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The Ironic Cost of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action is supposed to help build up disadvantaged minorities, but it seems to be helping the middle- and upper class. Instead of helping the disadvantaged, affirmative action gives minorities false identities, and labels them as poor helpless victims of racism. What they are truly victims of is of being demeaned and maybe even used. Though some strongly support affirmative action, many also call it reverse racism. Still others say it simply is not working. This controversy has become one of today’s many social issues. If affirmative action is not the solution, another needs to be found, because America’s school admission systems are definitely defective.
One of the main reasons affirmative action does not support minorities is that it minimizes their achievements, falsely defines diversity, and makes them vulnerable to assumptions. For example, it could lead to the questioning of one’s academic status. As David Sacks and Peter Thiel put it in their article, “The Case Against Affirmative Action,” “It is often not possible to tell whether a given student genuinely deserved admission to Stanford, or whether he is there by virtue of fitting into some sort of diversity matrix” (2). A diversity matrix is a category of supposed diversity such as sex or race. By this, Sacks and Peter mean it makes it hard to tell if a student was accepted for their academic achievements, or if they were accepted because they were a minority. In addition, some schools that uphold racial preferences claim that they are simply looking for diversity. Sacks and Thiel once again show their disapproval for affirmative action by rejecting this idea. They question this claim on the basis:
The underlying assumption – that only minorities can add certain ideas or perspectives – is offensive not merely because it is untrue but also because it implies that all minorities think a certain way. (Sacks and Thiel 1)
In other words, schools are looking for interesting perspectives in class discussions, or certain ways of approaching task, but this is assuming all minorities have the same opinions, and think the same way, but that is not true. If diversity in the classroom is really what these schools are looking for, then they should be looking for students who have had many unusual experiences, for varieties of experiences among multiple individuals make a student body diverse. As shown, affirmative action is disrespecting minorities and also is not helping schools gain what they hope to obtain.
Affirmative action may also be providing minorities with false identities. James W. Thomson also observes this in his article, “Pres. Obama Goes Over the Top on Affirmative Action,” when he states:
Liberals still are defining the terms by which African-Americans are acknowledged as human beings with their depictions of blacks as hapless victims perennially in dire need of the preferential racial remedies orchestrated. (1)
This is so important because their true cultural identity is being over ridden by this victimization. Once again, affirmative action is not actually benefiting minorities, but instead diminishing them.
Just as Thomson emphasizes, Sacks and Thiel also hold similar beliefs, as they report, “The Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell has observed, preferences primarily benefit applicants from middle- and upper-class backgrounds” (1). These writers’ point is that affirmative action might in fact, be benefiting the wrong crowd. This shows the ineffectiveness and irony of affirmative action, considering the idea was brought forth to even out any social inequalities that America’s school systems might bring on the lower-class and any racial minority.
Even as affirmative action may be victimizing minorities, whites and other Americans are taking advantage of it. Obama has pledged his support for affirmative action but as Thomson suggests in his writings it might be for the wrong reasons. He explains his interpretation of Obama’s motives:
As the Democratic Party leaders surely understand, their continued strong support of affirmative action provides an effective tool for winning future elections as the white population declines both in relative and absolute terms well into the foreseeable future. (Thomson 2)
In other words, Thomson is saying that the Democratic Party leaders could be using affirmative action to gain the majority of the public’s support and vote. Thomson gives readers another example of how Obama’s support of affirmative action is helping him gain support. He explains why some are so eager to embrace Obama’s ideas by saying:
Obama’s campaign message quickly became a dreamy post-racial and ideological winner, especially with younger whites who were eager to accept his idealism because they were desperate to escape from the stigma of racism. (Thomson 1-2)
Obama has deceived people, especially the younger more vulnerable white voters. He is taking advantage of affirmative action using it to sway these young white voters into believing America is past racial discrimination, and in the mean time, also gaining their vote.
While on the other hand, some may support affirmative action, however degrading affirmative action may appear, because admittedly admissions systems seem to be flawed in several ways. Paul Pryse in his article, “In Defense of Affirmative Action,” reminds readers:
As many as fifteen percent of freshman at America’s top schools are white students who failed to meet their university’s minimum standards for admission, according to Peter Schmidt, deputy editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education. These kids are “people with a long-standing relationship with the university,” or in other words, the children of the faculty, wealthy alumni and politicians. (1)
Basically, Pryse is pointing out that all the kids who are accepted for reasons such as money and what connections they have are no different from the kids accepted because race. That being the case, how can people say that having an admissions system based on affirmative action is racism against whites when whites themselves are participating in their own form of racism?
This is unquestionably wrong, and obviously America’s education system is flawed, but will affirmative action really solve problems like these? Maybe the school systems need something based on disadvantage, as Sacks and Thiel suggest in their article, “If preferences were truly meant to remedy disadvantage, they would be given on the basis of disadvantage, not on the basis of race” (1). Essentially they mean that since affirmative action is supposed to correct the disadvantages of race, but is not working, a possible solution would be to remove the aspect of race and just base acceptance preferences on personal disadvantage.
In conclusion, affirmative action is not doing its job. In return, it is doing the opposite of what it is supposed to do, which is to benefit minorities. Instead, it is benefiting Democrats, and middle- and upper class applicants. Therefore, affirmative action should be reconsidered, and maybe another solution will come to fix America’s school admissions issues.