Opportunities of Character, Not Color
Created in the 1960?s, affirmative action programs attempted to undo past racial discrimination by giving preference to blacks and other minorities. The idea behind these programs was to help minorities gain the representation in the job market that paralleled their percentage of the population (Finley 1). Unfortunately, affirmative action has mutated into a thirty-year-old policy that places many underqualified minorities in positions over more qualified non-minorities. Preferential treatment of minorities has caused problems not only in the workplace, but also in our universities throughout the country. Due to these current circumstances, affirmative action policies in college admissions must be eliminated because of the negative effects they have on campuses across the nation.
There are numerous arguments that defend the use of affirmative action and advocate its effect on college campuses. Supporters of affirmative action believe that minorities are still disadvantaged and that it is “absolutely necessary to level the playing field” (Wilkins 334). They believe that minorities will never be given a fair chance at college unless diversity is forced upon the campus. Proponents also argue that affirmative action is the best solution to past discrimination and color-blindness, and that without affirmative action the gaps between our races will never close.
Although these arguments may have positive aspects such as creating a multicultural campus, affirmative action?s many faults cause more problems than are solved. The leading problem with these ideas on affirmative action in colleges is that it has completely failed to accomplish one of its main goals: reduce the color-consciousness of university students and ease racial tension. On the contrary, it has done exactly the opposite because affirmative action “poses a conflict between two cherished American principles: the belief that all Americans deserve equal opportunities and the idea that hard work and merit, not race or religion or gender or birthright, should determine who prospers and who does not” (Roberts 32).
This leads to a series of problems at universities. For example, we cannot expect college students to see everyone equally unless everyone is considered equal when applying for college. Affirmative action has created a situation in which the minority?s “society now tells them that if they will only designate themselves as black on their college applications, they will probably do better in the college lottery than if they conceal this fact” (Steele 322). Remove the section on college applications titled “Race,” and consider students by their hard work in school, not by the color of their skin. And how can we even be surprised that there is racial tension among students in universities? The white student sees minorities as undeserving, while the minority student sees the whites as racists that are “participating in a larger institution that works against black people” (Duster 64).
Another fault with affirmative action is that it attempts to correct a serious problem at the wrong time in a student?s career. According to a 1987 survey in the L.A. Times, when colleges admit minorities through affirmative action their performance often shows that problems have not been solved. The survey presented evidence that “around 90 percent of regularly admitted UCLA students now pass the California bar exam, while the passage rate for students admitted under special programs designed to help minorities is only 30 percent” (Finley 1). The problem here is that many minorities are disadvantaged educationally when the time comes to apply for colleges. By this time, it is too late for affirmative action to accomplish anything positive. It can only place underqualified minorities into a difficult college environment that discourages all students and develops “a cosmetic diversity that covers the blemish of disparity?a full six years after admission, only 26 to 28 percent of blacks graduate from college” (Steele 324). We should instead direct our attention to the primary and secondary schools that are preparing students for the tough college years ahead.
In conclusion, the solution to racial problems in America is to fade out affirmative action programs and provide inner-city schools with more resources that prepare students for college. More funds should be distributed to inner-city schools and incentives given to teachers who teach at these schools (Finley 2). By encouraging teachers to educate students in disadvantaged schools, a better staff will be available to help minority students develop a competitiveness in college admissions. This will allow all students to be admitted into college based not on their skin color, but on their own merit and hard work. Over time, colleges as well as the workplace, will naturally become more diverse and racially unified.
Feb. 1995: 32-38.
Allyn & Bacon. 322-329.
Wilkins, Roger. “Racism Has Its Privileges.” Conversations. Ed. Jack Selzer. Allyn &
World Wide Web. Rick Finley. “Quotas Hurt King?s Legacy.” 10 Nov. 1996. Online