affirmative action

One of the most controversial aspects of advancements in the minority community over almost the last thirty years relates to affirmative action. Essentially affirmative action has been promoted to address discrimination in the past. In particular, colleges have used affirmative action to increase diversity on campus. While this has been somewhat successful in achieving that goal, it has also caused some of the student body or worse, applicants who do not get in to a certain college, to feel like there is a double standard. One of the challenges going forward will be to maintain diversity without using affirmative action and in particular, quotas.
Of all the institutions in America, colleges have tried very hard to eliminate discrimination. One of the main ways they have gone about it is to use affirmative action and even quotas for accepting applicants. While this has increased ethnicity on the college campus, it has created some ill will among students who may believe that these affirmative action goals by colleges are unfair. Specifically, some students feel like they have to score better on test to achieve the same level as minority students, or to even be accepted. As opposed to promoting racial harmony, when some students feel that they are at a disadvantage because they have to score higher, it can cause jealousy and hurt feelings. Racial preferences then become highlighted in a negative way. As Sacks and Thiel stated, “Originally conceived as a means to redress discrimination, racial preferences have instead promoted it. Rather than fostering harmony and integration, preferences have divided the campus. In no other area of public life is there a greater disparity between the rhetoric of preferences and the reality.” (Sacks 1). These preferences have somewhat backfired and led to a full discussion and debate over weather affirmative action should remain.

The argument for affirmative action relates to past discrimination, bigotry, and inequality. This led to efforts to promote diversity and ethnicity with different scoring on test and different acceptance requirements by colleges. Some students would not have to achieve as much because of the effort to promote diversity. This practice however, has been controversial. As Sacks and Theil noted, “If diversity were really the goal, then preferences would be given on the basis of unusual characteristics, not on the basis of race. 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 1). To suggest that this practice solves racism is not right. Instead it arguably promotes racism in two ways: 1) suggesting that all minorities are alike, and 2) discriminating non-minorities. Sacks and Thiel said it best, “Race conscious programs betray Martin Luther King’s dream of a color blind community, and the heightened racial sensitivity they cause is a source of acrimony and tension instead of healing.” Sacks 1). Focusing too much on race in an effort to right the wrongs of the past, more damage can be done when others talk about reverse discrimination.

While inequality still exists which can affect the ability of a child to learn, and while some would argue that this is a good reason to have affirmative action, disadvantage is not limited to a certain race. For example, even non-minorities can be disadvantaged depending upon their circumstances. If a white male student grows up very poor, that student may arguably be more disadvantaged. Also, it has been said and even pointed out by Sacks and Thiel that some minority groups do not receive any special treatment, and may suffer. “Preferances hurt poor whites and even many Asians.” (Sacks 1). If affirmative action cannot take into account these other disadvantaged students, it is fair to question whether we should still have it. Sacks and Theil stated this very bluntly as follows, “Perhaps the real problem with affirmative action is that we are pretending to solve a problem that no longer exists. Moreover, there is a growing sense that if affirmative action has not succeeded in ending discrimination after 25 years of determined implementation, then perhaps it is time to try something else.” (Sacks 1). It is more fair to look at achievements of all students when deciding admissibility to college. While SAT scores and grades are very important, other achievements can be looked at such as holding down a job while going to school. This would be better than affirmative action to help diversify a college class.

Overcoming the terrible past of racial discrimination and bigotry is so very important, especially on a college campus. However, affirmative action has not achieved that goal, but has created controversy with preferential treatment. Students who are not accepted by colleges despite very good scores, grades, and achievements feel like they have been discriminated against. This ends up causing racial disharmony, which is a terrible thing. While the initial goal of affirmative action was to promote diversity and ethnicity, the feeling of reverse discrimination have somewhat ruined that goal. Thus, colleges need to focus on looking at true achievements of all applicants in an effort to help the truly disadvantage and really promote diversity.





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