Affirmative Action: A Need For Reform

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King 1 Affirmative Action: A Need for Reform The goal of affirmative action was not (or at least should not have been) to promote diversity. The goal should have been to promote and ensure equality of opportunity for people regardless of race, color, creed, gender or national origin. The system that has evolved since the civil rights legislation of the 1960's is a misapplication of its original intent. Laws have been passed, quotas have been established and seemingly, everything has been done to prevent discrimination, but these new laws and quotas are only discriminating against a new group of people--the qualified white male. The affirmative action system originally may have had a just intent, but I sincerely believe it has been counterproductive in practice. Affirmative action by design was intended to help minorities and women reach the same levels of opportunity as the so-called majority, but in the process, reverse discrimination has taken place. Graglia believes "affirmative action" has become simply a deceptive label for racial preferences (31). This discrimination transgresses the basic American ideal that all people are equal before the law and must be treated as individuals. With the mass media rarely recognizing quotas much less portraying white males sympathetically, Peter Lynch, a sociological researcher, states "white males have been silently victimized one by one" (qtd. in Brimelow and Spencer). Now , in order to be employed, qualifications do not always matter as much as the color of a person's skin or his ethnicity. Race and gender-based preferences have no place in an affirmative action program. Race preferences were originally reserved for the approximately twelve-percent of Americans who are black (O'Sullivan 22). Today their beneficiaries of racial preference King 2 include Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Alaskan natives and immigrants who belong to the "protected classes." A whopping one-third of the population is currently covered by race preferences--a figure that is predicted to inflate to about fifty-percent by the year 2050 since immigration from Third World countries is primarily responsible for transforming America demographically (O'Sullivan 22). These statistics essentially mean that a white male is now almost three times as likely to suffer officially imposed negative discrimination as he was thirty years ago (O'Sullivan). Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Affirmative action will never fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream unless the program undergoes some reform. Is discrimination the solution to resolving past discrimination? No, I don't believe so when it hurts others. Some people believe that affirmative action is justified as a way of making up for past discrimination. Although discrimination still exists in the United States, as it does in the rest of the world, most blacks entering the job market today were born after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and have suffered little prejudice when compared to their predecessors. In my opinion, affirmative action was a feeble attempt to correct a long history of racial and sexual discrimination that seems to incite rather than ease feelings of racial hostility. Secondly, affirmative action promotes the hiring of less skilled workers. Affirmative action sometimes forces employers to choose the best of the minority applicants, regardless of whether they have the required skills, education or experience. Many colleges and universities frequently also have quotas for how many blacks it is necessary to admit to "round out" their class enrollments. Today's affirmative action can call for a college admissions officer faced with two King 3 similarly qualified applicants to choose the minority over the white, or for a manager to recruit and hire a qualified woman for a job instead of a man. "Qualified" as defined by affirmative action means minimally qualified (Koch 66). This guideline when applied in the real world, means that whites and Asians--no matter how economically disadvantaged or educationally deprived--may not compete equally in programs intended for blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and women (Koch). Affirmative action decisions are not supposed to be based on quotas, nor are they supposed to give any preference to unqualified candidates. The Supreme Court and other courts have drastically reduced the scope of affirmative action, and recent polls have shown that a majority of blacks dislike the fact that it is being used to help less qualified people get jobs, promotions, and admission to college (Zuckerman 88). The 1964 and 1991 Civil Rights Acts explicitly banned government imposed quotas, but nevertheless, quotas immediately spread through the economy (Brimelow and Spencer 80). In 1971 the Supreme Court ruled that employers could be prosecuted if the racial makeup of the employees was not similar to that of the community. "Proportional representation rather than social justice became the watchword" (Zuckerman 88). Some people claim that whites owe blacks for what we took from them in the past. I don't believe that society owes any compensation to blacks who are entering today's workplace or colleges. Where should a line be drawn; how much do we do to repay people for past wrongdoings? Is it enough to give them equal rights, or will we give them extra opportunities to make up for those we (my ancestors) took away? I agree that diversity in the workplace is essential because it coerces people of different cultures, backgrounds, colors, and race to work side-by-side in harmony. I believe the more one learns about another, the less likely King 4 he/she will discriminate against that person and others of the same race. On the other hand, it can also create animosity due to the fact that a minority may replace one who has had a particular job for a long period of time. It would only be natural for one to become bitter and dislike the minority who took the already filled position only because of his/her ethnic background or gender. If at all, race-based preferences should only apply in limited cases when two applicants are roughly similar in nature except for their race or gender. Another problem with affirmative action is that it places a stigma on groups which receive preferential treatment, especially for individuals who earn their positions strictly because of their ability or qualifications. For example, an employer hires a member of a minority group for a high position on the basis of merit, not for affirmative action reasons. Other employees are likely to assume that it was an affirmative action hiring, as are many other minority hirings. This is not fair to minorities who earn their position based on qualifications or ability. Treating an individual like an affirmative action case, even if he/she is not, can be very insulting to a person who has made it to the top on his/her own talent. As an individual passes the initial point of entry and moves up to the top in one's field of interest, the arguments of preference vanish; it is time to stand with pride on one's own merit (Carter 386-387). According to Koch people like E.R Shipp (Pulitzer Prize winner), Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell have every right to be insulted (66). To eliminate the stigma on minority groups, the agenda of affirmative action should focus the racial aspect on the recruitment of minorities. This statement means that schools should not absolutely give preferential treatment to minorities, but schools should encourage minorities to apply for jobs in which they are underrepresented (Koch 66). Even if some of the minority King 5 applicants fail to qualify for a specific position, they can at least find out where they stand and what they need to do to qualify. From this point on it will be up to individuals to gain the qualifications they need. A positive attitude and a little self-motivation can go a long way. Lastly, I would like to point out that affirmative action focuses on race rather than economics. In some parts of the country the playing field is not level because of income and economics, only partly due to race. "It is preference on the basis of race that arouses anger and a sense of injustice among whites, just as it arouses such feelings among blacks" (Glazer). When a poor child is offered petty curriculum choices and third-rate teachers by his school district, it is not because of his color, but because of his socioeconomic status ( Brimelow and Spencer). Every child in this country should be afforded the same opportunity for a quality education until the completion of high school. Upon graduation from high school, the responsibility lies on the young adult to further his education. In my opinion, race has not been the major barrier to children obtaining a quality education. Lack of money has been the barrier, therefore, the government should focus on trying to increase the equality in the quality of our public

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