I did find some of the Slashdot Comments offensive though. I don't know, perhaps it's the combination of Dubbya attacking affirmative action and the fact that MIT is opening summer enrichment programs to all races. It just seems like everyone wants to be under-priveledged now. I'm reminded of a Chris Rock joke.
There is a blind, one legged, white busboy in this theatre right now who wouldn't trade places with me. He's thinking: "Nah, that's all right man, I'm gonna ride this white thing out and see where it takes me". Why? Why? Because when your white, the sky's the limit and when you're black, the limit's the sky"
The whole affirmative action thing has always been a strange subject for me. When I was in high school and the world was El Paso, TX, I thought that affirmative action was silly and pointless. I was one of the top students in the area and I was quite confident in my abilities to compete with anyone out there. Then I went to college and realized just how small of a pond El Paso really was. Ultimately I was able to compete and do well etc... but I also came to the sobering realization that, on paper, I didn't look as good as many other folks out there. Based purely on paper and on the numbers, there is probably a decent chance that I wouldn't have made it into MIT. Every year MIT accepts around 1500 students world-wide There are at least 10 times that many enrolled in advanced high school programs in the US alone. Throw in the top candidates in the world and I'd be lucky to make it onto their wait list. Most people in this city would have been lucky to make it that far in any of the top schools in the nation.
What was most disturbing was that there was nothing I could do about that. Ten years ago, El Paso didn't have any magnet schools. None of the local high schools had AP classes and it was a constant struggle to find people to teach some of the higher level science and math classes. How were any of us going to compete with people who went to the top schools in the nation? How do you look well rounded enough to compete when you have to work part time in order to have any spending money (and therfore can't do extra curriculars)?
I don't know that affirmative action or race based admissions are fair, but given our country's wonderful record on equality and fairness in general, I find it offensive that so many people are so determined to "level" a playing field without actually paying attention to how level or unlevel it is. You don't make things even by saying that no one can get a bit of extra help. You look at your population and you see who needs help and why. Otherwise, you will have the same 1% of the population with the money getting the best education and everyone else can just fuck off and go back to the factories. Yeah I'm being fecetious, but seriously. What better suggestion has anyone ever given as to how to make up for the share cropping systems and slavery? What other options would be available to kids who grow up as migrant workers? How do you change the fact that some people's great grandparents owned large plantations and were able to invest their money in various business ventures, while some people's great grandparents were once considered someone else's property? How do you erase hundreds of years of that crap in 40?
This is probably where my cynical nature comes into play, but I think the main reason that you see so many attacks on affirmtive action etc... now is that many people think that what has been accomplished is "good enough." A few of us minorities got an education so now it's all better. Never mind that some parts of the south still proudly proclaim their roles in the "War of Northern Aggression." Look, there's Collin Powell working for Dubbya, we must have achieved equality.
Unfortunately, since most of us never really grew up with the nasty aspects of racism or segregation, it's easier for minority youth to feel a bit guilty about getting help. Throw in a normal dose of pride (i.e. I don't need any help thank you) and it suddenly gets easier to convince lots of folks that none of that is needed anymore. I'm glad that I squeaked through while affirmative action was still in play. Now my kids (if I should have any) have a shot of being legacies at MIT. Now, I can show my kids how important it is to get an education and to be curious about their world. I'm just one person though. There were 300+ kids in my high school graduating class. Maybe 2/3s of those went to college, and maybe half of those graduated. How does that compare to some schools in other areas that see 90-100% of their kids going to college?
Bleh. I could rant about this for much longer, but I need to do some work now.