Monday, July 26, 2010

Sometimes Class Really Does Trump Race

Last week, after reading the Wall Street Journal op-ed from Sen. Jim Webb regarding diversity programs and affirmative action, I wrote a post rightly challenging some of his assertions and omissions, but I ended my post saying that I was willing to give his idea a shot. I meant that.

As this conversation regarding race has descended (as usual) into farce, It's clear to me that we will likely never have a reasonable national discussion on race. All sides are too invested in their respective positions to make any substantive headway. If change is to come, then it will have to come from actual and personal interaction and discussions.

Meanwhile, I can now say that I am totally for abandoning race based admissions in higher education, and completely for embracing class based admissions programs. I think that the arguments I've read regarding shifting from race to class have been quite persuasive (here and here, with a h/t to The Daily Dish).

Indeed, when I thought about my own undergraduate experience, I really don't remember too many white guys from working class or poor families, though most of the minorities were from middle class families. I had a white roommate (and still good friend) who was from a working class background (with a prep school education no less), and years later, he talked about some of his insecurities based on class. I also had a high school buddy, who stayed with me my freshman year when he checked out the campus, let me know that a big part of his decision not to come to Hampden-Sydney was because of his concerns about fitting in at a school of primarily upper middle class and wealthy white guys; his family was poor.

It does make sense that we should try to educate as many people who show an aptitude for completing a college degree, regardless of race or ethnicity. It helps this country in the long run. And it is no secret that working class and poor people, regardless of race, often find themselves getting shafted as they try to move ahead.

Class, and not race, is the most pertinent issue of the 21st century, and those from the middle classes down need as much help as they can get. By endorsing and implementing class based affirmative action, I think that we will have an opportunity to tamp down the tiresome racial discussion that gets us nowhere. And it will provide deserving students opportunities that their parents and grandparents could only dream of.

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