On Affirmative Action: An Overview and My Opinion

By Lachlan G. ’24

The Supreme Court as composed June 30, 2022 to present. Credit: U.S Supreme Court

So … affirmative action. If you haven’t heard about it yet, here is some brief background information. Affirmative action is a policy that allows U.S. colleges to admit students using race as a factor. Past changes to the policy have banned race quotas and the use of race as the sole determining factor for admissions. Affirmative action is being talked about more and more as the Supreme Court is expected to reveal a new ruling on the policy by the end of the summer. As you might know, the Supreme Court of the United States is currently in a 6-3 conservative lean which has led to court decisions such as the historic overturning of the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, expansion of gun rights, increased voting regulations, and a series of decisions supporting religion in the public sphere. This rampage of conservative decisions sets the Supreme Court to vote against affirmative action, a liberal policy most recently debated in the cases of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard College and SFFA v. University of North Carolina in October 2022, petitioner and respondents respectively. The Supreme Court has already heard the cases and is expected to announce a decision by the end of the summer of 2023, ahead of the admissions season for the class of 2024.

Affirmative action is a tricky topic because students at Crystal and other highly competitive and academically driven high schools are often adamantly for or against it. It makes sense; college admissions are something that we are always thinking about and affirmative action certainly affects our chances. Personally, I am conflicted because, from a selfish perspective where I am only taking into account my college acceptance possibilities, I am firmly opposed to affirmative action. However, when being less self-centered and considering the positive impact of affirmative action for historically underrepresented peoples, I see the benefit of the policy. In this article, I will give you my main reasons for and against affirmative action.


  1. As an Asian coming from a comfortable socioeconomic background, I will never be able to fully understand the perspectives of those who are oppressed due to their race or socioeconomic status due to my lack of lived experience. However, that does not mean that I cannot hold my opinion on issues that concern these specific statuses. 
  2. This article is only my OPINION. You do not have to agree with it and I am more than happy to talk about any disagreements you have.

My Reasons For Affirmative Action

  1. Outreach programs increase the number of historically underrepresented applicants. One of the most limiting factors for youth who face racial and/or economic oppression in the college application process is a lack of exposure to colleges and what they offer. College visits are costly and even online programming is not accessible to all; this decreases the likelihood of a disadvantaged person even applying to college since they are not aware of the amazing opportunities higher education offers. To address this issue, programs such as fly-in visits provide opportunities for underrepresented youth to tour universities in person without any cost. According to Dr. Angel Pérez, chief executive of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, the repeal of affirmative action will likely ban colleges from buying lists of students of specific races that are used for targeted recruitment as well as possibly ban fly-in visits.
  2. Diversity is beneficial inside and outside of the classroom. According to a briefing submitted to the Supreme Court by 33 highly-selective private universities, “Studies consistently show that diversity—including racial diversity—meaningfully improves learning experiences, complex thinking, and non-cognitive abilities. Diversity also generates pedagogical innovations and decreases prejudice.” Additionally, increased racial diversity prepares students for a multiracial workplace and encourages students to socialize with people of different races during and after college. 
  3. Applicants of underrepresented races — namely Blacks and Hispanics — have generally faced more adversity than whites and Asians. The average median income for a Black household is over $29,000 less than that of a white household and over $49,000 less than an Asian household according to 2020 U.S census data. Less income means decreased access to extracurricular activities, academic assistance, college counseling, and a good public school system, etc… Systemic racism still exists. Period.

My Reasons Against Affirmative Action

  1. There is no way to quantify oppression due to race for a specific individual. Does a Black or Hispanic applicant get a + .1 GPA boost for their race? Does an Asian applicant receive a – .1? There is no possible way to give a fair increase or decrease in admissions likelihood just from a racial demographic checkbox. You cannot reliably determine how many opportunities have been lost due to race, the effects of systemic racism resulting in poverty among other issues, the family beliefs and ideals impacted by race, the mental impact of negative stereotypes, etc …  and translate that to a numerical value. Also, people of a certain race receive varying amounts of oppression due to their race. For example, as an Asian American living in the Bay Area, I have not faced much blatant overt racism. However, this would likely be different if I lived in a part of the U.S. with a low Asian American population such as the Midwest or Deep South. Even in the 250 – 600 word diversity essay, it is hard to convey your lived experience as a certain race. Words cannot fully encapsulate racism, racialization, and other racial oppression. 
  2. It is hard to verify self-reported race. Countless people lie about their race or other demographic information on college applications. According to a survey conducted by Intelligent, 34% of white students admitted to lying about their race to college applicants. It is close to impossible to verify an applicant’s true race without requiring genetics tests which is an unreasonable demand as well as a further burden on economically disadvantaged students. Obviously, lying about one’s race is unfair to everyone in the college admission process: students of color who are having their race appropriated, white applicants who are now at a disadvantage compared to the liar, and the liar themselves who is abandoning and rejecting their true racial identity. 
  3. Merit is the most objective and important metric. Grades and test scores are the most solid numbers you have on your application. Yes, your personality and identity shared through essays and recommendation letters also matter but numbers always beat out words; no matter how pretty you can write or talk, numbers always reveal the truth. Anyone can write in their college essay that they have been oppressed in some way, but does that really matter if they didn’t persevere through that adversity as statistically reflected in their grades? 
2010 Census Race Questions. Credit: U.S Census Bureau


Thank you to all of the people who I talked to about affirmative action. Special thanks to Caleb Quartey for urging me to write about my opinions on the policy. Please email me at if you have any questions or comments. 

Further Reading / Sources



NYT Affirmative Action Live Updates:

Fly-In and Diversity Programs:

Benefits of Diversity Article:

Diversity Study:

Harvard on Affirmative Action:

Median Household Income Based on Race:

Intelligent Survey on Lying About Race:

Categories: News, Opinions, Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s