Are 1/3 of the African American students at Williams first or second generation immigrants? Probably.

At a reunion of black alumni of Harvard University in 2003, Lani Guinier set off a discussion on a sensitive subject: whether black immigrants are the beneficiaries, perhaps undeserving, of affirmative action.

Guinier, a Harvard law professor, was quoted in The Boston Globe at the time as saying that most minority students at elite colleges were “voluntary immigrants,” not descended from slaves. “If you look around Harvard College today, how many young people will you find who grew up in urban environments and went to public high schools and public junior high schools?” she said. “I don’t think, in the name of affirmative action, we should be admitting people because they look like us, but then they don’t identify with us.”

Of all black people aged 18 or 19 in the United States, about 13 percent are first- or second-generation immigrants, but they made up 27 percent of black students at the selective colleges studied. The proportions of immigrants were higher at the private colleges in the survey than at publics, and were highest among the most competitive colleges in the group, hitting 41 percent of the black students in the Ivy League.

The chart presented in the article suggests that 1/3 would be a good estimate for Williams. Sounds like an interesting Record article! Note also this comment from the discussion thread.

I went to Brown, and I’d say a majority of the African-American students went to prep schools and were very well off. Ivy League schools do not generally take chances on African-American students from inner-city public schools. In fact, there was an African-American student from inner-city DC, and there were numerous articles written about him, proving that fact. Therefore, I don’t see why this is so shocking to anyone in academia.

True at Williams? Also, all of this leaves aside the issue of mixed parentage. Lani Guinier (like Senator Barak Obama) has a white mother. (Not that there is anything wrong with that!)

Back in the day, it was taken for granted that the benefits of affirmative action went to students who a) Did not grow up rich and b) Did not attend prep schools and c) Had 4 US-born grandparents who had suffered under the legacy of discrimination. It appears that this would now only be true for a (small?) minority of the beneficiaries of affirmative action at Williams today.

Those with better information should comment below. My point here is not to praise or blame the current policy. I just want to know about the actual composition of the Williams student body.

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