On Being Biracial and Affirmative Action: Where Do I Fit in?

Abigail Fisher, a white student who was denied entrance to the University of Texas, Austin, is taking her case to the Supreme Court, calling the decision a clear result of affirmative action. While I don’t know the figures (but this For Harriet writer does), I do have a personal investment in enlightening others on the role that affirmative action may play out for a real live, three-dimensional, skin and bones person. Perhaps learning someone’s story can help those who may be quick to judge the policy.

The only instance in which I know for sure that I was a recipient of affirmative action was at the preschool in my town’s local community college. As a black biracial kid of a white single mother, I attended the preschool along with a few other minorities and many white children. Throughout the rest of my schooling, particularly in graduate school, I’ve wondered if affirmative action played a role in my education. While I believe affirmative action is important, and even crucial, knowing that it exists makes myself and other minorities wonder if we’re one of the few who’ve been “given a pass.” Despite my fear, I’ve faced my fair share of educational discrimination, which began in 5th grade.

My ¾ Caucasian, ¼ Asian cousins were enrolled in a gifted program at their elementary school, and since we were from the same family I assumed I should be too. I took the gifted test and failed, and only recently learned that most of the questions on my test packet had to do with Catholicism even though it was a public institution in no way affiliated with a church. As I was completely unaware of this discrepancy at the time, I decided I must not be as smart as I thought.

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Shannon Luders-Manuel is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles.

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