Definition Essay – Joe Mleczko

In March of 1961, President of the United States, John F. Kennedy signed the Affirmative Action Act. As an attempt to eliminate discrimination in the work place and in places of higher education, the policies that defined affirmative action (and still do) established guidelines for recruiters to follow for the recruiting process. The policies require that a recruiter does not make any decisions with regard to race, religion, or gender. For the time that affirmative action was created, it provided the necessary balance that minorities needed to establish themselves as equals among a predominantly white nation.

A component of  affirmative action is the quota system that has been instituted. This system requires that in a place of employment or higher learning, all races be “equally” represented. This does not necessarily mean that the number of caucasians must match that of black and hispanic; however, it means there must be adequate numbers of each. To the creators of affirmative action, if each race, gender or religion is adequately represented, they had successfully given everyone an equal opportunity for a position(s).

Fifty years after the introduction of affirmative action, the general consensus of the affirmative action policies has changed. That is not to say affirmative action has not achieved greater parity in hiring and college admissions, because it certainly has. Instead, the problem of over representation of minorities and under representation of the majority has become a common theme.

Initially the policies of affirmative action sought to eliminate discrimination, but in turn has created discrimination of a different group of people. It is now common to hear the term “reverse discrimination,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Before affirmative action, for example, an employer could very easily reject an applicant for simply being black. Now that employers are required to hire specific numbers of minorities, but there is still a majority looking for the same position, it is possible to see a white person eliminated from the hiring process for not being a minority. Arguing the fairness of reverse discrimination over the fairness of regular discrimination is the tricky part. Which is more unfair?

Perhaps the correct question to be asked is whether or not more members of the majority are negatively affected than minorities would be without the protection of affirmative action?

Not only has the view of affirmative action changed greatly over the last fifty years, but the United States of America as a whole has changed dramatically. There was well defined need for affirmative action at its time of birth, being at the center of the civil rights movement. Since then, we have seen racism decrease significantly, and it is arguable that the United States could have already been a truly “color blind” nation without five full decades of affirmative action. Those that believe the nation would go back to its old ways without affirmative action are ignorant to the changes the country has seen.

Instead, the nation watches as the underrepresented majority misses out on job opportunities and admittance to universities. In an article by Amara Phillip, two such examples are outlined. In 2003 the University of Michigan was sued by multiple white students claiming they were denied due to being white. In the one case, a well qualified white female sued the law school for being denied solely because there was not enough room for more white females. After the case was seen by the Supreme Court, the ruling was that basing admittance off grades, test scores, recommendations, and race was well within the legality of affirmative action. In the second case, two white applicants were denied and as a result sued the school, claiming the point system that the University of Michigan uses for admittance was unconstitutional. This point system assigned a certain number of points to each part of the students application. A student of minority status would receive more points for race than a student of majority status. After the application had been fully assessed, students with sufficient points were admitted, and those that did not meet the mark were rejected. Even students that showed better grades and test scores than minorities were rejected because they received less points in the race category. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that this point system was unconstitutional; however, there is not much difference between the first case and the second (Phillip).

The overall reason why the minority status is more “point worthy” than majority status is that the university is required to fill seats with minorities even if it means not admitting more qualified individuals.

Another example of reverse discrimination of those in the majority is outlined in a study done by two Princeton sociologists. The study they preformed revealed a very interesting fact about how elite schools weigh SAT scores for applicants. African Americans that scored above a 1500 (1600-point scale) received an equivalent of 230 SAT points and hispanics received an additional 185 SAT points. The study concluded that this was an attempt to “level the playing field,” but in reality, if a test represents academic ability, receiving extra points makes that person under qualified for the final number they receive (Espenshade and Chung).

The multiple circumstances in which minorities are given an advantage due to the fact they have the minority status are a direct result of affirmative action, because recruiters use it to justify accepting less qualified minorities over more qualified caucasians. The reverse discriminatory factor here is simple. Caucasians are less “enticing” because they simply are not a minority.

Reverse discrimination now causes other problems in society, and whether or not hatred is directed at the correct people is irrelevant. According to Ernest van den Haag, racism can actually come out of decisions based on affirmative action. If a well qualified person is denied a position so the recruiter can fill a quota with a minority, that rejected person may develop animosity towards the minority, which can stem out into hatred (van den Haag). In reality, the energy fueling that animosity could be used to attempt to change the affirmative action policies, but that is much easier said than done. Another example of misdirected animosity comes from an article written by authors David Sacks and Peter Thiel, where admissions officers at Stanford have been unfairly labeled as racist for denying caucasians (Sacks and Thiel). These admissions officers, perhaps black men, perhaps white women, were unfairly accused of racism against caucasians for correctly following mandated affirmative action policies. So not only is rejection because of being caucasian unfair, but so is unjustly labeling someone as a racist for simply following regulations imposed by the government.

Allowing underprivileged people to reach just as high as those who are fortunate, is something that all governments should always be concerned with. Unfortunately, the United States bases this assistance off of race where not everyone is represented equally. With the greater good of the American people in mind, the brilliant minds that govern this country should provide a better solution for the underprivileged.

Works Cited

Espenshade, Thomas J., and Chang Y. Chung. “The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities*.” Social Science Quarterly 86.2 (2005): 293-305. Print.

PHILLIP, AMARA. “The Diversity Imperative.” Diverse: Issues In Higher Education 28.18 (2011): 16-17. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Mar. 2012.

Sacks, David, and Peter Thiel. “The Case Against Affirmative Action.” The Case Against Affirmative Action. Web. 06 Mar. 2012.

van den Haag, Ernest. “Affirmative Action And Campus Racism.” Academic Questions 2.3 (1989): 66. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Mar. 2012.

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3 Responses to Definition Essay – Joe Mleczko

  1. davidbdale says:

    Thanks as always for posting early, Joe. I imagine your classmates are reading your essay looking for a model of how to proceed. I’d be happy if they did, provided they also read these remarks as they polish their work. 🙂

    Your fine first paragraph introduces the material clearly but takes no clear attitude. There’s a hint in “For the time . . . it provided,” but except for readers who come to you looking for information about the history of Affirmative Action, there’s no hook. You’re not obligated to pick a fight in your introduction, or even display a lot of attitude, but just imagine your first sentence was: “Affirmative Action has run its course.” It would not only get your second sentence read (the goal of every first sentence), it would color the way readers approached your entire first paragraph. As it stands now, they’re on their own.

    Be alert to repetitions, Joe. They’re often a sign of needed paring or condensing. When I read “for recruiters to follow for the recruiting process,” followed by “policies require that a recruiter,” my brain begins to revise. That may be my particular psychosis, but it offers me this: “Affirmative action guidelines to this day prohibit recruiters from hiring on the basis of race, religion, or gender.”

    P2. Could this really be how the quota system is described, Joe? “Equal” representation is hopelessly vague. Is it possible something like “proportional representation” is required? “Adequate numbers” would mean 10% Hispanic workers hired if the overall population is 10% Hispanic?

    P3. This is the second paragraph in a row that begins by introducing a concept, then clarifying what the claim does not mean. Should I worry you might not be making the positive claim clearly in the first place? Your position here is becoming oddly disembodied. “The general consensus,” followed by the double negative of “not to say” has “not achieved,” followed by “has become a common theme,” gives the impression you don’t want to own these positions. So, give them to their rightful owners. Obviously, the over-represented minorities don’t own them. Why not say the “majority population” are tired of the program?

    P4. By now, we should probably be hearing some specific results from your research, Joe. If conclusions are not your own, but reflect the attitudes others have expressed, you can let them speak for themselves with direct quotation or summary plus quotation. “Common to hear,” and “possible to see,” and “arguing . . . is tricky” are uncomfortable distancing techniques you can easily avoid by attaching the positions to their owners.

    P5. I was thinking something blunter might be clearer. Perhaps the correct question is whether affirmative action does more harm than good?

    P6. This paragraph is pivotal and sounds like Joe, which I greatly appreciate. It requires no sourcing if it’s your summary position. It could be clearer though. A program that was absolutely essential when the country was quite racist is less essential now and might even be counterproductive. Then explain the counterproductivity that results from forcing employers to consider race who had already achieved the color-blindness that was supposed to be the goal of AA in the first place. Am I reading you right?

    P7. This evidence comes at the right time, following your position paragraph, Joe. Don’t dilute the force of your plaintiffs’ complaints with the passive voice here. People don’t sue for “being denied.” They name the school and sue the school because the school denied them by limiting the space available . . . . Active all the way. Cases are heard by courts, not seen, but why mention it at all? The Supreme Court ruled that admissions based on . . . . But I can’t tell what the SC upheld here. It upheld AA, but also merit based admissions? Don’t they contradict in this case? Did the plaintiff win her case? I think you can trim at least half of your description of the point system, Joe.

    P8. Never “reason because” or “reason why.” The reason . . . is that . . . ” Or: Minority status is more “point-worthy” than majority status because the university . . . .

    P9. African-Americans who scored . . . . Not “applicant received,” but “the college awarded 230 points to . . . .”

    P10. May I try a rephrase of the first sentence?
    Recruiters use a variety of techniques to favor less qualified minority students over better qualified Caucasians, all to satisfy affirmative action goals.

    P11. Should be two paragraphs. The “hatred” is startling, coming as it does from nowhere. The first claim might be that RD causes racism. Then the evidence that rejected applicants feel unjustly passed over. Then the misdirected antagonism, back to the racism, finally to hatred if appeals to their better qualifications are not validated. Something like that. Give the Sacks/Thiel its own paragraph.

    P12. “where not everyone is represented equally” is very confusing, Joe. (I’m sure I’ve told you how “bases off” makes my skin crawl. You’ve done it more than once in this paper. Please help me.) I know you have to work hard not to sound like a whiner, Joe, which can make it hard to speak plainly. But I know you can do it. You find it maddening that a perfectly admirable and beautifully-intentioned program designed to produce something like justice for deserving citizens can instead create such counterintuitively unfair results, for everyone really, for the majority candidates who lose out on their prospects, and for the truly qualified minority candidates whose qualifications are always suspected by jealous majorities who feel abused. A conclusion that expressed that frustration would be much more effective, don’t you think?

    I know I do a lot of criticizing, but I do admire the sure-handedness of your presentation, Joe, and the clarity of much of your language. As always, I hope I’ve been helpful and a pain in the neck. I enjoy both roles.

  2. joeymleczko says:

    Professor,

    I already did make corrections on my definition essay; however if you would look at it again for a potential repost, I would appreciate it!

    Thanks!

  3. davidbdale says:

    Thanks for the opportunity, Joe.
    P2. Is the “quota system that has been instituted” a mandated feature of the legislation, or did it become “instituted” over time by institutions as a way to verify that they were in compliance?

    P2. Really? Did the “creators of affirmative action” actually have adequate representation in mind, whatever that means? Or did they just want admissions and hiring to be color-blind so that whatever happened would NOT BE BASED on race, gender, other factors?

    P3. It’s a lot to ask of readers to accept with no support whatsoever that minorities are “over-represented,” Joe. You recommend ending a government program here; you need to have some evidence that the program is a problem.

    P4. Not in turn but instead. Your argument is not between two fairnesses but between two injustices.

    P5. Rhetorically, I think the question you’re really asking is whether affirmative action does more good than harm? In other words, you’d like to shift the burden of proof.

    P6. could have or would have? Also, switch the order of the phrases: arguable that without
    *those who believe
    *ignoring the changes?

    P7. several white students?
    *based on grades, I beg you.
    *sued the U of M for the point system it uses?
    *those who

    P8. Several times the negatives not admit and not hire are not as clear as positive verbs would be, Joe. Consider: even if it means denying or turning down more qualified individuals. Consider also: better-qualified individuals (because it can’t be misunderstood to mean more individuals with good qualifications).

    P9. *performed
    I still don’t understand the language of your “but in reality” point, Joe. Throughout, you might benefit from hyphens: under-qualified, less-qualified . . . .

    P10. Actually, not quite that simple, unless you identify the reason they’re less enticing. Do colleges recruit minorities to meet affirmative action mandates or to achieve their own goals to provide a culturally-diverse learning experience to their students?

    P11. “come out of” is weak.
    “stem out into” is weird.
    Why, “in reality”? You might mean, “sadly.”

    P12. These unidentified admissions officers, perhaps . . . .?
    “not only . . . but so”?

    P13. Be concerned with? or promote? The unfortunately sentence is awkward.

    P14. Your “From those” sentence needs parallelism.

    Nice work, Joe. I like your sources.

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