Unfairness in Affirmative Action
Ephesians 6:10-12 reminds us that the world is full of unfairness and disorder due to the sin that entered the world through Adam. As Christians we are called to protect ourselves from its follies by seeking strength in the Lord:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The injustices introduced into this world by sin is evident in many ways and reminds us that there are some parts of our world that are unavoidably tainted by its effects. This unfairness means that, as much as Americans proclaim themselves to be individualists who believe in moral agency, not all outcomes are achievable for each specific person.
This unfairness is evident in the misdirected efforts to implement affirmative action throughout American society. Although it is true that affirmative action favors skin colors that have historically been underrepresented in the upper tiers of society, it does not actually favor people who are materially disadvantaged. Poor students who do their very best may find themselves unintentionally shoved aside in favor of wealthier applicants who just so happen to be members of a race favored by the admissions office.
A 2012 article published in The Harvard Crimson features a financial aid analysis conducted by the article’s author indicating that roughly “approximately 45.6 percent of Harvard undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000, placing them in the top 3.8 percent of American households.”
Though it has been a decade since this article was published, it appears there have been few updates to Harvard’s “diverse” admissions process since that time.
Perhaps the world is beginning to catch on to the lie that affirmative action helps the disadvantaged. The Supreme Court of the United States recently agreed to hear an appealed case in which the petitioners are claiming that Harvard’s admissions process actively harms Asian and White students to benefit applicants of other races.
Bearing in mind the fact that these admissions decisions are “need-blind” and that most of Harvard’s student body comes from the upper class, this means that a wealthy Black teenager with 58th percentile SAT score has a better chance of admission than a poor Asian teenager with a 90th percentile SAT score.
If Harvard’s administration wants to pretend that the primary value of admission to its coveted class is not the significant advantage it offers in terms of building intergenerational wealth, then they are delusional. The average college graduate in the United States earns $50,000 per year.“ In contrast, the average Harvard graduate earns $81,500 (not to mention having the perk of wielding status over their peers).Craig O., “Penn Graduates Are The Highest Earners In The Ivy League,” TopUniversities (March 24, 2021),
In essence, the people who would actually stand to benefit the most from Harvard’s affirmative action (the poor and impoverished), are functionally locked out of the University’s joke of a “meritocracy.”
As frustrating as this unfairness is, it is an unsurprising phenomenon in a fallen world. All we can do is remember that, in God’s kingdom, it is not the self-righteous and self-assured who will be exalted. It is the poor and the outcast.
We are reminded of this fact in the parable of Luke 18:9-14, where Jesus teaches that a pharisee who prays while trusting in their own righteousness will be less than the tax collector who begs for God’s mercy as a repentant sinner. Until righteousness is restored to the world through Jesus’return, we must patiently endure these indignities in the hope of God’s ultimate justice.
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 Justin Lanning, “Diversitas? Take a Closer Look,” The Harvard Crimson (January 26, 2012), https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/1/26/diversity-lack-figures-evidence-harvard/https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/1/26/diversity-lack-figures-evidence-harvard/  Scott Jaschik, “Supreme Court Takes Affirmative Action Cases,”InsideHigherEd (January 31, 2022) https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2022/01/31/supreme-court-will-hear-harvard-and-unc-affirmative-action-cases  Lia Eustachewich, “Harvard’s gatekeeper reveals SAT cutoff scores based on race,” New York Post (October 17, 2018), https://nypost.com/2018/10/17/harvards-gatekeeper-reveals-sat-cutoff-scores-based-on-race/ “Median annual earnings of U.S. college graduates from 1990 to 2020,”Statista (2020), https://www.statista.com/statistics/642  Craig O., “Penn Graduates Are The Highest Earners In The Ivy League,” TopUniversities (March 24, 2021), https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/north-america/united-states/penn-graduates-are-highest-earners-ivy-league#:~:text=Princeton%20graduates%20earn%20an%20average,for%20graduates%20is%20just%20%2466%2C900