Divergent Understandings

Submitted By:
Zachary Hansen, Memphis University School, Memphis, TN

Is Affirmative Action Fair?: The Myth of Equity in College Admissions by Natasha Warikoo
Polity Press, September 26, 2022

Educators wanting to deepen their understanding of the affirmative action debate need to read Natasha Warikoo’s new book. It provides the historical context, language, and counterarguments needed for thoughtful discourse. Warikoo, a Professor of Sociology at Tufts University, uses philosophy and social science research data to analyze the benefits and potential drawbacks of affirmative action. She unpacks the nuance and complexity of affirmative action and race, and she explores the “divergent understandings of the role that race continues to play in the contemporary United States.” Warikoo posits that affirmative action does not apply equally to every minority group, and framing college admissions as “an individualist, meritocratic competition” inaccurately leads people to equate admissions decisions with the worthiness of individuals. A proper understanding of admissions begins with an understanding of the diverse goals of colleges and universities, which affirmative action does not adequately address. Warikoo argues that college admissions will never be completely “fair.” She also confronts the colorblindness view that racial inequality no longer plays a role in the opportunities of individuals. Warikoo’s conclusion is clear: affirmative action is a “worthy policy,” that needs to be expanded.

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