Affirmative action

Affirmative action. The term has positive connotations to it, denoting an action in the, well, affirmative. Something assuring, something positive, something that is right.

Affirmative action. The term has positive connotations to it, denoting an action in the, well, affirmative. Something assuring, something positive, something that is right. But is affirmative action really beneficial, and more so, is it fair to everyone involved? A few years ago, it seemed that everyone was on the affirmative action bandwagon, but recently, it has come under close scrutiny. And rightly so.

Affirmative action is meant to help women and racial minorities get a leg up in education, employment, and business due to past discrimination. When studies show that in the employment sector, women make 74 cents to every dollar a man makes, it makes people question why that is and what is going on. Add to that the fact that African-American women make 63 cents to every dollar men make, and Latina women make 57 cents to every dollar men make, it does become disconcerting. But what about when racial minorities get preferential treatment, simply because of their race?

The University of Michigan recently settled a lawsuit that Jennifer Gratz, a white woman, filed because they denied her undergraduate admission when she applied in 1995. Gratz had graduated 12th in her high school class, had a 3.8 GPA, served as student council vice president and was an honor roll student. If anyone should have been accepted to the University of Michigan, one would think it would and should have been her. Not so.

After being denied admission, with the help of a University of Michigan professor, it was found that the university had a dual admissions system, meaning they admitted students differently depending on race and even awarded a certain numbers of points to the minority students simply because they were minorities. And since Gratz was white…well, I’m sure you can figure out why she was probably denied admission.

In 1997, Gratz filed a suit against the university. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court found the dual admissions system that the university was using unconstitutional. Instead, they can now use race as a factor as long as it isn’t used in a systematic manner. That sounds much better.

It is understandable that America would want to help people who have been historically held back because of discrimination. Everyone who isn’t a white Protestant male is in that boat. However, when affirmative action creates its own set of problems by unfairly discriminating against those who don’t deserve to be discriminated against and rewarding those who don’t deserve to be rewarded, then it is time to rethink the system and tweak it accordingly.

One can’t control someone’s prejudices. It just can’t be helped no matter what policies the government or employers instill. As awful as it is, prejudice and discrimination will always occur. It can be monitored, chastised and publicly denounced, but it will always be there. We are human. What we can do is make the policy what it should be: blind to whatever race or sex the applicant is.

Is there any reason why universities need to know what they are admitting? No. What they need to know is your past, your academic performance, your employment background, your recommendations, your activities, your essays, what kind of person you are and strive to be, not what color or sex you are. It should be based on aptitude and possible future performance, not on policies and politics. The same can be said about employment. If two applicants apply for the same position and are pretty much equal in all respects other than skin color, a game of eeny-meeny-miny-moe would be fairer than making skin color a factor.

As a female, I would be offended to know that I got an extra few points simply because of genetics. Thanks, Daddy, for making me a girl and helping me get my job. That’s extremely offensive because the system is assuming that I can’t find a job because I’m a woman. Is this belief na’ve? Possibly. But it’s one that I firmly believe. I want to be hired because of the person I am, my abilities and my potential. Is it possible that I may be turned down for a job because I’m not male? Yes, undoubtedly. But is it right to give me a job that I may be unqualified for because the employer was forced to hire me because of a point system? No.

When someone is given preferential treatment because they aren’t white or they aren’t male, how can that be justified and called fair? Wanting to right past wrongs is a noble thing to do, but we can’t change history. It doesn’t work that way. Change happens over time. Affirmative action (and its proponents) had its heart in the right place. Unfortunately, the heart needs a triple-bypass.