Thursday, November 8, 2012

the affirmative action kid? i think not.

Unless you live under a conveniently placed rock, I'm sure you've seen the opinion article about affirmative action that was recently published in The Harvard Crimson.  If not, take a couple of minutes to read it here.  I'll wait.

You're finished?  Great.

I'm not going to address most of this article.  Because a lot of people have done that, including a friend of mine and even the site Jezebel (this one probably counts as fighting fire with an even hotter fire, but that's beside the point).  I'm going to focus on the following line very briefly, because as a black, female medical student, it strikes quite an unsettling chord:
How would you feel if you were assured before going into surgery that your surgeon was the beneficiary of affirmative action in medical school?  I do not see why higher academic institutions should lower their standards for admission.
Quite frankly, I doubt anyone's desire for self-preservation would allow her to entertain that question for even a second if she required immediate surgical attention.  It would be ludicrous of someone to decline the help of a surgeon of color because the presence of affirmative action makes questionable his or her ability to do the job.  The patient would still want that surgeon to stop his bleeding, or excise his tumor, or put in his stent to keep his arteries open.  Even if he or she did still refuse to be treated by that particular physician, it is important to remember that every physician could potentially make a mistake while performing a procedure--even if affirmative action didn't exist.  Opting out of treatment provided by a beneficiary of affirmative action does not magically erase the possibility of error, that uncomfortable reality of the medical field.

Sarah--Miss Siskind, if you like that better--I will be honest with you.  I've never met you.  I know next to nothing about who you are, where you come from, why you chose Harvard, anything of the sort.  And I'm sure you're a nice girl.  But your article made me furious.  After I read it, I probably called you some names and celebrated the bashing you were beginning to receive from all corners of the internet.  I could apologize for those actions and ill-feelings toward you, but I'm not sure how sincere an apology would be, seeing as how the words that you wrote (and that many people seem to agree with) still sting me and many of the people I care about.  All of us--my peers, my classmates, you, I--worked hard to be where we are, and we will go on to become fabulous physicians, lawyers, i-bankers, actresses...whatever we decide.

But I suppose I should thank you.  You've inspired me to lay aside the jokes about how Harvard and Vanderbilt must have picked me to meet a minority quota.  Your article gives me motivation to work hard, just to make sure I'm proving you wrong every second that I'm in medical school.  And I'm sure that others like me feel the same.

The bottom line is this: I deserve to be where I am.  And in a weird, twisted way, Miss Siskind, you've opened my eyes wide to that fact.

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