Adjusting the Race Lottery

Affirmative Action and Legacy Admissions

English Imperial Administrator Cecil Rhodes, 1892

Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.

― Cecil Rhodes, 1853-1902

While reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2016 I thought about the advantages of being born in America and not a third world country, and being born white. If you’ve never had those thoughts, then that’s as good a description of American white privilege as any. 

I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. The method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this goal is fundamentally flawed and amounts to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students solely on their race.  

— President George W. Bush, speaking against affirmative action in college admissions, January 16, 2003

Using just the kind of point system that Mr. Bush now derides as quotas, Andover gave George three extra points on a 20-point scale for being the son of an alumnus. That’s a higher percentage than a Michigan applicant gets for being black. 

— Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, discussing George W. Bush’s admission to Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, January 24, 2003

His SAT’s of 566 verbal and 640 math were far below the median scores for students in his Yale class: 668 verbal and 718 math. But in the end, having a Yale pedigree, a grandfather on the Yale board and a Texas background bounced him into the entering class . . . How can we evaluate the justice of preferences that favor blacks without considering preferences that benefit whites (legacy), athletes (football players), the wealthy (children of donors), and farm kids from Oregon (me when I applied to colleges). 

— Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, discussing George W. Bush’s admission to Yale, January 24, 2003

Jim Hightower’s great line about Bush, “Born on third and thinks he hit a triple,” is still painfully true. Bush has simply never acknowledged that not only was he born with a silver spoon in his mouth — he’s been eating off it ever since. 

— Molly Ivins, “The Uncompassionate Conservative,” Mother Jones, Nov/Dec 2003

My high school American History class in Manila had impressive teachers and resources. They had an application form for some order of the Ku Klux Klan on the classroom bulletin board. It had three qualifications to check off: “White, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant,” and I realized I only met one of three.

On June 29, 2023 the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs for college admissions. Liberal Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson joined in a dissent that said the majority’s decision had rolled “back decades of precedent and momentous progress” and “cement[ed] a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society.” (Amy Howe, SCOTUS Blog, Jun 29, 2023)