There is a common myth, like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, that affirmative action benefits the underprivileged. This myth is commonly quoted by racial scholars and affirmative action supports alike. In the course of my experiences posing as African American in Almost Black, I discovered the simple truth that affirmative action benefits minorities regardless of their socioeconomic background. In short, I am living proof that affirmative action does not benefit the underprivileged.
First, a little bit about me. In 1998/1999, I successfully applied to medical school as black man despite the fact that I am Indian American. The medical schools were willing to overlook my mediocre grades and test scores because I was (in their words, not mine) “one of their affirmative action candidates.” I want to say that I never lied about anything on my application except my race. I didn’t even claim to be “disadvantaged.” I was terrified of discovery because another Indian-American (Rommel Nobay) had tried a similar scheme a year earlier and failed.
Therefore, the medical schools I applied to were aware of every aspect of my background. They could check my financial aid forms to see I had beautiful red Toyota 4Runner Truck complete with grill guard. The medical schools knew I grew up in Weston, the wealthiest town in Massachusetts. I disclosed that my mother was a doctor and my father was an architect. The medical schools knew that I attended an expensive New England Prep School, Buckingham, Browne and Nichols. In the 4 years that I attended the college at University of Chicago, I did not get a dollar of need-based financial aid. That’s right- my parents paid every penny of my expenses and tuition except the merit-based National Merit Scholarship I won in high school. This fact was fully disclosed in my financial aid forms. I hate to admit it, but I was basically “the campus rich kid” at the University of Chicago and anyone who carefully read my application and financial aid forms for medical school should have realized that fact. Yet the medical schools accepted me as one of their “affirmative action candidates.”
In one of the climactic scenes in Almost Black, my middle class white girlfriend says, “Something must be wrong. How did the campus rich kid become candidate for affirmative action?” If you support equal access to education you should ask yourself the same question.