Response to Teen’s College Acceptances Hints at Racial Bias

I run with joy. At times, I cry. Sometimes, I somehow manage to simultaneously jump up and down while still clenching the acceptance package in my hands. All of these reactions, and at times an unstructured amalgam of them all, I experienced sporadically throughout March as I heard back from the various colleges I had applied to. Waiting months on end for a result that is a supposed product of your high school career,  a state of jollity is a given in these situations. Thus, after experiencing the grueling college application process firsthand, I was dismayed to hear the dismissive comments made by Fox 5 News anchors towards high school senior Michael Brown.

Michael Brown, a student who grew up in an economically-challenged part of Houston, recently made national headlines for being accepted into twenty colleges – with full-ride scholarships at all of these schools as well, according to USA Today. With acceptances at schools ranging from Harvard to Johns Hopkins to Stanford, his tale is no small feat, and one that many students across the nation dream to emulate.

Alas, when a clip of the comments made by the news anchors came across my feed, I was in shock. Although the anchors did acknowledge that Brown must have been “a smart boy” to be accepted at all of these schools, a large portion of the video was belittling his achievements.

As the anchors referred to Brown as “obnoxious” for applying to twenty colleges and continued to describe how he took away spots from nineteen other students, I became growingly appalled each second. Was there no room for a congratulatory sentiment in that video? Was it his economic background that influenced their opinions? Or, even more importantly for me as an African female, was his race a part of the equation?

Growing up as an African female in a relatively homogeneous town, affirmative action when it comes to college acceptances has always been a touchy subject. Starting from my sophomore year, I had people telling me that I would make it into any college I wanted and that I did not need to worry about the grades and extracurriculars that everyone stressed about.

Throughout high school, this inherent barrier that existed when it came to this subject made me cognizant of the underlying nature of affirmative action and how its continued debate continues to affect our everyday lives. While I can not say for certain that the comments by the news anchors were influenced by race, the common perception of what affirmative action entails may have played a vital role in this discussion.

I am a staunch supporter of affirmative action. Affirmative action, as many falsely believe in the modern-day United States, does not suggest that as long as you are a minority, you will get a leg up for all that you strive to do. Instead, it suggests the inclusion of all of a variety of different backgrounds and supports a structured amalgam of diversity within many settings of the modern-day United States. It suggests that all are given the opportunity to succeed, despite any past barriers that may have suggested. Ultimately, it suggests our society’s movement towards becoming accepting of all.

Whether affirmative action-based stereotypes influenced the comments made toward Brown or not, we will truly never know. But, what is known is that we should all be supportive of a high school senior who made it past all odds and will continue to impact our society as we know it.

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