, one should assume that the specific Berkeley College Republican kids are set for life and don’t need money, b/c nobody who needs money pisses off half the population. Very simple conclusion. This is not a stereotype, this is a tautology. If I want a job, I wouldn’t tell the interviewer that she is a witch.

  8. Why do universities have such a difficult time creating diversity in their admissions? So many formulas and none of them work that well. I understand the purpose of the formulas, it is supposed to compensate for past injustices. If they really level the playing field, the results will even things out.

  9. I remember when I was attending UCLA a lot of my Caucasian friends would jokingly refer to UCLA as “University of Caucasians Lost in Asia”. We would also joke about UCI as “University of Chinese Immigrants”

    The fact of the matter is if we use a non discriminatory and objective way of granting admittance that is based solely on test scores and academic achievements we would see pretty much the same racial demographic breakdown.

    Should we have more diversity at top universities? yes. But should we create this diversity by admitting people based on race and not on academic merit? No.

    A socio-economic criteria for admissions is laudable. But are we not just introducing socialism into our institutions for higher learning? After all isn’t America founded on capitalistic ideals, and that anyone and everyone through individual hard work and ingenuity can achieve the American Dream?

    1. I have lived both sides of the spectrum. I grew up with nothing and was in a horrible school district. Now, my kids are in one of the best schools in the state.

      What my kids learn and what I learned are worlds apart. What is the difference? Money. Not money in the school district itself, our poor district was funded quite well growing up. However, people had no money, were blue collar (at best), there was minimal parental involvement in schooling, and the kids had very few examples of what they could be when they grew up outside of working in a factory, teaching, or being a secretary. (At least those were my examples.)

      Someone has to look out for these kids. I am white, and poverty goes across all races. I was lucky and for some reason, got out of where I lived and went on to a state university. However, because of my poor schooling, I was not nearly as prepared as most the other students that were in my classes. Also, I was one of the few that ‘got out’, many are still there repeating the cycle.

      Unfortuantely, the playing field will never be even because of a million different factors. If there are not programs to help the underpriviliged in this country, I fear crime and other things will get a whole lot worse. Plus, I think everyone deserves a chance, and thank God I got mine.

  10. Darwin's Money

    I love the last sentence in the flyer.
    “If you don’t come you’re a racist”. Hilarious!

    Look, this has been done so many times across so many colleges, so the shock value isn’t what it used to be. Much depends on the viewpoint. If you’re a “disadvantaged” minority, of course you think affirmative action “makes up” for the discrimination you have, do and will face in life. Unfortunately, it’s still a fact of life and always will be that people that look different from each other will sometimes treat others differently. There are evolutionary and anthropological explanations for such behavior, but it’s 2011 and we’re not animals anymore. Yet we still see it and we always will to some degree – so measures meant to balance out discrimination mean well but aren’t perceived as fair to all parties. Conversely, if you’re a white kid from the burbs where your parents have to piss away every last dime of their life savings to put you through school while other kids with lower grades are going for free because of their race? Isn’t that similarly frustrating?

  11. I would prefer to see a meritocracy, but could accept that socioeconomic factors might need to be considered in the college admission process. But in the free market (ie where I take my business) has nothing to do with race, gender, or any other factor other than service and value. If you are a good waiter or waitress and provide excellent service, you will get a great tip. If not, you won’t. If you cut my hair well, you will get a good tip and I will return and tell my friends. If you do a good job on my taxes, I will be happy and remain a loyal customer. That’s the way the real world works.

  12. There is no doubt this is a tough question (I love the warning… “I will rip you back”). In Canada we actually take it a step further and fully pay for the majority of post-secondary students who have Native North American ancestry. This often actually hurts their credibility because buisnesses have no choice but to assume they got their degree due in large part to their ethnic status. The only option left is to apply for government jobs, which they are virtually guaranteed to get. This just promoted further racism and jealousy, so I’m not sure what the solution is.

    One thing I would like to see more of is merit-based scholarships. One would assume that people who need the scholarships more would be more inclined to do well enough to deserve them right?

    1. Are there many Native North American people in Canada? Or is it like 1%, like it is here in the US? I donno, for all that the settlers did to the Native Americans, I don’t know what we can do to repay. It’s just like the Nazis and the Jews. What can Germany do? Step one, they can bail the damn EU out and stop lecturing everyone.

      1. Haha, bailing out the EU as reparations for WWII, never looked at it like that before! There are quite a few Native North Americans in Canada. Most estimates say around 4-5%. The sad thing is that many of them have no idea that this opportunity even exists due to isolated reserve life. I agree, I’m not sure how to repay. This is probably the most sensitive issue in Canadian politics for a lot of people. I think at some point you eventually have to forgive the sins of your forefathers, after all, as someone with a French and Ukranian background, I can’t be mad at the Romans, German’s, and Russians forever right? My girlfriend is Irish, but harbours no ill will towards today’s English people (if anyone has a right…).

  13. Sandy - yesiamcheap

    This is a tough one but here’s my take on it. As a minority I tested into a specialized high school in NYC. I was the sole person from my middle school and many middle schools around my neighborhood to test into the school.

    The school was a majority minority school since almost 50% were Asian. If you were not Asian or Caucasian everyone assumed that you were in the school to meet a quota. The implication that were not good enough to get into the school on your own merits was hurtful, especially since I knew that I tested higher than most of the student that I knew.

    I will echo what Sam has said about economics having a greater impact on learning than race. It’s the finances that determine many of the things that follow. People in lower socioeconomic standards will not live in the best neighborhoods, have access to the best schools, or be able to afford every advantage that others might have.

    I have never answered the race question on any application, and I have always gotten ahead on my own merits. However, I do recognize that not everyone has the opportunities that the schools would like to give students. If race was erased as a question and schools awarded student scholarships based solely on one criteria (grades, test scores, etc), then this question of racism or reverse racism would be mitigated, but would not be wiped out either. All that someone would need to do is look at where a student came from or their name to be able to guess what race they probably are.

    If an applicant’s last name is Chung, or Rodriquez or Abdul, would you have a hard time guessing at race?

    1. Good for you for never answering the race question! I didn’t know you were a minority. Since you’re from the East Coast, I guess Asians are dominating academics there just like the West Coast. What is it about their culture that makes them so strong academically?

  14. I agree with using socio-economic criteria over race to help those less fortunate.

    It’s obvious that the BCR believe white people are superior given they priced pastries for white people at $2, and Asians less, even though it is even harder for an Asian person to get into Berkeley.

    And surprise surprise, the President of the Berkeley College Republican group is a white guy. I fear for Shawn Lewis. And I pray that he realizes hate is not the way.

    1. Nobody should be surprised that Shawn Lewis, the President of the BCR is a white kid. I think it’s over for him in the private sector. But for politics, sure… I think he’s got a bright future. And now you know why politics SUCKS.

  15. Ben @ BankAim

    Well said Sam. This has been an issue for a long time now. In Washington state, the same issue was going on with hiring people based on race. For instance, a fire department had to hire other races besides Caucasians because they were heavily leaning towards Caucasians. It didn’t matter the test scores and if it came down to two people, one Caucasian and one African American, they were hiring the African American, all based on race. Race is a very touchy subject.

    We believe in equal opportunity, but its hard when people from all different races come from different circumstances. The mother raising her children on $28k/year will have a huge disadvantage than the mother raising her children with $300k/year. I came from the single mother making $30k/year and supporting 4 kids. It was extremely difficult but we had the opportunity to go to college if we wanted to. We just had to pay for it ourselves. Would I be better off if I had more opportunities with college? Heck yes, but on such a small income we struggled. What Untemplater said, we should be helping disadvantaged youth, instead of focusing on race. If we were focused on race then Caucasians are the minority in many schools in Washington. The Asian population is the majority. I don’t know if you can call it ‘reverse racism’ because that in itself is racist, putting another race above the other.

  16. Racial issues will always be a sensitive topic. None of us want to be judged by the color or our skin or what gender we are. It’s just wrong. I read that article you included and totally agree that it’s badly written and doesn’t highlight the issue in the right way. I also think it’s in poor taste what the BCR group is doing. Raising awareness is good, but they are going about it in totally the wrong way.

    What you say about a kid coming from a 28k income home vs a 300k income family and disadvantages is so true. Their resources are so much more limited and they should get help getting into a good school. It’s not their fault how that their parents aren’t making enough money to help them prepare and get into college. Focusing on disadvantaged youth is much more important than focusing on race. BTW I think the BCR bake sale is supposed to happen today. I have a feeling it will get dismantled fast and there will be a lot of angry people waiting to attack them. We’ll see what happens.

    1. I was watching the news and I was surprised there was no violence. It will come though, since all the police were on hand. Just when nobody is looking, it will come. Just wait and see. This stuff always gets crazy.

  17. This really is a complicated issue and there are so many individual circumstances that can come into play. I think though that we are still living in an unequal world which is wrong. In fact now there is even reverse racism. My mom is experiencing this right now with an LOA request at work.

    If you ask me, we should all be labeled one colour so it doesn’t influence any decision makers.

  18. A free society should guarantee equality of opportunity, not equality of circumstance. I don’t think there should be any discrimination in college admissions.

    However, if there needs to be some discrimination, then doing it based on money makes a lot more sense than doing it based on race.

    1. Kevin,

      I completely agree! Especially when it comes to public universities…my rights/freedoms/choices should not be interfered with because of the atrocities of previous generations.

      It is literally reverse discrimination plain and simple…

      1. But the other side of the debate is that my rights/opportunities should not be interfered with because of the atrocities of previous generations, but the fact is that they are. Or at least they were when affirmative action policies were put into effect. Now the playing field may be more level to where only socioeconomic affirmative action is beneficial.

  19. This is such a complex issue. As you know, we have spent a lot of time researching universities. One school we are interested is now much harder to get in to because they have increased their allowed number of out of state residents to the max allowed. So it is now harder for in state residents to get in, and according to some, many people are now attending the university from China. This way, the school makes more money and yet do not have to provide more service. The only down side is less in-state students can attend. It is all within the rules though.

    As an ‘underprivileged’ white student, I did get some financial aid, but putting myself through school was incredibly difficult. I have no idea if I would have gotten any more or less financial aid if I had been a different ethnicity though (with the exception of Native American).

    People do comment about how much harder it will be for my son to get in to the schools he wants because he is a white male, but time will tell how that works out. I have mixed views on all of it because being poor sucks, and I want to help anyone who is poor to get educated, regardless of ethnicity.

    Where my kids go to high school (private), families fill out financial aid forms and such and there are scholarships. We do have a fairly high african american student population, and a lot of that is because foundations will provide scholarships strictly for african americans. I personally am fine with that. The Detroit schools are such a mess that I am thrilled for any child that has an opportunity to get educated somewhere else.

    I don’t know that I answered any questions, really just blabbered on. The story you shared is definitely interesting. I will say this, I do think the criteria should be based more on economic status than race, and I want colleges to get rid of the whole ‘legacy’ preferance also. To me, favoring legacies is just another form of discrimination that favors (typically) the wealthy.

    1. On the Legacy issue… perhaps it’s another form of discrimination, but what if the parents for 25 years loyally donated to their alma mater. It would be very difficult for the admissions office to reject their kid, since the donations make the school a better place for all.

      I think if your son is a straight A student who scores in the 99% tile of his SATs, he won’t have to worry about getting in anywhere! In other words, be the best, and everything will take care of itself, regardless of affirmative action.

      1. Sorry, but I don’t think donations should buy anyone admittance to college. You could also say if that kid is not the brightest, he is making the university worse off.

        You would think that great test scores and high GPAs would guarantee admission to college, but it doesn’t now days. You need tons of community service, letters of recommendation, etc. Sure, you can get into some schools, but not all. It is definitely not like it was when I applied to school. You would be shocked at who gets rejected today.

        It is true that you should always strive to be the best, but unfortunately, life is not always fair.

        1. Yep, I hear what you are saying. Grades and SATs aren’t enough b/c EVERYBODY has high grades and SATs now. Hence, there needs to be other deciding variables.

          Which also means anybody without great grades and high SATs are going to have that much harder a time.

          You have to admit though, if your alma mater rejected your kids, and they were in the normal band that accepts your kids, even if they are on the lower end, there might be some issues!

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