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Imagine you go to participate in a foot race. Your parents are not only supportive, but have made it clear that you are expected to win the race, if not place in the top 10. Why not? Everyone in your family has, all of your friends expect to, you guys have trained together every day since the 6th grade. Your parents have paid private coaches to teach you and bought you expensive training equipment. And on the morning of the race you are fed a power breakfast and driven to the starting line in an air-conditioned car, and unbeknownst to you, there is a congratulatory lunch planned for you and your friends after the race.
Now, imagine the competition, a racer goes to participate in a foot race. One of his parents, and a few of his friends and family members are supportive. Some of his friends make fun of him for participating, while others tell him there’s no point. Studies show that he is unlikely to do as well as his peers, particularly you and your friends.
Of the few who are supportive, most have never run before, and don’t know how to support him. He has been training on his own every morning. The morning of the race, he has to walk to the starting line because everyone is too busy or don’t care enough to drive him there.
Does that mean that he should get some seconds shaved off of his score? In my opinion, no.
Affirmative action is a program designed to provide equal access to various opportunities (education, employment) that would otherwise not be available to women and other minorities. It was never a quota system, no one suggested that companies should hire lesser-qualified applicants because they’re women or minorities. What Affirmative Action does is to allow these disadvantaged people an equal opportunity to apply for the positions they might not otherwise have. It also suggests that when all other factors are completely equal, it is advantageous to employ a woman, black, or minority in order to appear diverse.
There are many myths about affirmative action, and they were clearly discussed in a very insightful article published in the “Journal of Social Issues.” But before going to that source, I would like to make one observation about Affirmative Action, and other social programs. There is a persistent presence inflicting ill-will in the United States to blacks, immigrants, and others. In the case of blacks, for example, one sometimes hears something like “They got their freedom in 1863; how long does it take before we don’t have to give them special treatment? Isn’t 150 years enough?” This observation (aside from being racist) ignores basic facts of American history: the Emancipation Proclamation did in fact free the slaves, but it was not at all embraced by the South, or by the nation as a whole. Though technically free from slavery, blacks still faced discrimination, and in the years following the Civil War, they were lynched in increasing numbers. Jim Crow Laws put a name on the horrible “separate but equal” lifestyle of the deep South, and if we take all these factors together, we see that the freedom blacks enjoy have only come to them within the last few decades, specifically since the civil rights movement of in the 1960’s. They need the help of others, as do immigrants, as do women (devalued and brutalized for millennia). Affirmative Action is desperately needed.
Moving on to the article, I’d like to consider just one of the ten myths the author discusses. This myth will prove that affirmative action is just and necessary, not the unfair quota system it’s opponents claim. Let’s start with probably the greatest concern of all: that giving opportunities to women, blacks and other minorities will take jobs away from whites: “Government statistics do not support this myth. According to the Commerce Department, there are fewer than 2 million unemployed Black civilians and more than 100 million employed White civilians (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994). Thus, even if every unemployed Black worker were to displace a White worker, less than 2 percent of Whites would be affected. If we narrow this down to only those blacks who are actually qualified to hold the same jobs whites do, the number becomes much smaller, less than one percent.”
Another article, written by Matthew Gaertner, argues that “the idea that their jobs are going to unqualified applicants merely to fill some sort of “quota,” and that the whole program is an attempt to control the population by liberals is an absurd idea.“ Supporters of Affirmative Action are also opposed to the idea that unqualified people should be selected over those who are significantly more qualified, and in fact this type of selection is specifically prohibited by the program. The myth that unqualified people get the jobs is totally without foundation. However, there are other levels of selection that may have lead to the misunderstanding.
First, as I said above, when all else is equal, Affirmative Action supports choosing women and minorities before whites. This is often the only way some of these people will get into college. Due to the fact that the majority of these minority groups are typically not wealthy, nor do they live in areas where education is heavily encouraged. Also, even if their scores are as good as their white counterparts. They aren’t plugged into the “good old boy” network, and typically their families do not have connections to people that have the power to influence these outcomes. Therefore, sometimes the only way for a qualified candidate to gain admission is through Affirmative Action. Gaertner says that “most people do not see this as discrimination, as it is only leveling the playing field.”
The employment outlook for minorities is grim, but not hopeless. We need affirmative action to overcome the flaws of employment that exist in his country. A recent Urban Benchmarks study found that of 71 metro areas surveyed nationwide, Pittsburgh had the highest rate of employment related problems among whites between the ages of 25 and 54 and the sixth highest rate among African Americans in the same age group Jessica Beym, a journalist at the New Jersey Times, believes “we have a lot of problems with basic education here and if you don’t have basic education you have no chance of getting a good job because competition for employment is increasing at an alarming rate. We must make sure that we educate our potential work force including minorities or our country’s competitive edge(or what’s left of it) will continue to decline in global markets.” Many jobs today are centered around the technology and engineering businesses. Jobs may not require more than a high-school diploma, but a career typically needs at least a four year degree, with the more desirable paths requiring even higher education.
The intent of affirmative action programs was to level the playing field for minorities and eliminate discrimination in employment practices. However, the opposition believes that affirmative action programs are not carrying out their purpose. The assumption of the opposition is that there is no need for affirmative action programs because the wrongdoings that have happened in the past no longer impact the lives of minorities in the present, discrimination and prejudice has long been extinct in America(supposedly), and that affirmative action causes tension between different groups of people. However, affirmative action programs have been, and still are necessary in today’s society making sure minorities have access to equal opportunities in employment. Affirmative action has the potential to shape the face of corporations throughout America. Also, affirmative action is not a quota system, nor does it promote unqualified candidates in any case. However, it does occasionally favor lesser-qualified candidates. If it is this single provision that has caused this much disturbance, then we have indeed thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
Although the argument for affirmative action is incredibly persuasive, it is my personal opinion that affirmative action is unconstitutional. I believe this because the constitution itself claims that “All men are created equal”, if this is true then why’d the government support giving advantages to specific groups of people.
Dr. Steven Yates developed an analogy that perfectly illustrates the effect of affirmative action and how it is actually racist towards white people, to put it another way, reverse racism: Consider a basketball season in which certain teams play by all the familiar rules and others are compelled to play with each player having one arm tied behind his back. No one, of course, would consider such games fair. Now suppose someone proposed that for the next several seasons those teams whose players had been untied, were now to play all their games with an arm tied behind their backs, while those who had been tied up, now had both arms free. Would it now be fair play? Before answering, let’s improve the analogy.
Let’s observe that there has been a complete turnover of players. All those who played in the first set of games have retired. The current players, therefore, are newcomers none of whom were involved with the original practice. Now let’s ask again: would it be fair? To answer yes is to embrace affirmative action. To answer no is to reject it, on the grounds that the original perpetrators and beneficiaries of discrimination against blacks are gone (as are their victims), while those forced to sacrifice job opportunities, college admissions, etc., were unborn and so hardly responsible for the wrongs. A basketball league wouldn’t do this to it’s players so why would a government do this to it’s citizens?
Affirmative action in college admissions has many flaws, sometimes resulting in wealthy immigrants being chosen over poor African-American applicants. Or, in another case, some colleges offer admission to the top 10-20% of high school graduates, whom fit the affirmative action profile, in a state. This results in admitting poorly prepared kids from the top levels of under-priveleged urban and rural schools while keeping out talented students who don’t make their school’s even more talented 10%. In the workplace, affirmative action has been associated with fraud, yet it’s still regularly used to spread diversity throughout a company.
According to “The Star” a reputable online news website: “In some respects affirmative action has attempted to remedy the long term effects of slavery and racial segregation.” This statement correlates with the basketball analogy mentioned above. I believe that just because a wrong-doing was done by one group to another group does not mean that the descendants of the first group need to recompense the descendants of the second group simply because of something that happened over a hundred years ago. My intention is not to make the enslavement of Africans by the Americans seem insignificant or unimportant, but simply to declare that what happens in the past should stay in the past, if a problem was already solved why would you continue to solve it?
Lyndon B. Johnson, a former U.S. President, once said: “You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.”
David Frum, a journalist at The Atlantic, had this to say about that quote “Affirmative action as thus described was an act of compensation. It was compensation owed to the past and present victims of centuries of racial subordination. It was compensation owed by the people who had inflicted—or at least benefited from—that system.” Now fast forward fifty years to the present. The racial preferences that the majority of our society hold are vastly different than what society believed when Johnson said this. Johnson’s America was a country tainted racial domination. Even the most wealthy black citizen of the United States expected to deal with humiliating discrimination.
However, in today’s America the difference in economic classes is growing at an extreme rate. Johnson’s belief that white Americans all had equivalent opportunities in the workplace and classroom is very out of date. While being white may correlate less with poverty than a darker skin, that skin’s time cruelly and unjustly ruling over the other skins came to an end a long time ago. It’s true that it is still prevalent, the other day even Oprah encountered rude treatment in a Swiss boutique.
Lack of healthcare coverage, the huge amount of U.S. citizens that have been long-term unemployed, the lack of a pay raise in working-class wages. These are the issues that the government should be directing it’s time to. They are not topics, however, that would get much hearing in a country where the biggest issue to deal with is ensuring that minorities are guaranteed to get into college.
Looking back at the evidence I discovered completing this paper I can now confirm that I am anti-affirmative action. I simply cannot get over the fact that at it’s core it is unconstitutional. I suppose another reason that I believe this way is because of my cohort, I belong to the cohort that would be most disadvantaged due to any affirmative action legislation. I am a white male who comes from an upper class society, if any affirmative acction legislation was passed I would be the one that would lose the most from it, so naturally, I am against it. Being against affirmative action is a bold move in today’s society, because when a wealthy, white male says they are against affirmative action most people in the room assume the speaker is racist. Even with this obstacle I face I would not consider changing the way I believe about affirmative action.
In conclusion, Pierre Berton once said “Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.” This goes for both racism and reverse racism, the only way to defeat racism is to stop it, compensating for past mistakes is the wrong way to solve this problem.
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