Affirmative Action: An Insult to Equality and Fairness

Affirmative Action is racist. In it’s most basic form, the practice of admitting students based on race ingrains within community, especially those affected by Affirmative Action, the notion that certain races need a leg up, that without such a policy, they are unable to gain entry into prestigious universities. Worse, it may instill in some others the idea that they don’t need to work as hard, because with just satisfactory grades, they can get into a university because their race is underrepresented.

Affirmative Action in the United States is a similar policy to that practiced in the United Kingdom, which shares the same name. However, overseas it is also more colloquially referred to as positive discrimination. I feel, when talking about Affirmative Action, it should be called positive discrimination in the U.S. as well, specifically, for irony reasons. The whole idea behind Affirmative Action is to try and eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunities for all. However, as the name so aptly describes it, Affirmative Action does not affirm equality. Rather, it does the opposite. It discriminated against certain peoples for the benefit of those who may or may not be at a disadvantage.

Though some may argue that Affirmative Action helps people, their premises are sometimes flawed. Some believe that certain races are at a disadvantage, that they are not able to break through barriers that long ago oppressed them. However, by working on this premise, those proponents of Affirmative Action are saying the exact opposite of the idea that all men and women are created equal. Those behind the policy instead, are saying that some people are unable to break free of the shackles of previous oppression, that they are not strong enough to succeed now, and that the only way for these underprivileged minority out-groups to flourish is through the enactment of policies that serve as “positive discrimination”.

Not completely an oxymoron, positive discrimination instills a very pejorative thought in my head. It implies a sense of pomp; the idea that some forms of discrimination are indeed positive and that certain people know when it is positive and when it isn’t. What is worse however, is that positive discrimination, a.k.a. Affirmative Action, actually also negatively affects those it supposedly helps. Those certain minority races that benefit from Affirmative Action may not be ready for the course load of a top tier university because their high schools didn’t prepare them enough. They may not be used to expounding as much effort and the inundation of course work may surprise them. Worse, in my opinion, is the effect on those who are of the same race but did not need Affirmative Action’s boost for college admissions. They may not only second-guess themselves, “Did I get in because of Affirmative Action?” but others may also doubt their ability. Some may look at the student who was valedictorian of his private school and ask, “Did he get in because he’s Black?” even though that wasn’t the case.

However, that’s what Affirmative Action does. It instills a mentality that certain groups do need a boost even though it works on the premise that all racial groups are equal. It can relay two messages. One might go like this: “He needs our help because he’s a Pacific Islander. They don’t do well so we need to step in and give him a boost.” Another message may go like this: “Well, I’m Hispanic and all the Ivies practice Affirmative Action, so as long as I get an B+, I’m a shoe-in”.

Just as bad is the effect of Affirmative Action on those groups who try very hard to achieve the level of scholastic ability needed for certain universities. Some people might believe Whites are most adversely affected by Affirmative Action. However, increasingly, the most negatively affected group is Asian Americans. Because on average, they have the highest SAT and ACT scores, individual Asian Americans need to be even more qualified than other groups because of in-group competition. Rather than basing admissions on scholastic and extracurricular achievement only, Affirmative Action says that even if certain groups do exceedingly well, some must be declined admissions so that others, who are underrepresented, may be represented to create, as always, a “diverse” environment.

Some may attack my comments and opinions by calling me a racist. However, I’m the opposite of a racist. I’m for promoting racial equality, for creating the idea that indeed all races are equal, that all races can succeed. I don’t like Affirmative Action because it is racist. It propagates the belief that certain races need an extra boost and that’s not true. Affirmative Action of some sort may work, but not when race is the basis of consideration. Rather, I propose that Affirmative Action look at socioeconomic status (SES). By examining a student’s economic and social background, admissions boards would be better able to tell who is disadvantaged and who isn’t.

It’s actually racist to assume that some racial groups, e.g. Blacks and Hispanics, must come for poor families and that Whites are only of the rich WASP kind. Instead, Whites can be poor. They can live under the poverty line. Blacks can be affluent and successful. Minority groups have not been the only groups discriminated against. Irish immigrants in a predominately Protestant Anglo-Saxon America were forced to work on the railroads and live in ghettos. Quotas were enacted against Italians. The worst is that Affirmative Action actually does prevent some minority groups, e.g. Asian Americans and Indian Americans from achieving. Affirmative Action doesn’t help all minorities. Rather, it hurts and discriminates against some of them. Worse is the assumption it creates, that race automatically makes someone less well off.  That is racist. Instead, by examining SES, admissions boards can see individuals who are more affluent without having to guess if they are from their race. Although SES alone is still not a perfect way of discerning, I believe it’s a first step.  It’s a first step through examining inequality and understanding that promoting inequality between races will not solve the issue. Instead, we need to understand the root of inequality – not race, but class, and only from there can be proceed to a more equal America.

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