Should Affirmative Action Polices Be Banned?

March 16, 2018

Affirmative action is a form of discrimination where universities or places of employment favor applicants based on their minority standpoint in society.

Affirmative action should not be banned

Affirmative action is defined as any policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education. When talking to students in Parkview’s hallways, it is evident that many students and teachers harbor misconceptions about the implementation of this policy in college admissions. However, there should not be any backlash to affirmative action policies in college admission, because contrary to popular belief, they do not give minorities preferential or unfair treatment. Instead, they compensate for the countless years of structural oppression and the exclusion of minorities in these educational arenas.


For decades, America has instituted discriminatory policies against every type of minority. It goes without saying that residual effects from this oppression has still affected these communities even after de jure discrimination became illegal. Many studies have shown that women earn less than men, and if we dig even deeper, they even show that women of color, specifically Hispanic and black women earn much less than white women and white men. This disparity is not due to some difference in work ethic between disadvantaged women of color and white men and women. Rather, it is due to the residual effects of oppression. For decades, black and Hispanic men and women were legally not allowed to have certain jobs or attend certain schools. In turn, this systemic lack of access to opportunities, coupled with discriminatory private sector policies such a red lining, made social mobility and wealth building nigh-on-impossible in many disadvantaged communities of color. In addition, these policies only became illegal less than 60 years ago, thus we, generation z, are still feeling the effects of these policies.


Affirmative action policies in college admissions serve to remedy some of the previously stated wrong doings on a college level. Nationally, many secondary schools in communities of color are underfunded and disenfranchised, thus students that come out of these schools will not have the same standardized test scores as students who graduate from middle class and affluent schools. In addition to unequal educational opportunities, many Hispanic and black students have to contend with society’s views of them and the impact that has on their own personal development.


The race gap in college attendance is also expansive. Every year, about 3.5 million students graduate from high school. About two-thirds of them immediately go to college, meaning that, as of last fall, some 20.5 million people were enrolled in postsecondary institutions. Moreover, a study from the Brookings Institution found that black students comprised only 4 percent of undergraduates at top universities, and that Hispanic students comprised only 13 percent.


Whenever affirmative action is discussed usually omit the fact that affirmative action benefits more than just racial minorities. LGBTQIA, female, and disabled students have all been marginalized by uniquely oppressive systems, thus in order to try and mitigate the effects of centuries of oppression, they (verb?) to benefit from affirmative action. In fact, according to a 2013 study done by Time magazine, the minority group that benefits most from affirmative action is white women. Furthermore, many students from underrepresented Asian ethnicity, such as the Hmong, Chinese people, also receive affirmative action benefits in college admissions.


When it comes to admissions to hyper-selective institutions, minority students still need to meet incredibly stringent merit based standards. Of course, in some cases, the test scores and GPA’s of these students are lower than those of overrepresented minority (ORM) and white candidates, not because students who benefit from affirmative action are expected to do worse but rather because overrepresented minorities flood applicant pools to these universities, has making the typical ORM or white candidate basic if his or her application is not made unique in some other sense (i.e. unique extracurricular). Additionally, all underrepresented students who are admitted to these schools are incredibly passionate, driven, and have thoroughly shown this in their applications.


The argument that black and Hispanic students are “taking the spots” of “more qualified” overrepresented minority groups and white students is a fallacy. First and foremost, no university admission spots belong to any race, thus they were not stolen from anyone because they were not anyone’s to seal.  Secondly, if universities did start only judging prospective students on their test scores and GPA’s, top tier and second tier universities would become more or less homogeneous. Homogeny is not representative of the United States in any way. Our country is a melting pot, and our colleges and universities should represent that. Finally, the main goal of affirmative action programs is to help mitigate the massive amounts of inequity seen in disenfranchised communities today. While it is necessary for primary and secondary educational systems to be reformed, the repeal of affirmative action programs would not help this in any way. The goal of our society should be to recognize, validate, and empower people from all backgrounds, to be color blind is to be regressive. Programs that aim to provide equity in underrepresented and systematically disadvantaged communities should not be repealed under the lazy guise of “reverse racism” or because some groups of people believe that these programs are “unnecessary”. A holistic view must be taken when discussing these policies. Diversity of thought, race, economic background, gender, sexuality, and ability is an asset in every situation and must not be underwritten as diversity for diversity’s sake. The next generation of leaders, professionals, and policy makers must be privy to this in order to effect the best possible change in our local, national, and global society


Minorities don’t need help

“I already got a 1470 on the SAT the first time I took it. It’s high enough. It’s good enough. I don’t want to take it again,” I said to my mom, who was pressing me to retake the test. With my decent grades and awards, I felt the slightly-lower score shouldn’t have been too dark of a stain on my college applications.

This only made my mom angrier, “You don’t understand. The truth is that Asians and Asian Americans need to get higher scores to get accepted into the same colleges as white people or black people.”

Though my mom didn’t name it, affirmative action was most certainly what she was describing. Affirmative action, in the context of college applications, is a “positive discrimination”—some sort of policy enacted to favor those who are discriminated against.

It’s certainly helpful for encouraging (or at least, forcing) diversity. It’s a boon for minorities. Most of them, except Asians. According to one study conducted in 2009 by Princeton, “Asians experience the greatest disadvantage in admissions vis-à-vis other comparable racial/ethnic groups.” Even college strategist Greg Kaplan emphasized in his book, Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting Into Highly Selective Colleges, for Asians to “decline to state [his or her] background if [he or she] identifies with a group that is overrepresented on campus even if her name suggests affiliation.” With this sort of situation, political activists cannot make a white vs. every-other-race argument.

Is this sort of “positive discrimination” simply diversity for diversity’s sake? After all, admissions are already brutal as is with their requirements. The playing field may not be equal in terms of finances and academics, so it makes sense to try to level things out, but race is something that cannot be changed and is a very touchy subject.

In the same study by Princeton, Asians had to score 140 points higher on the SAT than whites and hundreds of points above other races to have the same chance of admission to many of the nation’s top universities. One college counselor at Hunter College High School complained that a Harvard admissions officer noted that some of the school’s students were not admitted because the Asian students “looked just alike” on paper.

From 1909 to 1933, Harvard’s president, Abott Lawrence Lowell, took action to encourage diversity—fixing “the Jewish problem” by decreasing Jewish admission rates. In fact, the “holistic” evaluation of students for college admissions was created by Lowell as a way to limit the number of Jewish students.

Legally, affirmative action gets a pass. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) ruled that racial quotas were unconstitutional, though race could be used as a factor for admission. As a more recent case, Fisher v. University (2016) ruled that race could be used as a factor for admissions, with some judicial scrutiny.

Though I believe merit and qualifications should be the key factors in selling a college candidate, there are benevolent goals that affirmative action is trying to accomplish. Affirmative action cuts back on overrepresentation on the campus, allowing otherwise disadvantaged minorities a chance.

However, limiting certain races via college admissions simply isn’t the way to go. The best way to help disadvantaged students is to fundamentally improve K-12 education for them. Minorities shouldn’t need to have an artificial limiter to push them forward if they can earn it on their own with work and effort.

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