Time for a Change
Affirmative action set itself up for failure at its start. Over the many decades since its introduction to the American society, it has begun exponentially hurting more people than it benefits. The problem is that there are still people that truly believe without the policies of affirmative action, the United States would fall back into a world of bigotry and racism. While this is a hard issue to argue either way (being that it is based solely on speculation) there are a few reasons Americans have to denounce that notion.
Like many problems in the world, constant “rehabilitation” is not required. For example, when an alcoholic makes an attempt to sober up, he may begin a 28-day rehab stay. After those 28 days, he acknowledges he must be cognizant of alcohol abuse; however, it would be unnecessary to continue the rehab stay forever. Affirmative action was the rehabilitation administered to the country at the height of its civil rights movement. Aggressive action was absolutely necessary, but years later it is now time for the country to check out of rehab. Like the recovering alcoholic must always focus on being sober, the United States will always have to promote diversity, just in a less extreme way. For example, according to New York Times writer Richard Pérez-Peña, California state colleges have implemented what they call a “holistic review.” With this system, rather than lump all members from one race together, they take a serious look at background and challenges the person has overcome (Pérez-Peña). This way minorities coming from “good” backgrounds are not given anymore assistance than those in the majority with similar backgrounds, and anyone that comes from a rough upbringing will receive aid regardless of race.
Currently in the United States, being racist is socially unacceptable. This happened due to the progression of “color-blindness,” in which people are evaluated in every day situations based on characteristics other than race. According to Kansas State University professor, Krishna Tummala, affirmative action has effectively brought minorities into the mainstream seeing as they are, socially, far more accepted. To restate, affirmative action countered decisions based on race; so now that race is so often overlooked in society (partially with the help of affirmative action) it stands to reason that affirmative action is no longer needed (Potucek). In support of this idea is the example of the California state schools using their holistic review after many affirmative action policies were abolished in the state. Immediately after the change in affirmative action policies, the state saw a decrease in minority admissions. However, this was countered by the implementation of the holistic review, which saw an increase in minority admissions without explicitly looking at race. This holistic review, as stated above, assesses each person’s background and those truly deserving of aid, receive it. This proves that admission offices elect to promote diversity, even without affirmative action.
The idea of abolishing affirmative action is met with opposition. In a New York Times article, author Adam Liptak superficially dissects the topic of eliminating affirmative action from places of higher education. He said, “The consequences of such a decision would be striking. It would, all sides agree, reduce the number of African-American and Latino students at nearly every selective college and graduate school, with more Asian-American and white students gaining entrance instead.” (Liptak)
The problem here begins with the assertion that “all sides agree,” but in the interest of brevity it can be overlooked. The other part of the problem is line claiming Asian-American and white students would gain entrance more so than current numbers show (to be clear, Asian-Americans are considered to be minorities, so they benefit from affirmative action…). This is insulting on a couple levels and can be interpreted multiple ways. One interpretation is that Liptak believes the abolition of affirmative action would allow for racist admission officers to “go back” to denying minorities due to some racial animosity. The other possible interpretation is extremely insulting towards minorities. Liptak is essentially saying that certain racial groups lack the ability to gain acceptance to elite schools. It can be agreed that intellects of present day come from every background possible. Therefore, with diversity in mind, but more importantly ability, anyone with the proper credentials will have the opportunity to earn acceptance, without the policies of affirmative action.
Another Kansas State University professor, John Fliter, believes affirmative action promotes diverse student bodies and work forces (Potucek). While this claim is true, it does not mean affirmative action is necessary to promote diversity. The United States is made up of so many different people; while at first acceptance of others had to be forced, the nation has since evolved into a much more uniform people that would not function without acceptance of others. Even if this evolution can be attributed to affirmative action, that does not justify keeping its policies around.
The American Association for Affirmative Action, or the AAAA, is an association focused on opposing any federal or state action that attempts to remove affirmative action policies (AAAA). According to their website, “The purpose of affirmative action is to give our nation a way to finally address the systemic exclusion of individuals of talent on the basis of their gender, or race from opportunities to develop, perform, achieve and contribute.” Other than the fact that saying in 2012 affirmative action is finally addressing something that the policies addressed in the 1960’s sounds silly, this organization is essentially saying that without affirmative action significant discrimination would be revived. This claim is based on no evidence whatsoever. In fact evidence supports that diversity would remain even without affirmative action. In Washington State where affirmative action has been banned since 1998, a similar holistic review was instituted and minority acceptance numbers have proven to be stay consistent with the affirmative action era, proving diversity can be maintained without affirmative action (Pérez-Peña).
Timing is everything and for its time, affirmative action did a great job producing diversity in an era run by the majority. Now, less extreme measures can maintain diversity, like those implemented in California and Washington state schools. These less extreme measures ensure that underprivileged individuals are assisted as necessary, but those in the majority truly deserving of acceptance also are not discriminated against.
Fifty years of rehabilitation was long enough for the United States. While still keeping diversity in mind, the nation can handle its “sobriety” in simpler ways.
“About the AAAA.” About the American Association for Affirmative Action. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.
Liptak, Adam. “Justices Take Up Race as a Factor in College Entry.” Editorial. The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.
Perez-Pena, Richard. “To Enroll More Minority Students, Colleges Work Around the Courts.” Nytime.com. The New York Times, 1 Apr. 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
Potucek, Rachel. “Affirmative Action: Pros and Cons.” Kansas State University. Kansas State University, Fall 2003. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.