An Unfair Advantage

November 8, 2007
Around this time of year, late August through the end of December, high school seniors are busy cramming every possible moment of their lives with those activities that will “bulk up” their college applications. Seniors enroll in AP and honors classes, spend endless hours at sports practice, live in studios or practice rooms perfecting a fine art, participate in as many community service activities as possible, pour over study aids for the SAT, SAT II and ACT; we do anything to make the college of our choice distinguish us from the thousands of other seniors that are competing for our spot on campus. Factors such as academic ability, natural talent in a sport, an aptitude for a fine art, or extraordinary life experiences that an individual has overcome, make up the qualifications students exhibit for entrance into one of the numerous universities that exist in the nation. But there is one thing that also distinguishes a student’s application from another’s: their heritage, their ancestry, the color of their skin, their race.
Affirmative action is a government-promoted social program that is defined by Stanford Encyclopedia as “positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education and business from which they have been historically excluded.” It is a program that gives minorities an advantage over equally qualified majority students. Affirmative action creates an impossible barrier for high school seniors to overcome: the barrier of race, the barrier that applicants cannot change or improve.

Started in the 1960’s, affirmative action was a product of the civil rights movement. It was a program that was created to help end discrimination. The principles it promoted then had weight to them; blacks had just been proclaimed constitutionally equal to whites and women were given equal rights when compared to men. However, just because the Constitution declared them to be equal, citizens did not have to accept it. To overcome this, the government instituted affirmative action, a plan that would prompt employers and college admissions to accept the new legislation. Colleges were now required to accept certain numbers of minority students. Affirmative action was used to give minorities a chance to succeed in a previously discriminatory world. It helped those who were anything other than a Caucasian male: blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and women; any minority could take advantage of the program. Fortunately, times do change and human beings adapt to their changing societies. Only fifteen years after it was introduced, affirmative action began to become outdated; majority citizens began realizing its infringement on their individual rights. Affirmative action, the social revolutionary program, began spiraling downward as it hit its first opposition in California.

In the Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1977, affirmative action was condemned for the first time. The University of California had been using affirmative action to make race a factor in admittance, a previously acceptable use of the program. Racial minority applicants would be accepted into the college over non-minority students who were, often times, better qualified. The Supreme Court ruled this favoring of minorities unconstitutional and sparked the fire under the debate concerning the purpose and use of affirmative action.
Its fatal flaw had been uncovered; affirmative action was discovered to promote the very thing it opposed, discrimination. Discrimination is commonly misunderstood to mean the majority oppressing a minority. This is not the case. Discrimination is the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently. This does not mean that the majority is the only body that is capable of discrimination; minorities may discriminate against the majority. Not only does affirmative action discriminate against the majority, but it has no purpose in today’s society.
This generation has no need for the use of affirmative action. Unlike many opponents to the program, I am fully qualified to take advantage of affirmative action. Legally, I’m a Mexican American woman. I am a minority. My grandfather is full blood Mexican, but was born in the States. He started our family’s history of improvement. My mother was raised in a family struggling with poverty. My grandfather instilled a strong sense of purpose in his children; he preached the benefits of an education and made sure that all his children knew what he meant. In turn, my parents have similarly instilled that same value of hard work and dedication to education into my siblings and me. Through my mom’s hard work, she, “a historically oppressed minority,” managed to provide me with the tools needed to succeed in life. She took initiative, overcame imposing barriers, and managed to step out of the stereotypical “minority” lifestyle. I’m a third-generation minority and I have no need of the booster seat affirmative action provides.

By applying my mother’s principles of hard work and dedication I have managed to climb to the top of my graduating class. I am the salutatorian of my senior class, a talented gymnast, a member of the National Honor Society, and have received numerous awards. I have no need to use affirmative action, I can get into college on my own, and my mother has succeeded enough in her life in order to allow me to go to any college without having to worry about financial aid. If my family was able to come so far in the last three generations, when minorities were supposed to be unfairly oppressed and not able to gain any status in life without government help, any minority family is capable of doing the same.

Affirmative action is an outdated program that was created for a greater good, but is no longer needed. The racial minorities are not lawfully oppressed; there is no new legislation that has caused a change in their status that the majority must adapt to. Now, I’m not saying that there is no discrimination in the United States; there is. Discrimination is evident anywhere you go, and no government social program is going to change that. Favoring one group of people over another, without taking consideration of their respective qualifications, is also discrimination; and that’s what affirmative action does.
The civil rights movement was fifty years ago, all races have the same opportunities in this country. The United States of America is founded on the principle of equality of opportunity and has been built upon the American Dream. Equality of opportunity means that every citizen is provided with the same tools in order to create a successful life. Every citizen has an open door of education in front of them; it is simply their responsibility to take advantage of it regardless of the quality of the education. If a person does choose to take advantage of an education, then he or she is also inspired by the American Dream, the dream that hard work and dedication will lead to the road of success. These basic values of our culture make affirmative action an archaic program that is better destroyed or amended rather than continuing to exist unchanged.

To prevent the open shock that would be created from simply eliminating affirmative action on all levels, amendments could be created to change the core of the program and eliminate the discrimination it promotes. The basic principles of affirmative action are appreciated in society: to help those that have struggled against unfair circumstances a chance in life. Those students stranded in the sticky grip of poverty, or those that do not have access to a good school system still deserve the chance to prove themselves in college. An under-funded school system is not the fault of the students that live in them; they are not at fault for their situation, so why should they be punished for it? A new affirmative action, one based on need, not race, would be an acceptable social program for the government to implement.
Affirmative action as it is used today does not promote equality; it promotes discrimination against a majority. As presidential candidate Alan Keyes, an African American, said, “Preferential affirmative action patronizes American blacks, women, and others by presuming that they cannot succeed on their own. Preferential affirmative action does not advance civil rights in this country.” Race should not be taken into account on any level when applying for any station in life, whether college or future career positions. Seniors applying for college have enough stress hanging over their heads that they should not have to worry about how they will be regarded based on race. Qualifications such as hard work, dedication, and life experiences should be the aspects that institutions look at, not race. Race is not something a person can change, it is not something that makes one individual better than another; it does not set anyone apart. Students cannot fit any time into their schedule to improve, practice, or study their race; it is not an aspect that one gains through life achievements, why then should it allow one student to fill another, possibly better qualified, student’s spot on campus?

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