Affirmative Action?

As I have mentioned, I am teaching a graduate-level class in algorithms this fall. I was just looking over my class roster. Out of the 50 students in my class, 5 of them have European names. The other 45 all have South Asian or East Asian names.

Let's say someone were to come to me and say, "Isn't this very unfair? The United States is 64% white: shouldn't roughly that number of slots be reserved for white students? Isn't it discrimination that only 10% of your class is white?" (I haven't seen the class yet, but I can say with fair confidence that at most 10% of the class is white: since many African-Americans have European last names, it could be less than that.)

My response would be: "I think you are out of your mind: my students, most of whom are probably recent immigrants or foreign students coming from countries much poorer than the United States, have worked their butts off to get where they are. If white students want more of these slots, may I suggest they get busy studying and not try to use government coercion to make up for their lack of effort?"

I have actually seen it claimed that any opposition to affirmative action is "racist." I am wondering if my rejection of affirmative action for students of my own race is racist? If I take this position, am I a "self-hating white"?

Or am I actually embodying the anti-racist ideal that people should be judged on their merits, and not on their skin color?


  1. Reminds me of the bhumiputra policies in Malaysia, designed to reduce non-Malay influence in the economy. The Malays, of course, being the majority there, this is most certainly an "affirmative action" policy that the majority has decided it needs to award itself.

    Ron Unz has argued that university admissions in the U.S. are something other than purely meritocratic. In this case, the people who get coveted spots in universities are not necessarily demonstrating merit at X, with X being whatever you think the criterion ought to be. They might be working their butts off at something but not at X. I don't have much of an opinion about this myself, knowing little of it beyond what Unz has to say. I certainly don't mean to make any comment about your specific students.


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