Table of contents
- Introduction to Affirmative Action
- Historical Origins and Purpose of Affirmative Action
- The Irony: Affirmative Action's Discriminatory Turn
- Stereotypes Reinforced by Affirmative Action
- The Impact on Meritocracy and Fairness
- Arguments in Favor of Affirmative Action
- Conclusion: Reevaluating Affirmative Action's Role
- Works Cited
Introduction to Affirmative Action
Picture yourself being picked for PE kickball teams back in elementary school. The kid that ran the fastest and kicked the hardest would be chosen first, and then the lesser athletic kids would be chosen last. This is the same principal when being selected for a college or job. However this process has been altered with the addition of affirmative action into our society. It reinforces and strengthens the stereotypes of racial groups, makes the playing field not equal for all applicants, and damages the meritocracy of selection processes. The executive order of affirmative action needs to be revised or repealed to ensure equality in our colleges and workplaces. Affirmative Action and entitlement programs in America are more harmful overall.
Historical Origins and Purpose of Affirmative Action
The key to understanding affirmative action is understanding the origins and definition. The definition for affirmative action is “A set of procedures designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future” (LII Staff ). This discrimination refers to race, ethnicity and religion. The concept of affirmative action has existed since the 19th century and first appeared because president Kennedy ordered Executive order 10925 in 1961 saying “the contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”(LII Staff). An Executive order is a way for the president to pass a law without it having to be passed through the senate or go through the normal sequence for a law to be passed. This could maybe lead us to believe that the reason it was passed as an executive order could be because the legislature would not have passed it as a law. During this time whites would discriminate against blacks when hiring for jobs or accepting into college so affirmative action was put in place for a good cause and helped America for a long time. It integrated blacks into whites lives but over time it became harmful to both whites and blacks. Although both sides claim they have the better solution for discrimination in America (Anderson, Preface).
The Irony: Affirmative Action's Discriminatory Turn
Affirmative action was put into place to prevent discrimination of blacks and hispanics and it did a good thing for a while, but now it actually discriminates against whites and asians putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job or getting into college. Affirmative action does not guarantee diversity because race and ethnicity does not necessarily mean same belief or opinions because not all people of the same race hold the same beliefs or opinions, some hold different ones (arguments for and against affirmative action). For example a black family may be protestant christian and conservative and another black family might be atheist and liberal. The two different families are the same race but have completely different beliefs and opinions. The two wrongs make a right thesis states that since whites once enslaved blacks that now black’s descendants should get better opportunities for jobs and colleges than white peoples descendants because the white people should have to compensate for the hurt slavery caused and the disadvantage that slaves were at in comparison to whites. Present day white people had no say over slavery and how the black people were treated so why would college admissions and jobs put restraints on the white people now (the case against affirmative action). The University of Texas had a policy in place to raise the number of underrepresented minorities by admitting the top 10% in texas high school putting their diversity at 21% which still wasn't good enough so they implemented race preferences raising diversity to 25%. Abigail fisher who is a white female texan sued the school because her academic credentials didn’t quite reach the level that the whites and asians had to have but well surpassed the credentials that blacks and hispanics had to have to attend the school. This case Fisher v University of Texas wound up in the supreme court in october and has not been decided on yet but AA supporters are very worried they will favor fisher (The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action). This reverse discrimination is harmful to students in the college and can damage potential futures of students who either fail to be admitted or who are admitted wrongly.
Stereotypes Reinforced by Affirmative Action
Another downfall of affirmative action would be that it enforces stereotypes of different ethnicities not allowing much space for people to break out of those stereotypes. The stereotypes of the different ethnicities mainly come from ‘Mismatch’ which is a word that explains why blacks are more likely to enter college than whites with similar backgrounds are. These people will usually get much lower grades, rank towards the bottom of the class, and drop out far more often than those who meet the standards of that particular university. “Because of mismatch, racial preferences policies often stigmatized minorities, reinforce pernicious stereotypes, and undermine the self-confidence of beneficiaries, rather than creating the diverse racial utopias so often advertised in college campus brochures ”(sander, taylor). The mono minority myth which states that all asians are overachievers and therefore need no assistance in their studies and allows professors to hold them to a higher standard than anyone else (America, CGTN). This way of thinking has really hurt education for Asians not allowing them to achieve their best and highest potential because people are less inclined to help them. The evidence that mismatch has hurt African-American and Hispanic students' chances of having careers in science or engineering was highlighted in a report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2010. The data and methodology of the research have not been challenged (the sad irony of affirmative action). The US commission of civil rights in 2010 findings states that the data presented to the Commission indicated that racial or ethnic discrimination in college was not a solid factor in Black and Hispanic college students’ disproportionate attrition from STEM majors. “The evidence showed that when black and white students have the same academic index scores, black students are more likely than white students to receive a STEM degree. [Approved 4-0-3: Chairman Reynolds and Commissioners Gaziano, Heriot and Kirsanow voted in favor; Vice Chair Thernstrom and Commissioners Taylor and Yaki abstained.]”( Us Commission on Civil Rights). Black and Hispanics may be admitted into a college or university even if their credentials are much lower due to racial or ethnic discrimination. There is a waterfall effect when top tier colleges use racial and ethnic preferences because the top tier school will admit Blacks and Hispanics with the credentials for lower tier colleges forcing the lower tier colleges to have to admit Blacks and Hispanics with even lower credentials. Thats is how mismatch works in a big picture collegeant scene. Although this mismatch of Blacks, Hispanics, Whites and Asians is not the only reason that students are misplaced in STEM it is a significant one( US Commission on civil rights).
“There are fewer black and Hispanic physicians, scientists and engineers today than there would have been if colleges and universities had not recruited and admitted black and Hispanic students with significantly lower academic credentials than their average student. [Approved 4-1-2: Chairman Reynolds and Commissioners Gaziano, Heriot, and Kirsanow voted in favor; Commissioner Yaki voted against; Vice Chair Thernstrom and Commissioner Taylor abstained.]” (US Commission on civil rights)
The US report on civil rights states three recommendations. One)A college or university who is admitting a student who significantly falls lower than the average of that school should be told of the potential consequences that could have on their studies. Two) High School guidance counselors and college counselors should warn students that are interested in STEM majors of the rigorous journey ahead of them as well as offering them tools to help them succeed in their desired program.(US Commission on Civil Rights) The votes for the first two recommendations looked like this when this issue was being debated in 2010 “[Approved 5-3: Chairman Reynolds and Commissioners Gaziano, Heriot, Kirsanow and Taylor voted in favor; Vice Chair Thernstrom and Commissioners Melendez and Yaki voted against]”(US Commission on Civil Rights). The third recommendation says that each student has the right to choose which college to attend with as much available help from parents and advisors. In order for students interested in STEM programs to have the best possible chance at success the college should disclose the grade point average so the student can make the best decision and succeed in whichever major and college they choose (US Commission on Civil Rights). The stereotypes are forced to be true about different races and ethnicities because of the way the different groups are treated in the college environment overall.
The Impact on Meritocracy and Fairness
The process of affirmative action has damaged the meritocracy and fair playing field of applying for colleges and for jobs making it harder for some students to get in than others. For example, UCLA used large racial preferences until proposition 209 ban took place in 1998. This ban was expected to devastate the minorities at UCLA and that minorities would virtually disappear from the campus. Although there was at 50% drop in black students and 25% drop in hispanics the number of blacks and hispanics that received bachelor degrees stayed the same before and after prop 209 because the students were better matched to attend the school instead of getting into the school because of race and color. Prop 2019 was able to change the minority experience at UCLA from one of constant failure to success and decrease the number of dropout students.(Sander, Taylor Jr.). When prestigious schools lower their standards in order to admit a student of a minority group it has a domino effect on other selective schools forcing them to lower standards as well. When looking at the data that was released by the University of Texas in relation the the Fisher case the mean SAT scores (out of 2400) and mean high-school grade-point averages (on a 4.0 scale) significantly varied from the class of 2009(The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action). “For Asians, the numbers were 1991 and 3.07; whites were at 1914 and 3.04; Hispanics at 1794 and 2.83; and African-Americans at 1524 and 2.57”( the sad irony of affirmative action). For Asian students who took the SAT scored in the 93rd percentile nationwide of all SAT takers. Whereas Black students scored in the 52nd percentile nationwide(The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action). The unequal admissions of these colleges and the difference in the credentials allowed to be admitted are significant and harmful to both the college and the student who is unqualified for the study of that selective school.
Arguments in Favor of Affirmative Action
People in favor of affirmative action or believe that it helps us more than it hurts us would use the arguments that it keeps us a diverse nation and compensates for past discrimination allowing for those people to have better opportunities for success. The system helps to ensure that diversity is maintained and there is no racism or discrimination for minority groups (Arguments for and against Affirmative Action). Affirmative action also compensates for past oppression and helps minorities or previously oppressed groups to “catch up” to non-minority groups. Trying to create an “equal” playing field for all races. (Arguments for and against affirmative action). The process of Affirmative action have helped us for a long time and have greatly increased the opportunities allowed for women, Blacks and Hispanics. Still today people face barriers due to race and ethnicity and gender bit through affirmative action those barriers are slowly dissolving. Sometimes it is necessary to use the nontraditional criteria for admitting a student in to college or hiring for a job because it allows for a better opportunity for a minority student or women. Even though we should solely base acceptance on personal merits and achievements we cannot eliminate the sway that race and gender has on our acceptance processes because of our past the the role discrimination plays in our history (Striving for equal opportunity). It also helps people with disadvantages such as low income, poverty, or broken family to have better opportunities in their future education and career. Making it easier for those people to get the job they want and giving them a better chance to succeed (Arguments for and against affirmative action). A Journalist from the washington post wrote two papers discussing the needs for affirmative action in the USA. the first paper she refers to discusses how the universities still use race as a factor when admitting students. For example the University of Texas v Fisher case. When you look at the numbers of minority group members versus the non minority groups members there is a small difference. Although when you look at minority group members that could qualify and were not admitted it is a pretty substantial amount. We pretend that color and ethnicity has no impact on college admissions but it does and Affirmative action keeps the discrimination at a low point not allowing it much room to grow into a massive issue again. Affirmative action programs allow for tons of minorities to have better opportunities in furthering their education and job options.
Although affirmative action means to do well and did for a while it does not any longer. It does not help anyone if a minority student is able to attend a prestige university to give them a “better opportunity” if they won't succeed in that prestigious school. If they can succeed in a lower tier college and do well boosting their confidence allowing them to get a better job then that is where they need to be. If they go to the school that expects to much from them then the university will ultimately fail them because the college they attend is to rigous for them and they will fall behind discouraging them to continue down the path of their education. If we keep giving blacks and hispanics first choice on the college or job they have we are doing a disservice to everyone around them by not having the position filled with someone capable of doing or working hard to succeed and do the job correctly and efficiently. This is not the case for all minority people and some are qualified for their positions and succeed but some are not and will not succeed because of that. When it comes to the University of Texas v Fisher case both sides use it to their advantage because depending on what parts of the story and data you use it can be made to look like either. By Using affirmative action we are maintaining and increasing the racial and ethnic gap and not giving minorities the same chance to succeed as whites and asians. We also are hurting the better qualified people by not giving them the opportunities they have worked hard to get and giving those opportunities to minority groups who are not qualified. The process of accepting people into college and hiring people for jobs should not be done with race or ethnicity as a factor at all, it should be done clearly by who the person is, their character, merits and values and how qualified they are for the position they are trying to get.
Conclusion: Reevaluating Affirmative Action's Role
The process of affirmative action which was originally started for a good cause to eliminate discrimination may have served its purpose at one time but now it is doing the opposite. It increases discrimination keeping the race gaps where they are if not increasing them creating more diversity between races. It reinforces stereotypes forcing people to fit into them and not allowing for much room outside of those racial or ethnic stereotypes. It damages the meritocracy and fairness of college admissions and job applications by having two standards one for minorities and one for non-minority students. Making it easier for the minorities to get the jobs other people may be better qualified for and giving them first priority to look better integrated and diverse. Affirmative Action in America is more harmful to Americans overall.
- America, CGTN. “Debating Affirmative Action.” YouTube, YouTube, 18 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU33qqteeBc.
- “Arguments for and against Affirmative Action.” Gustave Courbet, www.mtholyoke.edu/~jesan20l/classweb/arguments.html.
- Jr., Richard Sander Stuart Taylor. “The Painful Truth About Affirmative Action.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 7 July 2015, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/the-painful-truth-about-affirmative-actio/263122/.
- LII Staff. “Affirmative Action.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 2 Mar. 2018, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/affirmative_action. “The Case against Affirmative Action .” DISNEYLAND TIMELINE, www.csus.edu/indiv/g/gaskilld/business_computer_ethics/the%20case%20against%20affirmative%20action.htm. “The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action.” National Affairs, www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-sad-irony-of-affirmative-action.
- Anderson, Terry H. “Preface.” The Pursuit of Fairness: a History of Affirmative Action, by Oxford University Press, 2005. “U.S. Commission on Civil Rights .” Encouraging Minority Students to Pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Careers , http://www2.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/usccr/documents/cr182c182010.pdf “Striving for Equal Opportunity: Why the ACLU Supports Affirmative Action.” American Civil
- Liberties Union, Aclu, www.aclu.org/other/striving-equal-opportunity-why-aclu-supports-affirmative-action.
- Strauss, Valerie. “Actually, We Still Need Affirmative Action for African Americans in College Admissions. Here's Why.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Aug. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/02/actually-we-still-need-affirmative-action-for-african-americans-in-college-admissions-heres-why/?utm_term=.8e370e0f8933.