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Weighing Opinions: The controversy surrounding affirmative action

By Laura Llapa and Abbey Gingras
On May 1, 2014

Affirmative action policies should still be applied in the United States. It is argued affirmative action is no longer needed because our society has improved its view of race since the 1960s and therefore it has reached its purpose. While this may be true on a certain scale, our nation is far from being completely free of racism and prejudice. The purpose of affirmative action is the effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups, women and other disadvantaged persons. As expected, citizens focus mainly on how affirmative action impacts college admissions and workplace logistics. There are several faults in the arguments that critics of affirmative action raise.

As a minority female college student, I am aware of how closely affirmative action impacts college education. In recent news, the state of Michigan passed a ban on affirmative action, meaning colleges and universities will not consider race in their admission process. Firstly, the vote in Michigan was not fair because the majority of voters in that state are white. According to Shanta Driver, a civil rights attorney, 90 percent of African American voters voted against the ban. However, that makes up only about 15 percent of the electorate.

The reality of the ban in Michigan is the push toward segregation in college Students cannot be judged solely by their merits because it is unfair to assume that all students are on the same playing field and receive the same advantages. In my experience, I was positively affected by affirmative action. As a student with a background of a disadvantaged school education, I was given the chance to compete on the same level with applicants that received a better education. Not only do I have the chance to attend an elite university, I add diversity to a dominantly white university.

Affirmative action also has the power to influence the workplace. Helen Norton, a University of Colorado professor, supports affirmative action because its potential benefits for diverse people-groups. "When implemented seriously, affirmative action programs can have a profound influence on offering women and minorities opportunities," she said.

I agree with this statement because the state of our current society lacks equality of women and minorities in the workplace. For example, a woman's earnings are considerably less than a man's for the same position. Critics of affirmative action argue the policy creates reverse discrimination and sets a quota of diversity for companies to reach.

This results from a misuse or wrong application of affirmative action. The purpose of affirmative action is to open the doors for minorities and women to have access to the same positions as white Americans.

Affirmative action policies are needed in the workplace because as a dynamic country, it benefits individuals to be able to work with diverse clients, employees and business partners. It's fair to say there are some outcomes of affirmative action that do not match its purpose. The solution to this problem would be to redefine the policy and its implementation. To end affirmative action would ignore the reality of racism and set our country years back instead of move us forward.

__________

Today's college admission process is cut throat as students pile on AP classes and extra curricular activities to make them look as desirable as possible to their dream schools. But should these students be discriminated against based on what race they are, or aren't?

I fully understand the goals of affirmative action, and I would never want someone to not get into the college of their dreams based on their gender, skin color or sexual orientation.

However, by attempting to compensate for past injustices on people of various races, affirmative action has created a new form of discrimination.

According to a Gallup poll done in July 2013, 67 percent of Americans among all races believe college admissions should be based solely on merit versus the 28 percent who believe race should be a factor. Hispanics polled also favored merit over race by a 28 percent margin. African Americans favored race as a factor, but by a narrow margin of 48 percent over 44 percent.

Affirmative action is a program with good intentions that have gone awry. Schools seek to create diversity based on race, forgetting that diversity can come from socio-economic, geographic and family backgrounds as well. A school pursuing a student body made up of numerous races could be passing up students with strong academic achievements because they weren't their definition of "diverse."

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a 65-year-old African American male from Georgia, has long been against affirmative action. He denounces his law degree from Yale, as people assume it was handed to him without hard work due to affirmative action policies.

It may seem odd to many that an extremely intelligent man with a background of being discriminated against would feel this way. However, I believe Justice Thomas is making the correct conclusion that race should not be a factor. Skin color as a factor, whether it helps or hurts anyone, is fundamentally against the equality that affirmative action is supposed to create.

Rather than allowing schools or employers to use race as a factor in decisions, we should follow a policy that is truly colorblind and prevents all forms of discrimination. When a college receives an application, they should be able to strictly see the student's grades, test scores, essays and recommendations. These accomplishments and personal testimonies are what show the merits and spirit of individuals.

When thousands of students submit college applications next fall, I would like to believe they all have the same chance of being accepted. However, universities attempting to create diversity through affirmative action policies will inevitably discriminate against races that aren't considered minorities.

If race and gender were taken off applications, people of all races would have an equal chance to get into the school of their dreams. And wasn't that the intention of affirmative action in the first place?


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