Stories & Advice

Updated: Apr 30, 2018

For the first time in its over three-hundred year history, Harvard University’s freshman class of 2021 was comprised of a majority non-white student body. As the oldest university in the nation, Harvard prides itself upon its diversity and use of affirmative action. Be it Stanford, Berkeley, or the Ivy Leagues, many students across the country have had ideas of higher education instilled in them since a young age. But what happens when access to these institutions is unequal? And what happens when schools take steps to close these gaps in opportunities? From a 4.0 unweighted GPA, extracurriculars, and sports, to private tutors and supplemental essay ghost writers, college admissions are all but simple. Although the college process is comprised of so many factors,- the relevancy of many of them subjective to the university and the student- when discussions of affirmative action come into play, many are quick to dismiss the rationale for using race as a factor in college admissions. The arguments against affirmative action often arise on the grounds that it’s unfair and that it strips white or non-minority students of their right to go to college. Often times, students who do not benefit directly when it comes to affirmative action, and others who dismiss it, fail to recognize the decades of inequality in education that make the system so necessary and powerful for underrepresented students in the first place. In other cases, some fail to concede to the fact that affirmative action does not excuse students of color from fulfilling the basic core requirements a university has established in their admissions process. Affirmative action does not make attempts to push white, Asian, or other groups of students down in the application process. Rather, it attempts to counteract the inequality indigenous and Native American, Hispanic/ Latino, and African American students are more likely to encounter later on due to their ethnic backgrounds as well as counteract discrimination many have endured prior to applying to college. Additionally, more diverse campuses benefit the larger college community as exposure to people from different races and backgrounds expands the experience of all students. As a method of attempting to compensate for past wrongs, align current opportunities, and promote diversity, both public and private universities should take race and ethnicity into account as a factor in admissions.

One of the leading justifications to include race in the college admissions process is the necessity to compensate for past inequities. Be it slavery, internment, or the forced removal of indigenous people, many argue that the history of the United States has established a form of institutionalized racism that has manifested itself in the lack of housing and educational opportunities provided to non-white citizens of this nation. It is clear that those with greater wealth, more often than not white students, have a greater chance of attending college and pursuing a high-paying career. But what many fail to recognize is the effect that the history of racism towards people of color in this nation has on the ability of students of color to obtain adequate resources and equal wealth. Additionally, our nation as a whole should aim to effectively provide reparations for to groups who suffered from occurrences that American society has benefitted from or caused as a whole, such as interference throughout Central and South America as well as Mexico to the enslavement and erasure of African American and Native American/ indigenous culture. Due to our interference, as well as the resulting sentiments we hold within this nation towards many groups of color, existing systems set in place primarily benefit caucasians. In education specifically, fewer people of color have access to top K-12 schools than whites due to wealth inequality as well as cultural differences preventing these groups from attending top universities or at times any college at all. Due to this, the system remains in place. As Alexandra Killewald, a professor of sociology at Harvard, elaborates in her studies about the differences in white and black family education and wealth, “race differences in other indicators of social origins, such as differences in childhood neighborhoods and school quality resulting from racial a role in depressing young blacks’ assets beyond what is captured by parental class”. She later goes on to explain that even with financial systems set into place for the benefit of majority colored communities, it is more beneficial to attack the root of the problem- adequate access to education and jobs. While white students lack ethnic diversity some schools want, they hold a higher average of qualities of greater consideration, such as grade point averages and standardized test scores due to greater access to more sought after college preparatory high schools. Those who object to factoring race into college applications, or the implementation of affirmative action programs on the grounds that all applications should have equal consideration, fail to recognize that using these systems moves the education system as a whole towards greater equality. For those who oppose based on the grounds that all students should have an equal right to attend college, the same argument holds. In truth, though no one in the United States currently has an inherent right to attend college, all people should have an equal opportunity to be granted admissions to higher education. Consideration and preference for students of historically oppressed and marginalized groups such as Latinos and African Americans actually benefits the mission of those who believe in equal opportunity in the long run, as including race balances the valued factors in college admissions and later assists these groups to equal involvement in higher ranking professions and greater economic self-sufficiency. In order to combat decades of racism and the resulting inequality of opportunity in attending elite colleges, as well as earning as much to the dollar as non-minorities, colleges should maintain any existing affirmative action systems set into place and begin considering race if they lack them currently.

The second argument, and perhaps the most strongly agreed upon and argued for within communities of color, is the explanation that the ongoing presence of racism in society justifies the use of race as a factor in college admissions. With the majority of people believing that racism is still a major problem within this nation, it’s easy to argue that more needs to be done to ensure equal access to things such as housing and healthcare. However, belief towards allowing greater access for minority groups into higher education still remains mixed. Though research suggests that the number of African American and Latino students enrolled in college has increased, a Hechinger Report found that the gap between whites and people of color is still increasing, elaborating that “as public colleges become more costly, it’s finish a degree” for students of low-income families, students who are “disproportionately black or Latino”. The report acknowledges perhaps the most important point to consider while evaluating affirmative action, that 65 percent of jobs by 2020 will require education beyond high school. Another Pew Research study found that as wealth inequality has decreased between white and non-white low-income households, “racial and ethnic wealth inequality among middle-income families increased during or after the recession”, margins which “did not diminish from 2013 to 2016”. This signifies that while families of color move into higher tiers of wealth, they still experience lower average income than that of white families of the same division. This, in turn, clarifies that although even non-minorities fall into lower-income communities and financial situations, people of color within the same classifications make less money with the same amount of education or have endured greater discrimination in the process. The first argument usually posed by those in opposition to affirmative action due to contemporary issues is the perceived unfairness of one group receiving explicit preference over another due to ethnicity. But the same people who are quick to dismiss allowing ‘privilege’ gifted to non-white students are quite often the very same who dismiss their own access to privilege throughout life. Due to this, considering race as a factor in college admissions to admit more non-white or minority students allows for greater equality in opportunity following college, where race does impact community, jobs, and pay. By the means of taking students’ race into consideration during the college application process, we move one step closer to no longer requiring a system such as affirmative action. With some of the most shameful events and systems in this nation present less than one century ago, racism still exists in our modern society. The United States’ history of oppression and sponsored discrimination has led to our current issues of racial profiling and discrimination in everyday life, including education. In our often cyclical system of not having equal opportunities to go to college causing one to not attend higher education and resultantly later on not having equal opportunities due to lack of a college degree, policies such as affirmative action must remain in place or be established in pursuit of furthering the development of equality in this country. Affirmative action, as well as considering race as one factor in a student’s college admission, should remain a system in place if done so in order to promote admission of minority students prepared for the school in question.

As the system currently stands, the term ‘affirmative action’ applies only to the “preferential treatment” given to an individual of a minority race or ethnicity applying to certain schools. Currently, many universities describe their reasoning for using this system, for those that do, as in hopes for greater diversity in the classroom and deeper understanding of students across very different walks of life. In a recent article published by The Century Foundation, in which experts weigh in on the benefits of “racially diverse” schools, the group articulates that increased diversity in school systems provides “a more meaningful form of racial and ethnic integration, leading to greater mutual respect, understanding, and empathy across racial lines”. Though the primary focus of the article is the necessity for K-12 schools to promote diversity, the authors elaborate on the need for the continual influence of diversity upon the learning environment, from kindergarten to college to the workplace. Many are quick to attack these sentiments, truthful or not, stating that in cases such as those of affirmative action, the university is simply using minority students with a view to jump in rankings as a diverse and inclusive institution. Additionally, many believe race to be an unimportant factor in determining the status of one’s college admission, some citing socioeconomic backgrounds as more relevant while others dismiss the belief that discrimination or hardship based upon the “minority” status of a group of individuals. In both cases, opponents of the use of race as a factor in the college application and admissions process believe race to be an unimportant or unneeded factor in acceptance to a university. What supporters of these ideas often fail to recognize is that most, if not all, factors considered in one’s college application could subjectively be deemed “unimportant” or “unfair”. Issues from the inaccessibility of adequate resources outside of school such as private tutors and college counselors to the minuscule difference between one’s A- and another’s B+ lead to discussions regarding the fairness of any and all factors most schools take into account. Just as students with large donor families, legacy status, or private tutors and hours of college admission assistance often lack reservations regarding their admission, affirmative action students have just taken advantage of the opportunities supplied to them. The only difference, as it seems, is that the method of stepping towards a more equal society is questioned rather than the use of money or other “non-important” factors. Factors beyond one’s control, from socioeconomic status to whether or not your parents had the opportunity to attend higher education, make up one’s individual outlook and approach to education, and provide an overall improvement to the learning environment of the college once attending. Allowing for as many factors as possible to be considered helps colleges gather a diverse population in experience as well as academic interest, socioeconomic status, and ethnic background. By including race as a potential factor in the admission process in order to grant better opportunities to non-white and minority students, or allowing the use of systems resembling affirmative action, students of all backgrounds attending the school receive greater cross-racial knowledge and preparation for the increasingly diverse workforce outside of college.

Though many establish multitudes of ways to dismiss the legitimacy of factoring in the race of every student and their high school career, there is a staggering amount of statistical data that proves not only that Hispanic/Latino, African American, and Native/ indigenous students warrant preference within the college application process, but that they need it. For the sake of disrupting the repetitive cycle of wealth inequality and racial disparities found within the educational system, institutions of higher education must provide screening of applications that takes into account the aspects of life that have made the applicant the overall student and person they are, with race being one of the most influential aspects of one’s life in some cases. An argument brought about by many lower-middle and working-class white families is for affirmative action not based upon ethnicity but upon economic status. Though it may initially appear a good strategy, shifting affirmative action to a financially-focused system would lead to an even greater rift between races on campus, with most people of color selected from lower-income backgrounds as the demographic of more wealthy communities remains majority white. Additionally, as illustrated by a recent Pew Research study, minorities within lower income communities remain less well off than their white equivalents, with low income Hispanic and Latino families making a third, and black families one fourth, of the average net income of a white low income household. Finally, this hypothetical change to the pre-existing affirmative action system also fails to recognize the fact that many universities already receive information regarding their economic status, many including this information not only in financial aid reports but in the actual admissions process. In order to truly combat the inequality of minority students coming out of college and graduate school, we must hold greater emphasis on retention programs and inclusivity on college campuses for students as well as balancing the scale for minority students in the admissions process. Implementing this, as well as the use of affirmative action programs in more ‘elite’ private universities such as Stanford or the Ivy Leagues will mean greater economic and ethnic diversity within the college campus, and an accurate reflection of the racial demographic of the United States.

Updated: Apr 7, 2018

*Please note that these books are not arranged in any particular order of importance or relevancy- all should be considered/ looked upon and decisions made by the reader themselves. Some contain graphic language and/ or imagery*

1.) Half + Half– Various Authors

For our very loved mixed kids, who often are alienated from both or multiple sides.

“As we approach the twenty-first century, biracialism and biculturalism are becoming increasingly common. Skin color and place of birth are no longer reliable signifiers of one’s identity or origin. Simple questions like What are you? and Where are you from? aren’t answered—they are discussed. These eighteen essays, joined by a shared sense of duality, address the difficulties of not fitting into and the benefits of being part of two worlds. Through the lens of personal experience, they offer a broader spectrum of meaning for race and culture. And in the process, they map a new ethnic terrain that transcends racial and cultural division.”

– Barnes & Noble

2.) The Rain God– Arturo Islas

“Arturo Islas’s ten-year search for a publisher for this novel reveals the sad tragedy of commercialism and racism in the literary world. White editors told him that his book was not ‘authentic’ enough: where were the gangs, the poverty, the struggle of barrio life? Islas, an authentic Mexican-American, stood firm for a decade until The Rain God was at last published, to the great joy of all its readers. In just over 200 pages, it chronicles three generations of a family living in a border town in Texas, and probes at the borders and divisions in all of our lives: parents vs. children, modern vs. traditional, gay vs. straight, human vs. supernatural, and body vs. soul. Surprisingly, all of this is done with great subtlety and flow; you must be an active reader to pick up on Islas’s themes. It is the type of book you can reread half a dozen times (as I have) and see something new each time. It is profound, haunting, and filled with music. The Rain God is the greatest American novel since The Great Gatsby.”

– Amazon

3.) The House on Mango Street– Sandra Cisneros

“Mango Street, poetic in its prose, describes Esperanza, the oldest child in a Hispanic family who moves from apartment to apartment each year with her family. Mango Street is her family’s first house and the neighborhood becomes a part of her existence. In two to three page vignettes, Cisneros poignantly describes Esperanza’s adolescent angst. Navigating life as one of few Hispanics in her school, Esperanza faces pressure at school, at home, and with her friends. Partially autobiographical and part fiction, Cisneros employs luscious words to reveal how Esperanza desires to become a writer and leave Mango Street. As in her own life, her neighborhood will always be part of her, no matter how far she goes.

Only 110 pages in length, A House on Mango Street is widely studied in schools as both an example of Hispanic culture and coming of age. Cisneros with Mango Street paved the way for generations of Hispanic women writers. Her story of Esperanza is poignant, poetic, and a joy to read.”


4.) …Y No Se Lo Tragó La Tierra/ …And The Earth Did Not Devour Him– Tomás Rivera

“Reading Tomás Rivera’s groundbreaking book, . . . Y No Se Lo Tragó La Tierra (And the Earth Did Not Devour Him), was the first time I had a full, powerful, visceral sense of what it must be like to be a migrant worker. Don’t get me wrong: I know that a book can’t substitute for real, lived experience – but for me, good books are portals into other lives. They allow me to expand my awareness, my knowledge, my consciousness – and when they’re done really well, they tell a great story, too.

Such is the case with Rivera’s 1971 book. Comprised of short stories and vignettes, the 70-page book could be seen as more a collage or story cycle than a novel – but I think it adapts the novel form to the rhythms and patterns of the lives lived by Chicano migrant workers in the United States. Just as Sarah Orne Jewett’s 1896 book, The Country of the Pointed Firs, can be seen as an unconventionally structured novel, so, too, can Rivera’s book be seen as challenging the classic definition of a novel. It’s as if Rivera – the son of migrant workers – is saying, “Chicano migrant workers don’t have the luxury of lives lived in one place. They don’t have the luxury of living a novel. Their lives are fragmented and fractured, as they move from place to place.”

This fragmentation is felt tangibly in the book’s unusual structure. The semi-autobiographical book opens with an unnamed narrator, the 12-year-old son of South Texas Mexican American migrant workers, crawling under a house, where he begins to recall stories from the previous year. The rest of the book unfolds in a collage of story fragments – the bits and pieces the boy remembers from his family’s constant travel around the United States.”


5.) The Chicano Movement: For Beginners– Maceo Montoya

“As the heyday of the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s to early 70s fades further into history and as more and more of its important figures pass on, so too does knowledge of its significance. Thus, Chicano Movement For Beginners is an important attempt to stave off historical amnesia. It seeks to shed light on the multifaceted civil rights struggle known as “El Movimiento” that galvanized the Mexican American community, from laborers to student activists, giving them not only a political voice to combat prejudice and inequality, but also a new sense of cultural awareness and ethnic pride.

Beyond commemorating the past, Chicano Movement For Beginners seeks to reaffirm the goals and spirit of the Chicano Movement for the simple reason that many of the critical issues Mexican American activists first brought to the nation’s attention then―educational disadvantage, endemic poverty, political exclusion, and social bias―remain as pervasive as ever almost half a century later.”

– Amazon

6.) Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America– Juan Gonzalez

“I must say that as a Latino, I was very upset when I was given a Latino history course. Why should I? I know this stuff inside and out. Right? WRONG!!! Harvest of Empire digs very deep into US history and opens up a new chapter that was not presented to us in high school text books. Harvest of Empire will provide you the kind of information that will make you go ‘Oh, I didn’t know that’. Anyone from any culture wants to be able to look back into history and read about the great things that their ‘people’ has accomplished. Living in America and being surrounded by so many stereotypes has given Latinos a bad perception of themselves. This book has allowed me to see past all of this and realize that the Latino people truly have rich historical roots and have contributed a lot towards the foundation of this great country.”

– Barnes & Noble

*Harvest of Empire has also been adapted into a critically-acclaimed film as well

7.) The Fire & The Word: A History of the Zapatista Movement– Gloria Muñoz Ramírez

“The Fire and the Word tells the story of the Zapatista movement, from its clandestine birth in the jungle of Chiapas, to its impact on Mexico and its ongoing influence around the world. Gloria Muñoz lived for years in remote Mayan villages and interviewed some of the group’s organizers. Their first-person accounts are woven throughout the text, along with reportage and contextual history. The result is a story composed of “the little pieces of mirrors and crystals that make up the various moments” (Subcomandante Marcos) of the Zapatistas’ years of open struggle, the reflections of a history that is still being made, one which continues to inform and inspire activists and intellectuals around the globe.

Beautifully illustrated with a collection of the most emblematic photographs from Zapatista history, The Fire and the Word is an inspiring testimony of resistance and hope.”


8.) Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race– Reni Eddo-Lodge

“Eddo-Lodge accurately takes the temperature of racial discussions in the UK. In seven crisp essays, she takes white British people to task for failing to accept that “racism is a white problem”. “White privilege,” she writes, “is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelops everything we know, like a snowy day.”

She’s strong on the pervasive racial marginalization of black people, for example in the depiction of the working class that still so often comes with the prefix “white”. Instead of framing the working class as “a white man in a flat cap” she suggests “a black woman pushing a pram”. She has a clear eye for the assumptions that underpin racism: it’s striking that the discourse on race today is stronger in tone than in the 70s suburban world in which I grew up, where British people were (usually) polite to the point of rudeness; the stakes are higher now.

– The Guardian

9.) Finally Got the News!: The Printed Legacy of the U.S. Radical Left, 1970-1979 – Brad Duncan

“Finally Got the News uncovers the hidden legacy of the radical Left of the 1970s, a decade when vibrant social movements challenged racism, imperialism, patriarchy and capitalism itself. It combines written contributions from movement participants with original printed materials—from pamphlets to posters, flyers to newspapers—to tell this politically rich and little-known story.

The dawn of the 1970s saw an absolute explosion of interest in revolutionary ideas and activism. Young people radicalized by the antiwar movement became anti-imperialists, veterans of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements increasingly identified with communism and Pan-Africanism, and women were organizing for autonomy and liberation. While these movements may have different roots, there was also an incredible overlapping and intermingling of activists and ideologies.

These diverse movements used printed materials as organizing tools in every political activity, creating a sprawling and remarkable array of printing styles, techniques, and formats. Through the lens of printed materials we can see the real nuts and bolts of revolutionary organizing in an era when thousands of young revolutionaries were attempting to put their beliefs into practice in workplaces and neighborhoods across the U.S.”


10.) In the Time of the Butterflies- Julia Alvarez

Darn good story with strong Latina characters. A must read for all Hispanic ladies. Until I picked this up, I didn't realize that the Dominican Republic had such a turbulent past. Thus, the book has been educational as well as entertaining.Fantastic writing style. I really felt I was getting to know all of the sisters, their thoughts, their feelings, their doubts, and their reasons for going against Trujillo. In the sixties there was rebellion. Revolutionists wanted Trujillo, a dictator, out of the way. This book follows four sisters. Patria is the oldest and appears to be your average stay at home wife and mother who occasionally struggles with her deep Catholic faith, but one day she witnesses catastrophe and she enters the revolution. Dede is the "play it safe" sister and doesn't get directly involved but does her part in saving her sisters who are. Minerva is the one with the fiery words and passionate speeches. Her constant rebellion fuels the others and she plays a very strong role in the revolution. Maria Teresa, "Mata" also becomes embroiled in the underground plans, not realizing that she may be biting off more than she chew.As always, in a revolution, disaster is inevitable. There shall be casualties on both sides... Who is this one going to take?

11.) CHICANA– Amanda Gómez

Let us take a moment to plug our own Amanda Gómez's first book.

Gómez’s first and currently only book offers a raw and real glimpse into the life of Chicanx teenagers unparalleled by anything else currently available. The series of poems and vivid photographs place each and every reader into the life of the girl, only 16 at the time the book was written. It doesn’t surround a tired audience with gossip and school drama- quite the contrary. Gomez effortlessly takes the reader through topics such as mental illness, euro-centric beauty and success standards, police brutality, family, and cultural appropriation, to name a few.

A mixed kid herself, Gómez deals with the conflict of mixing white and Mexican, and living as a Mexican-American in an upper-middle class suburb. Additionally, Gómez tackles the issue of gender roles and sexuality within the Latino community, and the value and impact of love. The book is funny, thought-provoking, and at times heartbreaking. It is a must-read for any young Chicanx.

*CHICANA varies in front cover artwork and styling


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