What’s Race got to do with it?

Disclaimer: Below is a very controversial topic. I mean no offense whatsoever to anyone; I only wish to talk about a subject that deserves some discussion! Please do not take offense to anything I say. If I am wrong, please do correct me!

We’ve all seen it. That one question on the survey, SAT information, school registration, or political ballot:

“What is your ethnicity/Race? Check all that apply”

Is this really necessary? Do defining questions and the demographics based on these questions help or hinder us as we try to be less discriminatory?

We are now in an age of equality. There is no more slavery in America, women can vote, and skin color is not an acceptable reason for denial. But to every improvement there are exceptions. As we strive to provide equal opportunities for all, are we limiting the opportunities of others?

I have grown up as a minority. As a white girl in America, that is pretty rare! My school has called itself “97% people of Asian descent” for six years now. I’ve learned to appreciate other cultures, and don’t bat an eye when my Asian friends and white friends talk. It’s normal, since for us, race just doesn’t matter! So when I am asked “what is your ethnicity/race?” and my only option is “white,” I get a little confused.

Race is often used to categorize problems. Areas with economic problems often have a correlation with race, so that is what people focus on. They assume that there is a direct correlation between race and the problem, and to solve the problem, you need to eliminate the racial barriers. That is great. Really, it is! There is no reason why someone should face poverty just because they have a different skin color.

But here’s where it gets complicated. Say, to solve the economic problem, we plan to eliminate racial barriers. To do this, we need to have more minority students in a particular college. Because of this, a quota system is set up. A certain number of students of each color are needed to fill these quotas….and we are back to where we started: race is the determining factor in acceptances and denials.

The problem has gone beyond simply skin color. Now, the lack of diversity in a certain location is not just because of discrimination, but also because of family history, different cultures between towns, and personal finances, to name a few. These are not issues directly related to minority races, but issues that everyone faces. Instead of seeing the problem differently for different people, why don’t we look at the entire issue? Everyone has a different opinion on the issue. A California school actual made a short documentary on how race factors into our lives, and how opinions can vary (the trailer is above). As one speaker explained,

“[the problem is above and beyond [race]”.

I agree with this speaker. Things have changed. It is time to change our ways of thinking as well!



  1. KW,
    Interesting post! This is definitely something I’ve been thinking about recently, not just because of its prevalence in our course material but also because affirmative action’s constitutionality has been discussed very frequently recently, all over the internet and in newspapers. I think it can be agreed that African Americans and Hispanics tend to be more economically disadvantaged… but it can also be agreed that not all blacks or Hispanics are economically disadvantaged. However, these people still reap the benefits of affirmative action, getting an advantage in admissions even though they were at no significant disadvantage. I believe it was the LA Times where I read a proposal that says colleges should not select or have quotas for minority students, but rather should have quotas or preferential selection for students in poverty or who are economically disadvantaged. This would likely tend to affect black or Hispanic students more than other races, but it would also offer opportunities to disadvantaged white or Asian students. It would also keep people who are racial minorities but who are not any more disadvantaged then their white counterparts from getting preferential treatment, therefore leveling the playing field. Do you think this would be a good idea? I think it does seem like it might help, because if the problem we are supposed to solve is poverty, then directly targeting poverty seems like the best idea. The article of course pointed out disadvantages to this plan and affirmative action, but I figured it would be best to not write an entire essay just on this topic.
    Great post!


    • Hi Jane,
      that sounds like a brilliant solution. It directly solves the problem, without giving preferential treatment based on race. At the same time, it is still preferential treatment, which some people could still find unattractive. I suppose there is no perfect solution!
      What are some of these disadvantages to this? Please share!
      Thanks for the comment, Jane!


  2. Hello Jane,
    I agree that there are a lot of problems with races being categorized which creates stereotypes. Once these stereotypes are set it can be very hard to eliminate them. Also stereotypes build off of each other creating one big problem. Do you have any ideas on how to eliminate or reduce some of the racial judgments?
    Great post!


  3. Hi KW,
    Nice post! Race definitely does have a factor in decisions like college admissions. However, there is no easy solution to completely get rid of racial discrimination like this, especially because of the racial quotas that you mentioned. Unless we get rid of this system, this discrimination will still continue. Since it essentially favors the minorities, I think many people would say that it evens out the discrimination that minorities face during their life, although nowadays they have the same rights as everyone else, so personally I think there is not much discrimination going on. It is an important problem, but I don’t think there is not a good solution for it yet.


  4. Hey Jane!

    I have to partially agree with you on this. Yes, race today in most day to day life is a thing of the past, with much of our generation not caring about it. I have a parent who works in Educational assessment, AKA her company does standardized tests. The reason they ask those questions? It’s to make sure that the test’s are firstly fair to all backgrounds and not unfair to any one demographic, but then unfortunately, these numbers can get pulled into categorizing demographics. perhaps some legislation needs to be put into place to make sure these numbers are just used for fairness factors alone. let me know what you think.


  5. KW,
    I am also a minority in America and I really liked how you gave the college acceptance example on how race does affect opportunities. When taking standardized tests and surveys, I am completely conflicted on what to choose, because I fit into multiple categories. Even though I am of a certain race (or a mix of the few), there is never one that fits perfectly for anyone and although you have a certain race, you may not interact, act, or be affected by those issues in the culture. For example, if I were to have a friend who is of specific race but the only similarities that are associated with both the person and that race is the skin tone. They could be considered of a certain decent, but have no ties other than their family. Your dad could be of asian decent and your mom european, but you grew up in America and have no similarities to either of these cultures. I also find it strange how the option for caucasians is White, and with all the others it is much more specific and elegant. What are your thoughts on these issues?
    Thanks for such an interesting post!


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