June 2023

The Privilege of Playing the Game on Easy Mode, and what the Affirmative Action Ruling gets Wrong

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The Supreme Court struck down race-based Affirmative Action, reigniting the debate on diversity, merit, and the pursuit of equality in the United States.

Time: Supreme Court Rules Against Race-Based Affirmative Action

Perceived recipients never asked for Affirmative Action yet get questioned and doubted at every accomplishment and can't shake the lazy tropes that follow them around at every step. The reality is that companies notoriously struggle to hire diverse talent, even going to great lengths to incorporate DEI initiatives to address their failures. Diversity isn't a favor or a handout, it's great for business.

As we process the implications of this ruling (something that was very foreseeable), we can easily draw parallels to the world of sports, where diversity and talent acquisition play a pivotal role.

read: Cancel Culture vs. Critical Thinking: Ja Morant Proves Why We Must Embrace Diversity

Hate the game, not the players

Next time you question whether people are receiving handouts and taking spots, just look around your own company for proof. Look no further than the NFL's failing Rooney Rule. Black NFL coaches damn sure don't want it to be a necessity, they'd much rather get the same shot that everyone else is, but when you can't seem to get a fair shot due to nepotism, coach's kids, the buddy system and whatever other inexplicable reasons keep getting you skipped, it must be questioned, with the only remedy being legal intervention.

Thinking someone took your spot is just weak.

When you got cut from the team, or didn't get the job was Affirmative Action to blame too? A culture of entitlement has bred softness into the fabric of our collective egos, with so many people used to participation trophies and not being equipped to handle normal rejection, causing them to blame everyone but themselves for their failures.

This ego attack is a powerful weapon, and how politicians scare with "Immigrants are taking your jobs" knowing it's a lie that will scare people into political compliance. The truth is, immigrants create more jobs than they "take."

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Would you draft all quarterbacks on your fantasy team? Only if you don't know anything about football and think that a higher projected score means drafting a second quarterback over your first running back. Teams need diverse perspectives to thrive, and sports understand this by identifying team needs and taking the initiative to target and actively recruit only specific positions for their team.

We Love to highlight and exploit diversity when it's convenient, when it's not, the Rooney Rule and Affirmative Action are the reality in most situations.

The United States is often celebrated as a great melting pot, a country that thrives on its diversity and harnesses it to achieve greatness. Nowhere is this more evident than in athletics, where teams actively recruit athletes based on their unique skill sets and abilities. We don't simply go recruit an athlete based on their metrics, we actively recruit a quarterback, in the interest in fulfilling a specific and compelling objective for the team.

What about test scores?

In sports, "test scores" can get you an interview from a scout, but the rest is left up to the tape. In our professional careers, we base everything on our performance in the field.

What's truly unfair is when the affirmative privileges that propel some students ahead are ignored and treated as equitable while the inverse is somehow a handout receiving bogeyman. What sport does better than anything else is level the economic playing field by at least being accessible to most through school programs and scholarships. What standardized tests, legacy based, privilege ignoring admissions have gotten wrong is that they don't tell the full story, nor do they account for the test of life. One does not simply test their way onto a basketball team, they must make the cut.

read: Top 5 Most Expensive Sports

Test scores (vertical, strength, speed) don't determine the best player (only identifies a good athlete) just as test scores point to a great student, but tell nothing about how an individual performs against competition. What test scores (which can be manipulated) have always failed to tell us is the resilience and adversity that a human has encountered in order to get them.

A one shot SAT, all or nothing candidate with no test prep, tutors, or legacy to help guide them through the admissions process tells a much more compelling story of resilience and ability to adapt than someone who's had tutors, comfort, legacy, and multiple test attempts to score the same. Some people do it despite circumstances, others do it because of them.

read: Is Resiliency The Most Important Trait?

When we view a University's objective in building a student body, proof of the lack of a general world view and diverse perspectives creates environments where sheltered people believe their reality is shared by everyone else. When we continue to whitewash history, the truth and purpose behind diversity gets twisted. It leads to attacks on people who've earned their way yet will have their credentials constantly questioned, due to the sobering disbelief and rejection of being outperformed by someone you were told only got in because of their race.

From The University of North Carolina: The University of North Carolina is committed to creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive community of students, faculty, and staff. This commitment derives from our experience that our differences strengthen our educational programs, enhance the development of our students, and enable us to achieve our mission as a public university—one that strives for excellence in teaching, learning, creating, and discovering, and in serving all the people of North Carolina.

While test scores have been used as a metric to measure aptitude and determine opportunities, they fail to capture the full spectrum of an individual's experience and potential. Success stories from self-made billionaires often highlight the importance of resilience, determination, and the ability to overcome adversity. These qualities, crucial for personal and professional growth, cannot be adequately assessed through standardized tests alone.

Just as sports rely on a comprehensive evaluation that goes beyond numbers, our society should value the tangible impact and real-life experiences that individuals bring to the table.

The tape always counts more than the tests

In sports, the tape, referring to performance and on-field capabilities, often trumps test results and measurements. It focuses on the practical application of skills and the ability to deliver under pressure. Similarly, in our quest for progress and equality, we must recognize that individuals are more than their test scores. By embracing a holistic approach that acknowledges the value of experiences, resilience, and the ability to overcome adversity, we can create a society that values each person's unique journey and potential.

Just as teams recruit athletes based on their talents and abilities, we should strive to recognize the individual experiences and resilience that shape each person. Sometimes things like race or gender can be assumed to give us unique perspectives and experiences.

The ugly stereotype is that recipients of "the tape" are undeserving and receiving a handout while being blamed for the the failures and rejections of those who didn't 'make the cut. The tape doesn't like, but test scores do, and level of difficulty should be included in admissions, and be evaluated.

Winning at games on easy mode isn't worthy of praise, and playing on hard mode gets you paid. The solution to Affirmative Action is to respect the difficulty of the game.

Issa Hall, Esq

Issa has founded multiple ventures, is an author, and founding partner of Hall & Dixon law firm, with over a decade of experience in tech and law.

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