Affirmative Action: A Counterintuitive Policy

January 19, 2018
By , Southborough, MA

It seems as though one of the most contentious topics on the daily newstream in America involves race. Between white supremacy or the Black Lives Matter movement, it is clear that inequality still exists in the nation. One must be extremely careful in discerning what to say in regards to these issues, or for a matter of fact, speaking about race in general for fear of being politically incorrect or offending the minority groups. However, just because there’s a history of mistreatment does not mean that blacks should get special protections or treatments. Neither should any other group.

Affirmative action is a concept that describes “an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; positive discrimination.” This definition in and of itself, seems both hypocritical and counterintuitive. If people are preaching that there should be equality and fairness, why would any group be entitled to a set of policies in which they were favored or get preferential treatment? I acknowledge that today’s society is far from equal, but a coherent argument cannot be formed by justifying policies to favor groups who feel discriminated. In the process of enacting such policies, one is in turn, discriminating against another group. There is no such thing as “positive discrimination” because if the main goal, which many would hope to attain, is equality for all, than any form of discrimination should not be tolerated or promoted. There is no perfect solution for equality, but it is certain that affirmative action is not one.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “ended” discrimination in the workplace and public institutions, but there has yet to be true equality.  This piece of legislation was instrumental in acknowledging that society had a problem with segregation. It even allowed the federal government to take away money from local and state institutions who were enacting discriminatory practices. In theory, this act had good intentions and in many ways, was symbolic of the changing attitudes of the American public, however this it was not truly effective in reaching equality. For example, in personal observations within the central mass area, it is evident that towns are segregated.


Southboro is primarily white and populated by affluent upper middle class families. Worcester, a neighboring city, is much more diverse, with a large hispanic and black demographic and is less affluent. These differences in the race of the respective areas can be observed through high school sports. During the fall season, I looked at the sidelines of both the Worcester and Algonquin football teams.  The Algonquin team was majority white, and the Worcester team was almost all black.  Why does this happen? It can be traced back to ancestry and de facto segregation, or segregation in not by laws. For example, years ago black people were forced to live in certain parts of a city and their ancestors passed down the homes and culture to the next generations, so the demographics do not change too much. Therefore, legislation or policies do not have a real impact on segregation or discrimination.

So, yes, there is still segregation and inequality in the United States on the basis of race. However, I still argue that this is not a reason to favor a certain group-be it black or white. Take college admissions. Many schools require applicants to indicate their race, ethnicity, gender, and income information in the application. It is a fact that many schools take race into consideration when reviewing an application. In the supreme court case Grutter v. Bollinger, an undergrad at the University of Michigan was denied admittance because the university used a criterion point system that awarded more points for a black student. They wanted to diversify the student population. This was ruled unconstitutional for the university to use numbers, whether it be a point system of quota system to qualify race into admissions decisions. However, the court also said that it is allowed for race to be considered in order to create a more diverse student body.

You may be thinking, yes this is reasonable. It is not. There are benefits to attending a university with people from all 50 states who speak hundreds of languages who are of all genders and all income levels. However, schools are using race as a decisive factor in decisions. In data presented from the Association of American Medical Colleges, more black people are being admitted to medical schools than white people even though the MCAT scores of blacks are generally lower. This is inequality, but no one is saying anything because who will listen to a white person “insensitively” addressing an issue of inequality within their own race.

In Texas, they have essentially done away with affirmative action for the admittance to their state universities. The Top Ten Percent Program allows any student within the top ten percent of their graduating high school class to be directly admitted to any state univeristy, with the exception of the University of Texas Austin. This program reflects a great system that controls for making decisions based on race and eliminates an unequal system of favoring any race, whether it be a minority or not. This is an example of a policy that is attempting to restore equality.

The bottom line is that inequality exists in American society, but minority groups cannot be favored on the sole basis that they are a minority. In order to make things more equal, it has to be made equal for everyone. People shouldn’t have to indicate their race when applying to college and neither for jobs or any other purpose. It should not be a factor in admissions or testing or in schools. Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 promised no discrimination in public institutions, society should base their actions on merit not race. 

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