White People Hate Affirmative Action Unless They Benefit From It

Picture this: you're at an outdoor barbecue with all of your favorite white people and the subject of race as a factor in college admissions comes up, because you've been drinking in the sun for hours you're too drunk to realize that this is a bad idea. So you're talking, you and these white people, and they're reflecting on how affirmative action is crap because it keeps more qualified students from their rightful place in competitive college admissions, which to you sounds a lot like dog whistle racism. Well. New research shows that if it looks like a racist duck and walks like a racist duck, then it's probably a racist duck.

Just as you might have guessed, adult white people don't really care about meritocracy; what they care about is making sure that spots in top colleges are going to white kids, who they assume do better on tests than members of other racial and ethnic groups.

The thing is, though, that if we're comparing raw numbers and not taking other socioeconomic factors into account, Asian students are kicking white students' lily-colored asses. Once white adults were told that ackshully, a complete meritocracy would mean that the makeup of elite colleges would be even more Asian, they started whistling a different tune. Here's a summary of what went down, from the journal Inside Higher Education,

The white adults in the survey were also divided into two groups. Half were simply asked to assign the importance they thought various criteria should have in the admissions system of the University of California. The other half received a different prompt, one that noted that Asian Americans make up more than twice as many undergraduates proportionally in the UC system as they do in the population of the state.

When informed of that fact, the white adults favor a reduced role for grade and test scores in admissions — apparently based on high achievement levels by Asian-American applicants. (Nationally, Asian average total scores on the three parts of the SAT best white average scores by 1,641 to 1,578 this year.)

Take it away, little friend:

White People Hate Affirmative Action Unless They Benefit From It

Yep. Racist as hell. White adults only want to play on an even field if they're for sure going to win, like the little white boy who wins at the end of every board game commercial. A belief in numbers-based "meritocracy" as the best gauge of worthiness for college students loses support when the primary beneficiaries of that system aren't, uh, white.

University of Miami Assistant Professor Frank L. Sampson didn't mince words in his paper on the findings. He writes,

While the principle of fairness may be a driving concern in people’s attitudes towards policies such as affirmative action, social welfare, and fair housing, the malleability of white respondents’ attitudes towards the importance of university admissions criteria in response to racial considerations indicates that public opinion about the importance of such criteria is anything but fair[...]

So there you go — a fun outdoor barbecue factbomb to drop the next time your favorite white people are going on about how affirmative action is bad because Obama solved racism. Actually, on second thought, you might want to save this one for a more sober environment.

[Inside Higher Ed]