|Affirmative action was initially mandated by Kennedy to improve opportunities for African Americans during the civil rights movement. His intention was for contractors and employers to hire employees without regard to race. Affirmative action was originally a good policy to try and prevent racism in businesses. Kennedy's successor, Johnson, however, took this policy further and required employers to specifically hire minorities. From there, concepts such as quotas and "the four-fifths rule" (which required employers to hire four-fifths as many women and minorities as white men) were introduced.|
Many people generally support affirmative action in theory. The problem that both supporters and non-supporters of the policy find is the use of quotas. These are a set number of minorities that a university or business will attempt to fill, even if it means accepting a less-qualified person over a more-qualified one. Allan Bakke, a white medical student, was denied a place in the University of California's medical program while minorites with much lower test scores were accepted. Out of 100 available places in the program, 16 were reserved for minorities. The Supreme Court agreed that the university's admissions system constituted an unacceptable quota, but it said that it was legal for the school to consider race as a "plus" in an application.
Many supporters of affirmative action believe the policies to be absolutely necessary in our society, which they view as unequal and biased against women and minorities. They argue that the government can't regulate human prejudices against them, and that affirmative action is designed to "compensate" for these prejudices. They also advocate the idea that affirmative action makes up for past injustices committed against certain groups.
However, the problem with affirmative action is that it causes "reverse discrimination", favoring a minority because of wrongs committed, not against that person, but against people years ago who happened to be of the same minority group. Why should women get special treatment over men? I, personally, find it insulting that someone would think we need it. I would much rather get into a university because I'm qualified, not because the admissions system gave me a few "bonus points" because I'm female.
Also, people don't choose their race and they don't choose their gender, so why should they be punished or rewarded for something they can't control? Yes, there has been slavery in the past. Yes, it took a couple centuries before blacks and women could vote. But we've moved forward from that, and there is much less racism and sexism around now than there once was. Unfortunately, discrimination is not something you can altogether eliminate; it still exists. But granting someone a job or a place in a university based on race or gender is only promoting continual discrimination.
Instead of just giving jobs and slots in universities to those who are under-privileged, the government should ensure that more minorities are academically prepared for college and post-graduate careers by raising the standards for primary and secondary education in low-income school districts, and also by encouraging more extracurricular opportunities. A greater emphasis on socioeconomic-based aid programs in higher education would offer equal opportunity to all races and ethnicities, for the socioeconomic differences between high- and low-income families represent a greater injustice than racism. In fact, of the 41.2 percent of American children that were living in low-income families in 2005, 11 million were white, 8.8 million were Latino, and 6.5 million were black.
Children who grow up in poverty attend underfunded and poorly managed schools and don't have the same opportunities afforded by middle class students. All these factors play against disadvantaged students when it comes time to apply to college. For this reason, college admissions should reform the affirmative action policies, basing them on socioeconomic conditions rather than race so that all disadvantaged students are given increased opportunity.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
at 9:26 PM