The Affirmative Action Dilemma


So, I’ve finally decided to accept an offer for graduate school education. As I begin the paperwork, I come to the question of why this particular school decided to accept my application. As I contemplated, my mind (as it typically does) diverges to tangent upon tangent. Eventually, my mind came to the tangent of Affirmative Action.

Now, I’m not the brightest crayon in the box. I also didn’t have good grades or a lot of work experience in my favor. So, what could it be that draws them to me? I try not to be terribly cynical of myself, but am reminded of the affirmative action dilemma I faced during my application process.

I remember struggling with the idea of Affirmative Action when deciding what to do about the optional self-identification box. Having a lot of conscientious friends who think critically about the affirmative action policy, I have always been of the mind that it is important to “Decline To State” in order for fairness to remain in my applicaion process. I want to know I have made it there on the full weight of my application alone, and not the color of my skin or the people group with whom I identify myself.

Was there a slip up? Perhaps my essay indicated an emphasis on my cultural understanding as an American Born Chinese which led the admissions committee to focus on that identity over that of my academic merit.

This is yet another chance for me, a chance I do not deserve, to succeed. I am grateful for any participation that Affirmative Action has played in my acceptance. I cannot deny that I believe it to be a factor. Perhaps it is a factor because of my emphasis in international social work and how it helps me to better serve international clients.

A friend once said that I should use whatever I can to get ahead. If it means checking the “Asian” box, then I should do it lest I fail to achieve or receive what I want. As Asian Americans, we need to be able to be confident and strong to grab what we can if it is there for the taking. That is how we get ahead because American culture is not friendly to us.

Yet, I have a sinking feeling of not being worth what I have received. I feel as though I have not truly achieved, that this is a pity gift from those who think themselves better than I, from those who believe I need a lift to be successful in this world. And that is just not right.

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