I’m going to toss back to my days in high school. I’m going way back, back to the Advanced Placement classrooms, to the meetings where college admissions officers told us where to apply. People here have the foundation to build a good future. How many of them are minorities? Only my face pops out. I spent 13 years in public education sticking out like a sore thumb in a sea of creamy faces. Only once did I share an upper-level class with another minority. Now here, where I’m supposed to be dizzy from all of the “diversity,” I still notice this phenomenon now and again. What is stopping minorities from achieving at the same rate as non-minorities?

Having a lower income than the majority of America is a hindrance to success. This is true for any race. Low income affects social and economic status and, most importantly, access to education. It is possible to get out of this trap, however. This takes finding a good education system and having parents that are active in their child’s education. It helps if those parents are educated themselves. My point is that many minorities do not have these advantages. Many live in areas where the wealthy do not reside; in fact, affluent people flee from these areas. Schools are becoming re-segregated, minority-predominant neighborhood schools. These schools are usually under-funded and can only provide second-rate educations. Now look at the high-paying, high-status jobs. These require a background of higher education. Education is the key that America uses to unlock the door to economic success. But the door is shut for many minorities who perpetually live in lower income neighborhoods. These people aren’t dumb, and they aren’t unmotivated. These people are my parents, aunts and uncles. Growing up, they weren’t given a chance to succeed. If by some miracle that chance should appear, they couldn’t afford it. Education costs, and many simply can’t pay.

Opponents of affirmative action believe that somehow all is right in this world; among college admissions, race should never be looked at. Admission of “less qualified” minority applicants is what opponents fear. However, one must really think about what his or her view of “qualified” is. They don’t stop to think that their definition of qualified can include, “my father went there,”my family can donate a wing to your hospital,” or “provost’s discretion,” as at the University of Michigan. People get rejected from colleges all the time in favor of these people, and no one says a thing. But, usually, “qualified” is synonymous with working hard in high school and being “well rounded.” Beyond all of the well roundedness is a person with unique thoughts and ideas. This is diversity, and universities need it to thrive and to fully educate its members. This diversity is race-less.

But some people aren’t given a fair chance to sit in these classrooms that spawn intellectual thought and opportunity. It is absolutely necessary for those who criticize affirmative action to take notice of the conditions in which a person has grown up. America is a country where getting an education is rewarded. This system of merit, however, can alienate those who weren’t able to secure an education due to their conditions growing up. Race is a factor, because it was a factor for our parents. It is a factor in the way teachers treat us. It is a factor in the way we think and live. If there is any hope of making sure that person by person the cycle of destitution and of a lower class is erased, race must be a factor in admission to the world of success.

Samantha Williams is a freshman in the College. She is a member of the Georgetown University College Democrats.

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