Affirmative Action From a New Perspective
The basis for this entry comes from an article I found on CNNU by a student at Michigan State University. If you’ll remember, MSU was recently in the news regarding its affirmative action policies and a number of lawsuits against the university and it’s affirmative action policy. The student is a journalism major there and gives a report about recent political activities on her campus surrounding the debate. As I stated before, this prompted me to write my own views here on the subject:
The debate surrounding affirmative action has been raging for over 45 years in some form or fashion. At the core of almost every debate is the “fairness” of the policy. How do you justify hiring/admitting someone based on their ethnicity, even if that consideration is only part of the hiring/admissions process? What if there’s a white person more qualified for that position? Do we just say “sorry, but this spot goes to a black person because we need to keep our ‘non-white’ enrollment numbers up”?
Obviously, the ‘correct’ answers to these questions depend on what side of the debate you’re on or looking at. I’ve heard some whites refer to it as “reverse racism”; I’ve also heard some blacks describe it as “the worst thing to happen to us (us being black people) since Jim Crow”. It is true that there are some blacks out there who would seek to exploit the system to get a “free ride” – a spot in a company/university that they are not qualified to have. In this case, affirmative action does work against itself by proving that, indeed, the system is flawed, if not completely broken.
Then again, one has to consider the need for such a system in the first place. If all things were equal, and the United States did not have the history with black people that it does, almost no one would argue that affirmative action wouldn’t exist. However, things are not equal; the playing field is not level, and the honest-to-goodness truth is that if you’re white in this country, you’re likely to have an easier path towards education and employment than your black counterpart.
One may point out: “What about the Jews and the Asians? They’ve been discriminated against in this country, too.” This is true, both the Jews and the Asians have a history of being discriminated against, but the last time I checked, Martin Luther King, Vernon Dahmer, Medgar Evers, and countless others were black, not Jews or Asians. As one person put it, “blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving legalized discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else.” This negates the “they should just get over it” argument. It’s akin to asking a wrongfully jailed man to “just accept it and go on” after he’s released.
Through out all this history, many debates have raged, and many people have given their opinion on the matter. However, almost no well-to-do African Americans have spoken publicly about this issue, choosing, rather, to just let the issue evolve into whatever it will.
Well, this is my take on things: Affirmative action is needed in this country for a few basic reasons. Firstly, left to the current administrative practices and traditions, blacks in this country would continue to be discriminated against in large numbers by both educators and employers. Take the California Proposition 209 vote in 1995 that ended affirmative action in California and it’s effects on the black in enrollment in schools like UCLA. In 1995, blacks made up 6.2% of the total student population at UCLA. in 2000, the blacks made up only 4.5% of the total student population (facts and figures here). This is indicative of many other universities across the nation, as well as trends seen in employment numbers. The discrimination against blacks in this country is extremely deep-rooted and systemic. Discrimination in education leads to blacks receiving a poorer education than many whites, which leads them to being unqualified for higher paying positions, which limits their family’s resources to provide a quality education for their children, who will, more than likely, suffer the same struggles their parents did.