As a college student, I am very familiar with the grueling process of filling out countless college applications, writing essay after essay, and checking an assortment of boxes asking you questions such as your parent’s income and your race. I have found myself pondering why college admissions factor so much weight on race or ethnicity and whether or not it is fair. It is more than apparent that as our nation grows it has increasingly become a multiracial, multiethnic society. In such a society, is it untenable for our institutions to be sorting students in one pile or another depending on which little box is checked? This is exactly what the debate on affirmative action has been for decades.
Affirmative Action has been implemented since the early 1960’s, and while today it is mostly associated with education, the program was first created by President Johnson in order to make sure that employers with federal government contracts were not discriminating on the basis of race. Today it continues to be aimed at promoting opportunities for defined groups within society. It is often applied in educational and governmental settings to guarantee that minority groups within our society are included in all programs. While the point of creating affirmative action was to stop discrimination in education and the work force, many critics of the program claim it has created discrimination against “non-ethnic” whites and has ironically made it now more difficult for them. Critics feel that the policy gives an unfair head start to some in an otherwise fair race. Supporters on the other hand feel that affirmative action is one of the most efficient and successful tools for restoring the injustices caused by earlier historical discrimination against people of color and that it is not about giving an advanced start to anyone but about removing certain barriers that blocked the pathways of opportunity that only some faced and others didn’t.
This issue falls into the area of race and ethnicity because race is the main component of this disputed policy. Race and ethnicity have everything to do with affirmative action because minorities are the main beneficiary of this policy. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, dean of college guidance at the Albuquerque Academy Rafael Figueroa says that “Neither is affirmative action about helping the disadvantaged. It’s a matter of race and ethnicity-not economics…Affirmative action is not about compensation for any group; it’s about integration of all groups. It’s not about the past; it’s about the present.” Figueroa also explains that for most colleges and universities, affirmative action is not an issue because they admit a majority of their applicants and only about one third of American colleges take race or ethnic background into consideration at all. Universities who in fact consider ethnic and cultural background of applicants do so with care and professionalism. This issue also falls into the category of government and politics because it has continually been called a civil rights issue due to the belief it has caused a sort of reverse discrimination which was used in a law suit against the University of Texas where a white student claimed she wasn’t accepted because she was white. Affirmative action has an effect on the broader society because it affects everyone not just minorities. It may draw people to areas of study and work they may never considered otherwise and it really aims to level the playing field between whites and minorities not necessarily just give an unfair advantage to minorities. I would consider myself more of a supporter of affirmative action because I really do agree with supporters that the policy focuses on combating structural racial inequality and hopes to maximize diversity in all levels of society. But, when it comes to personal achievement I think that the person who works harder deserves that spot in the elite university or that job position as opposed to someone who doesn’t work as hard.
Unfortunately in our progressed society we still witness racism going on today .Yes we have progressed from say the 1950’s but racism is a continuing problem in this country and I personally believe that affirmative action is necessary in order to promote societal equality. If affirmative action succeeds in bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increases access to education and enhances professional leadership with the full spectrum of society, then there is no reason why the policy should not continue. Again, as long as race isn’t the only factor used but also personal achievement is taken into account then I believe it is a fair policy.
Affirmative Action. American Civil Liberties Union, Web.
Figueroa, Rafael. A College Counselor's View of
Affirmative Action. 2012. Web.