Rodriguez’s Controversial Stance on Affirmative Action

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Personal Achievement Beyond Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is a type of policy created to help minorities who were once discriminated against by providing them with the opportunity to get better employment or education. Rodriguez doesn’t support affirmative action because he’s an example of a minority who was able to succeed in education without being helped. Rodriguez was able to risk anything to become that scholarship boy, even if it meant he had to pull away from his family. Rodriguez didn’t want to be a part of that percentage of minorities who are stuck in the cycle of social reproduction because he’s an immigrant. His goal was to prove that minorities can succeed without the help of affirmative action.

Class vs. Race in Affirmative Action’s Scope

Society usually identifies minorities by their race, such as Hispanics, blacks, etc. Rodriguez views minorities by their class. It makes more sense this way because it’s equal. Affirmative action only helps minorities subjected to their race, not class. This means that a poor white person would not benefit from it because they do not fit in the desired race. “Affirmative action never bothered to complain that it was unfair to lower-class whites.”

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Since that person is white, they are presumed to be rich, which in most cases is not true. It completely disregards the lower-class whites, and it means that they don’t get the same benefits because they are white. Affirmative action favors one race while putting down another because it’s only based on race and not class. “Minority student somehow referred to my race.”

Rodriguez was appalled by this label. He never saw himself as a minority student. He thought that since he was successful in education, it set him apart from being a minority. He soon came to the realization that affirmative action was solely based on race, which is why he opposed it so much. He thinks highly of himself apart from the other minorities. His education gave him that confidence and power in the public. He believes he did it all on his own, so he doesn’t want it to seem that affirmative action got him the success he gained when it didn’t.

The “Scholarship Boy” Perspective on Affirmative Action

Throughout the book, Rodriguez refers to himself as a “scholarship boy.” The term scholarship boy is someone who imitates education. A student who depends on the teacher or what they hear in a classroom to further their knowledge. Rodriguez saw himself as a role model to other minorities. He wanted to show that his being a scholarship boy would motivate and give other minorities the confidence he never had. “Other students like me, and so I was able to frame the meaning of my academic success…” Rodriguez took the role of a “leader.”

He wanted to show how he was able to sit in a classroom, obtain the information, and use his education to better himself. Many minorities stay in a cycle of discouragement and never branch out and obtain the education they want. Society has looked down on minorities and led them to believe that they can’t get the education they deserve. Rodriguez showed that he was able to Americanize himself to fit in with the public and gain a successful education despite his immigrant background.

The Irony of Rodriguez’s Success and Affirmative Action

Although Rodriguez doesn’t support affirmative action, in some ways, he benefits from it without even knowing. Rodriguez received a lot of help from his teachers. His teachers, unlike him, supported affirmative action, which is why they helped him. Rodriguez became a hypocrite in the fact that he didn’t support affirmative action, but he had no problem accepting the help. “They intended to help me, to relieve my disquiet.” Rodriguez was worried about his image and being called a minority. He worked so hard to improve his education to get rid of that label. He didn’t want affirmative action to succeed, so by working towards education, he hoped to get rid of that label so he could prove that he didn’t need affirmative action.

His teachers are a part of the reason that Rodriguez is so successful. He’s a teacher’s pet. He looked up to his teachers more than his own parents. They were able to teach him everything he knew. Rodriguez claims that he isn’t subject to affirmative action, which is very selfish of him to not give credit to his teachers when it’s due. He’s completely blinded and focused on the fact that he doesn’t want to be a minority and that he won’t admit to himself that he is a participant in affirmative action.

The Paradox of Rodriguez’s Affirmative Action Perception

Since Rodriguez opposed the fact that he is part of the minority that would benefit from affirmative action, we work twice as hard to rebuild his image. He speaks highly of himself and pulls himself apart from his private life. The “scholarship boy” concept was interpreted by Rodriguez. He used the advantages to help get him far in life. Rodriguez is a firm believer in affirmative action, but he is oblivious to the fact that it has helped him succeed. His race was able to give him recognition because the chances of a minority succeeding were low. “I accepted its benefits. I continued to indicate my race on applications for financial aid.”

After all the benefits Rodriguez gains from affirmative action, he still believes he’s “mislabeled.” It’s difficult to understand why he does this. He feels guilty for opposing affirmative action but accepts all its benefits. He was able to win many fellowships because he was a minority. So why does he deny that he is?

He wants to keep his true identity private so when he’s in public, all anyone sees is a successful, educated man. He doesn’t want people to give him pity for being a minority or for anyone to feel the need to help him. He wants to be able to gloat and preach that he did everything on his own without the help of some program offered to minorities. He wants to show the “real” Richard Rodriguez.

Rodriguez’s Complex Motives Behind Affirmative Action Critique

Rodriguez’s view on affirmative action is very controversial. I believe that he himself can not choose to be for or against it. It sounds better to say that one became successful on one’s own with no one’s help. Rodriguez says this to build his credibility. He wants to set an example for the minority classes. He wants to show that they are capable of doing what everyone says they can’t. Rodriguez is an immigrant, so he has a desire to build and better that image. He doesn’t want to be known as any other immigrant. He wants to make a difference and show that it’s not impossible for minorities to succeed.


  1. Rodriguez, R. (1982). Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. Boston: David R. Godine.
  2. Moya, P., & Hames-García, M. R. (Eds.). (2000). Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism. University of California Press.
  3. O’Brien, E. (2008). The racial middle: Latinos and Asian Americans living beyond the racial divide. NYU Press.
  4. Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction. NYU Press.
  5. Cashmore, E. (2010). Re-making the racial self: Richard Rodriguez’s brown. In Beyond black: Celebrity and race in Obama’s America. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  6. Telles, E. E., & Ortiz, V. (2008). Generations of exclusion: Mexican-Americans, assimilation, and race. Russell Sage Foundation.

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Rodriguez's Controversial Stance on Affirmative Action. (2023, Aug 24). Retrieved from

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