Affirmative action in college admissions – considering whether an applicant is part of an underrepresented group when making selection decisions – has long been a topic of heated public debate. Some argue that it undermines racial equity. Others advocate for its ability to promote equal opportunity in a racially unequal society. Who is right?
Natasha Warikoo dives into the arguments for and against a policy that has made it to the US Supreme Court many times. She digs into the purposes of higher education and the selection process itself to argue that it is a mistake to equate college admissions with personal merit and reward. College admissions should be based on furthering the mission of higher education: contributing to our shared democracy and to the human condition. Ultimately, Warikoo concludes that a focus on individual fairness conceals much more important questions about justice. No matter what their perspective, readers will find themselves thinking anew and asking the deeper questions that underlie this emotive debate.
Reviews of Is Affirmative Action Fair
“If you want to understand the history, context, and nuances of affirmative action, this is an important read. Warikoo challenges us to reframe the questions we ask regarding this critical issue that divides Americans yet has serious implications for the future of our society.”
Angel B. Pérez, Chief Executive Officer, National Association for College Admission Counseling
“A great primer on affirmative action for a general reader, this book serves an important need: a contemporary text that covers the subject matter in a short and succinct matter.”
Amaka Okechukwu, George Mason University
“Smart and concise, this book provides the crash course you need on one of the most consequential policies of our times. Unlike the polemics and legalese that overwhelm popular discussions, Is Affirmative Action Fair? stands out for its grounding in social science expertise and highly readable prose. Highly recommended for anyone seeking a rigorous explanation of the stakes of using, and losing, an essential tool in a long struggle for racial justice.”
Ellen Berrey, University of Toronto
“This book engages the longstanding debate over affirmative action with admirable clarity and purpose. It identifies, documents, and judiciously assesses the thorny controversies, providing facts and argument that compel readers to think beyond the simplistic assumptions that often mar thoughtful debate.”
Stephen Steinberg, CUNY Graduate Center