Newsflash! Black People Aren’t Keeping Whites Out Of College, Rich People Are


Excerpted from a longer piece by Christine Emba for the Washington Post

The 200th day of Donald Trump’s presidency draws near, and his legislative failures have become all too apparent. What better time to change the conversation and re-energize the base? And what better way than by raising the lightning rod that is affirmative action?

According to a memo leaked to the New York Times, the Trump administration is planning to redirect Justice Department resources to investigate and potentially sue colleges that use “intentional race-based discrimination” in admissions. The project was quickly understood to be targeting affirmative action policies that many on the right see as “discriminating” against white applicants — in particular, ones that might give black and Latino students an edge. This move comes despite the Supreme Court upholding the use of affirmative action to diversify campuses just last year.


Affirmative action is a consistent hobbyhorse on the right because it combines real anxieties with compelling falsehoods. College admission — especially to the elite institutions most often hit with affirmative action lawsuits — has become more selective and is an increasingly important factor in the creation and perpetuation of wealth and opportunity. Elite colleges serve as steppingstones into politics, finance, law and Silicon Valley; higher incomes tend to follow. Even so, 80 percent of top students who apply are accepted into at least one elite school, if not their No. 1 choice. But measures that help historically disadvantaged populations to take advantage of the same opportunity are nonetheless characterized as zero-sum.

What is essential to understand is that it’s not a vast crowd of black or brown people keeping white Americans out of the colleges of their choice, especially not the working-class white Americans among whom Trump finds his base of support. In fact, income tips the scale much more than race: At 38 top colleges in the United States, more students come from the top 1 percent of income earners than from the bottom 60 percent.


And right up to the application-writing doorstep, the beneficiaries of the biggest extra edge in admissions are more often than not the children of alumni. At Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Georgetown and Stanford universities, the acceptance rate for legacy applicants is between two and three times higher than the general admissions rate.


In many ways, the Trump Justice Department’s proposed attack on affirmative action is a microcosm of how the president won the 2016 election and continues to maintain a base of support. First, Trump taps into a mainstream concern, one tied to how America’s economic system is changing and how some individuals are left at the margin: Employment? Immigration? College? Take your pick. Then, instead of addressing the issue in a way that embraces both its complexity and well-established research, officials opt for simplistic talking points known to inflame an already agitated base: Immigrants are sneaking into the country and stealing your jobs! Minorities are pushing you out of college!


4 thoughts on “Newsflash! Black People Aren’t Keeping Whites Out Of College, Rich People Are

  1. Exactly. So, speaking of legacies. Let’s talk about Jared Kushner. A graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law School (a fact that escapes the Trump defending talking heads when addressing Jared’s disability regarding his failure to properly complete forms for top secret clearance). His daddy, the felon-Charles Kushner, just happened to pledge $2.5 million to Harvard University not long before Jared was admitted to Harvard. Then, Charles gave $3 million to his alma mater, New York University, before Jared was admitted to that school. According to journalist Daniel Golden, in The Price of Admission, Joshua Kushner and Jared Kushner were admitted to Harvard after Charles made the $2.5 million donation to the university, with the Chair of Joshua’s high school’s science department noting that Joshua was a “hard worker” despite not being an “academic star.”

    Golden states: ‘”There was no way anybody in the administrative office of [Jared’s high] school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,’’ a former official at the Frisch school in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA [grade point average] did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.’”

    Quite a legacy.

    • no wonder Trump and Kushner get along so well – both had rich daddies who paid the paths for their sons!

      paved the path – Make progress or development easier, This expression alludes to paving a road so it is easier to travel on.

      OH! a simple mistake in what they thought they heard….same results, right? No harm done, right?

      – Murphy

  2. Getting into college is easier if you: have $$$$, are white, have $$$$, worked hard in high school (GPA 3.0 or better), have $$$$, are a legacy, have $$$$. Getting into college is harder if you: don’t have $$$$, aren’t white, don’t have $$$$, didn’t work hard in high school, don’t have $$$$, aren’t a legacy, don’t have $$$$. Get it, got it, good.

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