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Flaws of Affirmative Action

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 1684 words Published: 3rd Oct 2017

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Cielo Marte



Affirmative action is, in retrospect, a blatant failure in an attempt to compensate for America’s history with the brutalities of racism and degradation of segregation. The effects of Affirmative action not only leads to further racism, but only creates an illusionary accreditation that is eventually and distastefully revealed after an individual fails to perform as exemplary as his peers. Affirmative Action, initially designed to boost certain individuals with socio-economic drawbacks, not only hinders those with better chances at a more elite institution, but also forces a group of underqualified individuals to a higher socio-economic standard. Though the difference in economic standards based on race, gender, and financial standing are prevalent, Affirmative Action is essentially outdated, only displays a flawed trial in the social construct, and can even be portrayed as a proponent for reverse-racism.

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Affirmative Action was first coined in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy declared “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” This declaration, with its intent to welcome a new era of racial equality, was then continued with Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 Executive Order 11246, which stated that no basis of race, gender, or national origin will determine position in employment. In 1995, the University of California adopted the Regents Resolution, basing that race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin does not determine admission to an institution. This is corroborated with California’s SP-1, SP-2, and Proposition 209 to emphasize blind preference. (A Brief History of Affirmative Action, 2002, www.oeod.uci.edu, 4 April 2014, <http://www.oeod.uci.edu/aa.html>)

Affirmative Action is declared, by some demographics, as the backbone of integration in the America society, as well as one of the current suppliers of rise in minority positions in the job market. As stated by Elkins professor F. Michael Higginbotham, “It’s not time for income-based affirmative action; race-based preference is still vital in the United States given the country’s history of slavery and its continuing, pervasive racial discrimination.…erroneously characterizing affirmative action as an unfair preference allows the court to defer to the electoral process just as it deferred to property owners in the 1880s” (Higginbotham, T. Michael, “Race-Based Affirmative Action Is Still Needed”,27 April 2014, www.nytimes.com, 28 April 2014, < http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate>)

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Affirmative Action has been one of the leading patrons in paving economic advantages to previously discriminated demographics. “According to 1998 U.S. Department of Labor statistics, blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The unemployment rate is also higher for Latinos than for whites. Blacks and Latinos generally earn far less than whites. In 2000, the median weekly earning for blacks was $459; for Latinos, it was $395. In that period, average income for whites was $590. Workers of color are still concentrated in the less well-paying, unskilled sector. In 1993, black and Latino men were half as likely as whites to be employed as managers or professionals and much more likely to be employed as machine operators and laborers.” (“Affirmative Action”, 2000, www.aclu.org, 2 April 2014, https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/affirmative-action)

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Though the basis of Affirmative Action was solely to produce non-discriminatory results in society, its evolution is challenged as “reverse racist” as a race/income disability becomes a preference in most aids and institutions. With the most recent challenge against Affirmative Action, Fisher V. University of Austin Texas exemplifies the unrest of non-minority demographics. In this case, a Caucasian applicant was denied admission and sued the University, claiming its preference to minority applicants (due to2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case). The petitioner argued that this preference violates the Equal Protection Act. The court upheld the University, allowing ethnic preference in its admission process.

(“Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin”, October 2012, www.supremecourt.gov, 5 April 2014, <http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions>)

Affirmative Action poses the ideal of a flawed educational system where educators and students are “mismatched” in an institutions pace and rigor. This system causes more damage to its “beneficiaries” than good. As stated in the New York Times, “affirmative action can harm those it’s supposed to help by placing them at schools in which they fall below the median level of ability and therefore have a tough time. As a consequence, the argument goes, these students suffer learningwise and, later, careerwise… students — minority or otherwise — do not automatically benefit from attending a school that they enter with academic qualifications well below the median level of their classmates.” Mismatching students and institutions based applied on based on prestige rather than commonality “…often stigmatize minorities, reinforce pernicious stereotypes, and undermine the self-confidence of beneficiaries, rather than creating the diverse racial utopias so often advertised in college campus brochures.” A startling difference is the aftermath of UCLA’s ban racial preference in admission decisions. Since its adoption of Prop-209, a drop in minority enrollment was expected. This drop did occur (though short –lived), as was recorded after the Prop–209 adoptions. Within years after this adoption, there was a 50% drop in black freshman enrollment and 25% drop in Hispanic enrollment. This drop occurred in such a proliferous manner that, in 2006, UCLA reverted in illegal racial preferences. However, “the total numbers of black and Hispanic students receiving bachelor’s degrees were the same for the five classes after Prop 209 as for the five classes before.” The prop-209 forced a non-preferential treatment in minority students. With this decision, the Black and Hispanic demographic that were rejected enrolled instead to a more “fitted” institution where their educational needs were better catered and, after all, became the reason for an inline of Hispanic/Black graduates. (Sander, Richard and Taylor Jr., Stuart; “The Painful Truth About Affirmative Action” 2 October 2012, www.theatlantic.com, 4 April 2014, < http://www.theatlantic.com/>) This data shows the flaw of “mismatching” and the benefits of the absence of Affirmative Action in the college admission process.

The flaw of Affirmative Action is not in it its failure to comply as an integrative factor for America’s uneven socio-economic status; it’s the failure to recognize its initial mission: blind preference. Affirmative Action introduces a newer, yet palpably mirrored, view of segregation. Though the intentions of Affirmative Action are beneficial, its specifics do not compensate for America’s segregated past. Perhaps a more effective version of Affirmative Action defers solely to an “income disability” standard instead of racial preferences. A recent TI ME article by David Von Drehle suggests focusing on a more rigorous elementary curriculum for lower class students that prepare for a college environment rather than preparing students for under qualification, only to permit admission during college where most will not be able to keep up. Drehle suggests that the America education system should “…look for bright elementary school students. They should go into the homes of those children to explain to their parents that success in college can be a path to prosperity for the entire family. They should create advertising campaigns around their most successful minority students and alums, glamorizing the idea of academic achievement. Steps like these should be taken for all disadvantaged kids of promise, regardless of race. But because they are aimed at the bottom of the economic ladder, they will serve to advance young people of color.” This proposal, though seemingly extreme and undoable, seems rather remedial in comparison to its analogous counterpart: scouting athletes (which are initiated by finding potentials and conditioning their skills for a higher level of achievement). (Von Drehle, David ; “This Is What Real Affirmative Action Would Look Like”, 30 April 2014, time.com, 30 April 2014, http://time.com)

Affirmative Action, with its motives for racial integration, has backfired into yet another racial debacle. This flawed plan can and should be modified to best fit a society with diverse disabilities. In order to compensate for America’s erroneous past, a social construct that sets race aside and focuses on balancing out the financial hierarchy is essential.


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