The Race for Equality: A Look at Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Disparities in Outcomes

The Race for Equality: A Look at Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Disparities in Outcomes

Mario Kart

Check out the accompanying video here: https://youtu.be/Bb4XWHV_MSY

A number of people asked for my opinion on the recent Supreme Court ruling on Affirmative Action and its potential impact on the academic and professional landscape.

Those who follow my work know I’m more interested in contributing to engaging, authentic conversation than being “safe”.

I’m not afraid to bring a thermos of kerosene to a bonfire when the situation calls for it.

It’s difficult to unravel the systemic inequities that stem from centuries of racism from some of the poor normative cues within certain cultures that perpetuate problems. I could devote a book’s worth of space to exploring the socioeconomic and historical nuances of the history of Affirmative Action, offering ample ammo for both supporters and detractors of this decades-long initiative. 

Or, just say nothing at all on this subject, the surest way to avoid getting cancelled in an increasingly-neurotic world.

Not going to do either here. 

Nor will I expound on whether I believe the policy is good or harmful for the nation as a whole.

My opinion?

Private organizations (schools, businesses etc.) should be free to decide who they bring in using whatever criteria they choose. If they want to bestow preferential status based on race, gender, or financial standing, that’s their prerogative.

It’s no different than a private citizen deciding whom they invite to their home: Your house, your rules.

And, since Freedom of Association (First Amendment) does not mean exemption from criticism (a truth frequently forgotten in today’s world), the general public can respond to your decisions however they see fit.

Note that I said “private”, not public. Any entity accepting public monies should be held to whatever standard that municipality sees fit.

I’ll focus on this question:

“Now what?” 

How do you stay sane and achieve your best outcomes in the wake of this decision? 

Two suggestions for preserving your mental health and increasing your chances of getting what you want:

1) Control your mental space. Fear is not an emotion to be trusted. 

When I say “fear”, I’m not referring to reflexive physiological responses, the way a loud noise or gaze over a balcony would trigger an elevated heart rate as a survival mechanism.

I’m talking about alarmist headlines and public appeals, designed to stir up knee-jerk reactions and ill-conceived responses. Emotional manipulation is a time-tested tool for influencing crowds and it never goes out of style.

“Panic” is the father of many a bad decision.

I’ve tackled hot-button topics in education before…..

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On legacies and wealth-based college admissions:

“One of the more intriguing discussions, besides how Lori Loughlin might handle a transition from “Full House” to the big house, is who benefits when college seats are “sold”.

Most good schools will not and do not “sell” seats on a large scale because it would tarnish the school’s academic reputation. The best schools want a student body with A-students, great artists, intellectually-curious minds in a range of fields; that’s not something you get if anything larger than a tiny percent of your student body is a result of evaluation by affluence.”

Read the article here: https://justtaptheglass.com/post-183563690929-college-cheating-scandal/

On paying college athletes:

“Really, there’s no moral justification for preventing players from making money off their name. They generate a ton of money for the school and no other students—not musicians, not entrepreneurs, not researchers—are restricted by this policy.”

Read the article here: https://justtaptheglass.com/post-95383893789-amateurism-ncaa/

I encourage you to check out both of those articles to get a good sense of how you can succeed in creating a great college experience for yourself or someone you care about. You’re not helpless and, with the right mentality and strategy, you can utilize some of the skills you already have to accomplish your goals.

You don’t have to be a statistic.

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Whether you’re trying to lose weight or avoid getting taken advantage of in the dating game, controlling what—and how—you think is critical to staying afloat in an unforgiving world.

Your mind is the first battleground that needs to be conquered.

A great first step to mastering your mental environment is to evaluate the landscape: in the wake of an update, what’s actually changed?

You never go wrong, in any competition, by zeroing in on key players and the motivations driving them. 

Officially, schools can no longer consider race and gender in the admissions process. 

Don’t be naive; Race and gender will still be a part of the college admissions process.

Schools want diversity, if only superficially, so they’ll still use race as a criteria for deciding what their student body should look like. There are endless ways to gather information on an applicant and the advent of social media makes that easier than ever.

It’s like creative teamwork while playing spades. Technically, I am not allowed to tell my partner what card to throw down. But if I happen to look up at the ceiling while he’s deciding what to do, I think he’ll get the message.

So, rest assured, if a college wants to give preferential consideration to a minority applicant, they will still receive it.

(Ironically, future lawsuits alleging discrimination will be much harder to prove.)

A common historical example from the first half of the 20th century in America:

Even in the more enlightened parts of the country, it was very easy for an employer to discriminate against non-white-Anglo-Saxon job applicants. “N.I.N.A.” signs and references to color lines were replaced with coded dismissals such as, “Sorry, you need an employer reference for us to consider you.”

And, since so many of those disadvantaged masses had little-to-no on-the-books work history, where were they going to get those? It was a vicious Catch-22 that hurt the economic prospects of so many people looking for work.

This subtle discrimination was a legal way of keeping the “wrong” people out of the club, just like Grandfather Clauses and poll taxes in the post Civil-War voting era. 

Avoid getting bogged down in the politics of Affirmative Action. This ruling makes for great conversation, but don’t get swept away in the media hysteria. Focus on what actually matters for you.

Rest assured, the repeal of Affirmative Action is not the end of the world. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and there will always be side doors colleges leave open to accomplish whatever goals they’ve set.

It’s up to you to avail yourself of those.

And we can do that by….

2) Reframe the situation and assert your power. Recognize what you have to offer. 

One of the ways any disadvantaged person can advance in society: Ownership.  

Own your story. Own your skills and abilities. Own assets.

Take stock of what’s in you and around you and capitalize on it, seizing opportunities to exchange them for tangible and intangible assets that improve your quality of life.

Build something, deliver value to others, and watch it grow, maintaining a vigilant, responsive hand throughout.

Maybe it’s a website, or a text message group connecting people with an interest in Ethiopian cuisine, or even something as simple as reaching out to a different relative every month. Work on something of interest to yourself (and others) and shepherd its growth over time.

Give the world a reason—and avenue—to support you.

We want to…..

1) Create Value
and then…..
2) Capture Value

You need to develop assets that you wield real control over. This provides some insurance against the impact of external forces that could threaten your hard work.

In the digital landscape, there are countless stories of content creators who built large followings on social media only to see those disappear when the winds change and the powers behind the scenes get rankled.

Not that I’m worried about experiencing that myself (yet). Just providing a here-and-now example of what I’m talking about.

Do what you can to reduce your points of failure and seize control of your destiny.

Is that not one of the themes present in the discussion about race in the admissions process? I’m sure you can see some of the parallels between my suggestion and the conversation surrounding race in America.

Variance ensures that you will face curve balls throughout your life, especially when it comes to the behaviors of others. Even well-intentioned leaders and policies will let you down some of the time, so you’ve got to be prepared to handle adversity when it comes your way.

I’m a “100% Accountability” guy, so I default to looking at myself first when something goes right or wrong in my life.

Blame games can only take you so far, even if there’s some truth to them. It’s much easier to focus on what you can do to control your outcomes instead of attempting to shame large swaths of the population into bending the world to your tastes.

And Earth will never be a perfect place, so there will always be something to complain about. You decide what grabs your attention.

Is it now harder for the average minority applicant to get into a top-tier school? Maybe.

If you know where to look, examples of non-Caucasian academic excellence can be found, offering a glimpse at what is possible.

(Yes, that includes poor black kids, too.)

Discussions about college enrollment and diversity often evoke comments about inequality and wealth disparity. There’s some merit there.

A word on that:

If your default response to the riddle of why black students have the lowest average scores on the SAT is cultural bias, maybe it’s time to ask some tough questions.

I get that having some money to hire tutors and enroll in prep classes is a reasonable retort, but resiliency and persistence are powerful allies. Find a way to win.

How else do you explain immigrant African children raised in non-American cultures with even fewer financial resources than the average black kid killing the SAT? They can’t all come from wealthy families abroad, can they?

I can’t go too far down that rabbit hole, lest I get shadow banned. And there exist sharp minds that have already examined this one in detail.

Asking difficult questions can be dangerous.

Most complex games are won and lost in the margins, beyond what’s on the surface. There are unwritten rules that carry a lot of weight in determining outcomes.

An example of understanding how the pieces fit together: Roger Goodell.

Goodell is the commissioner of the most lucrative professional sports league in America, the NFL. He’s far from perfect. And America’s obsession with football might very well have ensured that anyone presiding over the sport in this climate would be successful.

The same way that having an all-time-yet-still wildly-underrated great like Tim Duncan on can make any NBA coach look like a genius.

But I digress.

Goodell is a lightning-rod for criticism from fans. A chorus of boos follows nearly every decision that comes from his office. Myself, I can think of at least two initiatives he’s championed that hurt enjoyment of the game.

Say what you will about the man, but he’s lasted in the position this long for a reason. 

Goodell knows his role…

1) Ensure the upward (financial) trajectory of the National Football League.

2) Cultivate a certain ownership environment for league owners.

Many fans do not understand this: You do not become the head of a billion-dollar entity without holding a set of off-the-record skills. 

He knows who is really in charge (read: the NFL owners) and does what he can to ensure the league maintains a good public face and rakes in the dollars.

You keep them happy and they keep you around.

Perhaps just as important, he has discretion and knows how to read between the lines. You never hear embarrassing details about his private life and he knows how to proceed in situations where there’s no textbook answer to rely on.

When big money and influence on the private and public profiles of certain elites are at play, you’ve got to know how to respond without being told explicitly what to do.

In Goodell’s case, that usually involves how he regulates owner activity and team management. Every owner wants to win and he needs to maintain some semblance of competitive balance and product quality.

But that’s tempered by understanding the prime directives governing anyone fortunate enough to hold that power: Always make money for the owners and preserve their reputations.

Again, these are billionaires controlling extremely-valuable assets. They need a man in charge who knows when to press forward and when to back off, who can sense when you’re getting too close to doors that don’t need to be opened.

That’s a level of trust you cannot afford to just anyone.

“Gray areas” are the norm once you surpass a certain plateau in any existence. That goes for moving up the career ladder or establishing the kind of relationships that deliver you a fantastic quality of life.

If people around you know that you can solve problems and deliver value without needing your hand held, you’ll be in big demand. We’ve always got room for those with the wisdom to know how to navigate uncertain waters without being told explicitly what to do.

That’s where mentorship and guidance play a big role.

(Of course, this is something that proximity to wealth and privilege can be useful for. Although anyone can gain access to the right tutelage with the proper plan.)

Proverbs 24:14:

“Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Credit to my cousin, Antoine, who first sent me the Supreme Court update, along with a suggestion to share my thoughts online. After reading the news, I saw a few funny political commentaries, including this GIF of a man pulling up a ladder.

“Cutting the bridge behind you” or “pulling up the ladder”—these are colloquial references to people who condemn a policy after previously-benefitting from it themselves. You are preventing others from accessing assistance that you were once a beneficiary of.

As the only black man on the bench, Justice Clarence Thomas was bound to catch a lot of flak for being a vocal supporter of the ban. That exposure to public ridicule is part of the bargain for anyone who resides in the limelight.

Cutting the Bridge - Affirmative Action Opponents
I do not agree with some of the 1% rhetoric, but this cartoon is hilarious.

The Affirmative Action debate touches so many corners of society, offering a great opportunity for deep discussion. How can we better prepare minority students for admission to college (and success once they get there)?

What we do not want to do is push for lower standards.

Getting into a school is one thing; Being able to survive and thrive once you’re there is another.

The “No Child Left Behind Act” was well-intentioned, with the goal of improving education in inner-city schools. Like all sweeping-change programs, there were unintended consequences that led many to question if we were even on the right track. “Juking the stats” to create the appearance of progress produces a lot of problems.

You don’t develop better performers by reducing standards. Coming to grips with life not being fair serves you well.

We can either look for excuses for losing or find a way to win.

If your first inclination after hearing my thoughts on this topic is to question my motives, understanding of history, or even smear me because I’m not falling in line with what you think I should be saying, stop a second.

Appreciate the irony in your comprehension and evaluation process here.

That’s exactly the sort of one-dimensional thinking Civil Rights heroes were fighting against (and, in some ways, still are).

We don’t all look alike. We don’t all think alike, either.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I’ve shared.

And…..

Are you the parent of a child over the age of 10, looking to give your kid the best chance of forging a great education path? Or a relative or family friend looking to provide guidance for a student you care about? 

What should you be doing RIGHT NOW to prepare your kids for getting into a good school? What steps position your child to be at the top of the admissions pile and adequately prepare him to thrive once he gets there?

Contact me if that’s of interest.

I’m a Nigeran-American Ivy League grad who did not grow up wealthy. I’m a more explosive athlete now than I was in high school, so I wasn’t fielding any athletic scholarships, either.

Before my current line of work, I was well on my way to carving out a spot in a #STEM career with entry requirements even tougher to crack than medical school. I’ve spent years helping families with IEPs and ILPs and assisting students with the preparation necessary for admission success to college and graduate school.

I’m happy to help your child do the same. 

Contact me for details.

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