Affirm What Action?


Imagine you’re gearing up for a race: laces tied, eyes ahead, mind blank. Your competitors are lined up next to you, but they are completely anonymous – random – and all that you care about is the strenuous, difficult task that you are about to embark upon. The importance of this race is intangible; it can make or break your future; it can define the rest of your life. All of a sudden, right before the starting gun goes off, half of the participants are asked if they’d like an advantage. Maybe they can begin 100 yards ahead, or be given a thirty second head start. “Raise your hand if you want it.” Whose hand does not go up?

By nature, human beings are selfish. We intrinsically worry about ourselves more than anything else in this world, and rightfully so. Therefore, when given an opportunity to get ahead, we jump on it. Take for example the college application process. Students work for four years to garner good grades, become involved in activities, rise to leadership positions, and ideally make themselves a perfect candidate for the universities of their choice. But, they also take advantage of every opportunity they have to give themselves a leg up – contacting an alumni family friend to secure an interview, checking “legacy” for mother even though its your step mom, talking to coaches to demonstrate interest in joining a team. Is it fair? Of course, that’s the way life is. Is it fair? No, it wrongly gives some people an advantage. Is it fair? It all goes back to the race and whether or not you were asked if you want that head start.

In June of 2003, Jennifer Gratz sued the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor for violating the 14th amendment in its undergraduate admissions process. At the time, U of M employed a unique point system: out of 150 possible points, 100 were needed to gain admission. The controversy? 20 points were automatically given to an underrepresented minority applicant. Meanwhile, a student with a perfect score on the SATs was awarded 12 points. Fair or not fair?

There is a huge racial divide in the consideration of decreasing affirmative action

In a race that “can make or break your future, [and] can define the rest of your life,” several thousand applicants were allowed to start 1/5 of the track ahead of the rest. They were given the opportunity to have a head start, and as we would all do, they raised their hands to accept it. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the University of Michigan’s point system was unfair in that it allowed for reverse-discrimination and violated the equal protection clause guaranteed to civilians by the United States constitution. Let’s look at the 2003 Supreme Court justices who voted during the Gratz case: William Rehnquist, white; John P. Stevens, white; Sandra Day O’Connor, white; Antonin Scalia, white; Anthony Kennedy, white; David Souter, white; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, white; Stephen Breyer, white; Clarence Thomas, black. Is it even a question why this affirmative action policy was overturned?

Over the entire political spectrum, the black population is largely in support of affirmative action

Affirmative action is a tool intended to create a more equal and diverse (Mary Sue Coleman’s favorite word) society. It is designed to eliminate discrimination in the workforce and in higher education by taking factors such as race, color, religion, and gender into consideration. Hmm, creating racial boundaries in order to defeat racial boundaries. Interesting. How can a policy that relies on discrimination actually abolish it? In my opinion, by giving certain people an advantage, society becomes even more unequal. But this sheds light on a more important issue. I’m a white male. So, with respect to the college application process, wouldn’t I naturally lean towards the side that favors me? Under this same notion, a black student would support the side that favors him or her. Even in the Supreme Court, the majority of the justices voted in a direction that favored their own race. Of course, these justices vote for the side that is in accordance with their own beliefs. But, it’s not outrageous to say that our subconscious intrinsic selfishness can influence our views, and therefore alter the way we vote. After all, the 9 court justices may have children, or grandchildren, or nieces or nephews that will be affected by their ruling in Gratz. Wouldn’t we all raise our hand to receive an advantage, or advocate for the side that gives us this leg up?

Of course, we all like to believe that we hold some power in this “representative democracy” of ours. We cast our votes and in return we get representatives to advocate on our behalf. But what happens when our councilmen stop acting for society and start taking their own desires into consideration? It has happened before, and will surely continue to do so as long as this system is in place. All of a sudden, the power of our entire nation – one that is ironically founded on democratic and egalitarian ideals – is concentrated in the hands of the few. It is “Tyranny of the Minority” at its finest, and the ensuing inequality is ravaging our country. Now, lets hypothetically say that this affirmative action policy would have been incredibly beneficial to society (I was wrong, what?). We would have never been able to reap the benefits because a minority group of legislatures decided that we shouldn’t. Fair or not fair?

Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic, or maybe I’m not old enough to understand the complexities of humans and democracy (then again who is old enough?). But, in a competitive and arduous race, who wouldn’t have their own best interests at heart? At some point, don’t legislatures and lawmakers have to look out for themselves? Who WOULDN’T raise their hand? Sound off in the comments.

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27 Comments on “Affirm What Action?”

  1. nnvirani Says:

    At a point in time, Affirmative Action may have sounded like a perfectly fair system. A system that gives everyone (regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) an equal chance in the job market and educational system, why not? Originally, it was implemented to promote equal opportunity. There is no flaw to this idea because America was founded on the ideals of equality. The flaw in the system becomes present when one group is given an advantage over another group because they are a minority. A little counter productive, right? Totally right. It is very illogical to be discriminatory to beat discrimination. Relating back to the race example from the beginning, the Affirmative Action policies that cause one group to be in front of another are completely unfair. The system was created so that everyone racing got a chance to reach the line before the race actually starts, not to give one an advantage. Some people justify the system as a form of reparations for past discrimination. This argument is also unfair because punishing one group of people for the action’s of their ancestors hurts a group that should not be getting punished. A more appropriate, more just system would be to have minorities be favored if and only if all other aspects (grades, extracurriculars (with regard to the college process), etc.) are exactly the same. Practically, this is very unlikely, but any further favoring is not fair to the majority.

    • roshray Says:

      I agree with this comment’s sentiment that affirmative action doesn’t necessarily put the minority student ahead, but simply puts them at the same starting point. However, I believe that race is not at all a good metric for college admissions. It makes much more sense to do it by economic standing. There is enough overlap so that the system wouldn’t change a whole lot, but having this system would ensure that those minorities who are already at the same starting line as others do not receive a hugely unfair advantage, and those non-minority students who do are way behind the starting line can get to it. A major reason that people go to college is for improving their standing of living and breaking the cycle of poverty for their own lives, so it only makes sense that colleges accommodate this. While it does not make sense for a school to blindly favor all underrepresented minority students, creating obvious visual diversity, it is important for it to be socioeconomically diverse by assisting those who had much less resources than the majority of students. Measuring this becomes difficult, but if some structure can be made, I believe that this is the best way to go about creating a truly diverse collegiate atmosphere.

      • isobelkraft Says:

        I agree completely with both of the comments above. It is important to be able to qualify the situation and like roshray says, not to “blindly flavor all underrepresented minority students” but to look at the economic status of these individuals.

        But, this raises the point: shouldn’t the school look at the economic status of all individuals, regardless of race? If there is a Caucasian student and an African-American student with the same grades and more importantly with the same socioeconomic status, who would get the leg up? In this case, I believe that affirmative action based on both minority status and economic status fails.

  2. sarahspath23 Says:

    My initial reaction to affirmative action has always been that it is not fair to give people a leg up just because of their race. I felt this way because race is something that I cannot control, and for college admissions, I was doing everything I could control like grades and extracurriculars to go to the best school possible. Throughout high school, I tried hard to be a well-rounded, dedicated student, and when applying to the University of Michigan, I would have thought it completely unfair to give students 20 points for being a minority race. I couldn’t compete with that no matter how high my SAT scores were and that is a defeating feeling. I am sure that most colleges would not want their potential students to feel this way and give up on trying to differentiate themselves. This would lead to negative consequences for all colleges, who do try to create a wealth of diversity.

    I have always felt like my reasons against affirmative action were unbiased and logical. However, after reading this post, I can see how my opinion on affirmative action could have something to do with me being a white female. Opposing affirmative action does favor me, and my whole argument revolves around affirmative action not being fair…for me. I guess I never really thought of it that way because I did not step into a person of a minority race’s shoes.

    Why would not having affirmative action not be fair for a person of a minority race? Although I don’t think I will ever know all of the reasons, I can certainly understand some. For example, people of a minority race may have been hindered by the past discrimination of their race or the inequalities that existed between the majority and minority races. In my education class last year, I learned about some elementary schools in very poor areas that mainly had minority students. These schools did not have books for each child, any technology, and little science equipment. Some schools even had sewage problems in their playground, which the kids had gotten used to because there was not enough money to fix it. Although there is more going on at these schools, I realize that part of the reason these schools still exist in our modern world is due to previous inequalities in races.

    Thinking about this with respect to affirmative action, I can understand why affirmative action might be put in place. Kids who attended schools such as the ones I described and even schools not nearly as extreme are not able to receive the education I received. Not only do these kids not have the safe, comfortable environment I had to learn, but they do not have as many quality teachers because teachers preferred not to work in schools like the ones I have mentioned for various reasons. That I know is not fair. The schools most of these children attended were not in their control not only because of where they live, but also because of resistance from other schools nearby. I recall some parents wanting to send their kids to better-funded schools nearby, but the parents and school board of the better-funded schools would not allow it. This was because they felt that the kids from the poorly-funded schools would bring the quality of the environment and education down. This I know is not fair. Kids should be able to attend a school that will give them the best education possible, but this is not possible for some minority children.

    So it affirmative action fair? I don’t know, but I can understand both sides slightly better now. It is in the interest’s of people of a minority race to be for affirmative action, just like it is in the interest’s of people of a majority race to oppose it. This makes sense because why wouldn’t people believe something that favors them? However, as I have just done, I do believe people can take fairness and other people’s perspectives into account.

    Is affirmative action discrimination? I lean towards saying yes because affirmative action gives advantages based on race (or another unchangeable characteristic of a person). However, I don’t think that this question is that important to the issue of affirmative action. I believe that in order to move towards a more informative discussion of affirmative action, people need to take a closer look at what the reason behind affirmative action is and analyze other ways of dealing with the main issue at hand: past and current discrimination and inequality of minority races.

    As far as the Supreme Court decision in the case of the University of Michigan’s admission policy, I do believe that whether the Supreme Court justices realized it or not, self-interest played a role in their decision. I do not think people like myself or a Supreme Court justice intentionally take their own self-interest into account when forming an opinion. However, it is nearly impossible to drown out self-interest completely because it is an instinct humans have. Therefore, it may seem like the people we elect to represent us are actually using their own desires instead of ours to make decisions, but that is something that every person does naturally. It would be foolish to think that our representatives could somehow disregard all of their own feelings or opinions when making decisions. This is not something that I even like to hear myself, but I believe it is true and something we must deal with. I do also think that our representatives must take into consideration both sides of the argument before making a decision and ask themselves the reasons behind their decision and if their self-interest has strongly influenced their decision. We do put our faith in our representatives and it is their job to make sure they are as fair as possible. By fair I mean that they look at every possible view on the subject matter.

    Overall, it is logical to make decisions and form opinions based on your own self-interest, but I also think people have evolved and place high value on understanding the opposing view and coming to a fair conclusion. Although our legislators are self-interested, we as a country have trusted them to make decisions based on that value, using the laws and other national values as guidelines.

  3. ayablan Says:

    This post provides a great deal of information that only furthers my belief that affirmative action is an outdated idea that needs to be put to rest. Affirmative action is said to promote equal opportunity and counter the effects of discrimination, but in actuality, it does the complete opposite. Being part of a minority group is completely different than not having the means necessary to succeed. Suppose there is a White student and a Black student who went to the same high school, their parents have similar incomes, and they were both able to afford the same SAT tutor. Yet, the White student got a 2200 and the Black student got a 2000. Is it fair to say that the Black student was put at a disadvantage? I would assume most people would say that he was not. The Black student may be part of a minority group, but he had the same tools necessary for him to succeed. If anything, I believe that affirmative action actually can add to discrimination. The fact that minorities have some advantages during the college process only exacerbates the tension between races. All in all, I agree with the author of this post and the other commenter that affirmative action is not the way of the future, nor the way of the present. I firmly believe that it is completely unfair and needs to be stopped immediately.

  4. hannahlevitt Says:

    Affirmative action is a policy that is hard to grapple with; it can be seen as discriminatory to not take factors such as background and the opportunities that accompany it into account, but it can also be seen as discriminatory for those same factors to be taken into account. For example, if two people apply to the same college, one having taken 13 AP classes and one having taken zero, the one with 13 AP classes is admitted over the other, right? But what if Person A took 13 AP classes out of 20 offered at his or her high school, and Person B wasn’t offered any AP classes at his or her high school? Then that should clearly be taken into account by the college when determining who gets admitted. However, other factors should be taken into account. For example, if Person A and Person B get the same high score on their ACT, that demonstrates that they are both qualified to get into this university. If Person B gets 10 points lower than Person A on his or her ACT, Person B is not necessarily qualified.

    There should definitely be a system which takes opportunities into account when evaluating one’s achievements; that is not a question. It would not be fair to ignore the fact that one individual pays thousands of dollars every year to go to a private high school full of academic and extra-curricular opportunities while another individual can hardly pay for their meals and is attending a public school in a less fortunate neighborhood where academic and extra-curricular opportunities are rare.

    Lastly, whether or not an individual is part of a minority group should not be relevant to the issue. Using the example of the point system the University of Michigan was using, an individual in a minority is automatically one fifth of the way to admission just by being a minority, regardless of any other factors such as financial background. If an individual has grown up under less fortunate circumstances and has therefore been given less opportunities but still demonstrates that he or she is qualified, that should award them more points to make up for the lost points due to nonexistent opportunities. If the people who end up getting these extra points all happen to be of various minorities, then so be it; however, the university should not go out of their way to grant every single member of a minority these extra twenty points.

  5. tylerhoffman1 Says:

    The author brings up a very good point, who wouldn’t raise their hand if given the opportunity for a leg up? While it is difficult to achieve, I try to take an unbiased perspective at affirmative action when it comes to the admissions process.

    In my opinion, affirmative action was created not only to create a more diverse community (read: minority races) but to in some way apologize to races that were put at a disadvantage in american history. We have taken land promised to native americans (indians) and cheated them out of many things. Blacks have been through many rough periods in American history as well (read: Rosa Parks and MLK). While this may not be the most accurate interpretation, authorities are using Affirmative Action to help balance out what the majority race has done to the minority race in the past.

    Unfortunately, this creates reverse discrimination in a strange way. The minority races today (including but certainly not limited to african americans and native americans) who are applying to colleges and universities are generally under the age of 20. That being said, most of the radical changes in american civil rights movements have been more than 20 years ago. Students today had no direct involvement with the black civil rights movement or government authorities taking land from native-american families. Therefore, there is no clear reason why they should be given a leg up, they were never put at a disadvantage in the first place.

    One final thought, Affirmative Action is as prevalent as it is today because of racial and diversity lawsuits. No person or cooperation wants to called (or sued for) being a racist. Employers have to take race into consideration when looking for workers otherwise they could face a lawsuit for discriminating, even if it was an unintended consequence.

  6. guysnick Says:

    I also agree with the ideas brought up in this post, as well as with many of the comments above. I do not think that Affirmative Action is a fair or even a constitutional practice implemented by many of America’s universities and corporations. Although supporters of Affirmative Action claim that it works to create “equal opportunity,” I find that it really in turn just turns the tables on how race and ethnicity are involved in admissions processes and job applications. It is simply unfair and unethical to reward certain groups of people for something no one can control – one’s race and ethnicity – especially in a country that was founded on the ideal of “all men created equally.”

    Now I do undertand where the proponents of Affirmative Action are coming from on this issue. Proportionally, white Americans (still the majority) tend to be wealthier, have more access to resources and education, and have a better chance of flourishing in the workforce than do American minorities. So I understand why Affirmative Action supporters want to do something to create a so-called “equal opportunity” for everyone. But the system is not perfect, in fact far from it, and this is why I am so strongly against Affirmative Action. Here is what I am talking about: there are plenty of non-minority students in the U.S. who have had to endure hardships, whether economic or personal, in their quest to get into college. Their “opportunity” to attain an education is definitely not equal to kids of wealthy families, for example. And since they are non-minorities, they get no advantage. Conversely, there are also plenty of African Americans and Hispanic Americans for whom money and opportunity is not an issue. Many attended an excellent high school and grew up in a prosperous suburb. Yet, because they are black or Hispanic, they get an enormous advantage (that they don’t need) for getting into college.

    This is what I mean when I say Affirmative Action is not perfect. And until it is, it is wrong and unconstitutional. I am lucky enough to come from a well-off family, and I had every “opportunity” to succeed. So, if a minority student who attended a Detroit public high school and had nearly all the same credentials as I had, and he or she got in to a college over me because of race or ethnicity, that’s fine with me. He or she clearly would not have had an equal opportunity as I had. But this is not what happens. Colleges simply group minority students and make generalizations that, as a group, they have less of an opportunity to succeed than do non-minoritiy students, as a group. Then they think they are justified by giving them a giant advantage. You can’t generalize like this, and this is why Affirmative Action is massively flawed and an instrument of discrimination, no matter how you look at it.

  7. mcdonmeg Says:

    I very much enjoyed your article. I thought that you brought up some interesting points. Going to such a diverse university, it seems that this issue becomes a discussion in every class, and it is very apparent that people have there own beliefs that aren’t going to budge. However, I think you actually describing how the old application process worked cannot be up for discussion. The fact that they would give 20 points automatically to an underrepresented minority, but give only 12 points for a perfect score on the SAT is mind-boggling. Since they only needed 100 points to gain admissions, it is unbelievable that they would award these people with 20% of the needed points solely on their ethnicity. As much as diversity might be important for colleges and for the learning experience of others, getting into college should be mainly based on someone’s credentials. Also by them implementing the affirmative action, like you said they are trying to help discrimination by discriminating.

    I also thought it was interesting how you brought up the point about who wouldn’t do something if they go the upper hand. On Friday I was in Angel Hall, and there was an African American girl who was walking around trying to get people to sign a petition to get Affirmative Action back. It was interesting to see how many Caucasian people did not sign it and how many people with ethnicity did. As for me, I did not sign it, because overall I think that it is unfair.

  8. bonannianthony Says:

    I agree with this post nearly one hundred percent. Affirmative Action is something that is a touchy subject and is something that will never be agreed upon by all people. This past year colleges saw record number of applicants for the incoming freshman class, thus making it the hardest year to get into college, period. I personally think there should be some system in which kids from hardship should get some sort of extra “boost”.

    I remember attending a college meeting from a school I was interested in attending during my senior year of high school and I was confused at what the admissions officer was saying. One of my friends asked the question, “does being the first one in your family go to college help in me getting in?” I was shocked he was asking this question because I knew both of his parents went to school. The admission officer said it would be “put into consideration when making the decision.” Then when we left the meeting I asked my friend why he asked. His response, “you have an advantage.” I thought about that for a minute, then I realized I would be the first one in my family to go to college. That’s when I realized the current system we have is wrong. My parents and grandparents not going to college should not have given me any advantage over kids who had parents that went. I had a very similar childhood as the kid who asked the question, why should I get a “boost” for just having parents who didn’t go to school? I think the admissions officer just assumed that since parents didn’t go to college their kids would be forced to overcome obstacles. I know the only obstacle I had to overcome was being forced to do my homework by myself, if I ever asked my dad for help in calculus he would stare at me and give me the comical “why are there letters in your math?” So what my dad couldn’t help me with calc, he taught me way more than that, stuff I would say is more useful. And it’s not like I didn’t have help anywhere, if I really needed it I could get extra help from my teachers.

    Overall, I think affirmative action is something that should be, at the least, revised and changed. Kids should not be getting boosts for just being a minority or being the first in their family to go to college. It’s making broad generalizations of the student applying and the kids they are competing against for that same admission.

  9. sbsmoler92692 Says:

    As a white majority at this school, I do not find myself in favor of the previous reverse discrimination techniques the Admissions Department at the University of Michigan had utilized. As a 7th grade student, I can distinctly remember my teacher, (a UofM alum) explaining to us how the “points” system worked here at The University of Michigan. As I was in class, we had discussed the reverse discrimination techniques that were used in the application and admissions process. At the time, I thought it was wrong, and remember being shocked to hear that the majority was discriminated against, because typically we hear about minorities rights and their discrimination and suppression in society. However, the lecture he gave us that day stuck in my mind. I kept thinking, how can someone with better grades and an academic profile not get into a college, because they are WHITE? I guess looking back at it now, the same situation can be argued for those minorities. Yes, in many ivy league schools they tend to have an advantage over the other majority of the students because of their minority or 2% Native American Indian Ojibwe descent, but no student in ANY situation should be turned down or more highly favored based on their race or ethnicity. Yes, I understand that many top tier universities and colleges want to flash an impressive and diverse student body profile, but what it comes down to is the equality and rationale of how those students are chosen. It must be chosen in an equal way, where each student is equally worthy of their spot of admission and acceptance, and not because of what descent or ethnicity they may be. While many people will do what it takes for them to get ahead, we must also consider fairness and the equal opportunity that should be offered to everyone, especially in the case of college admissions. It is clear that both techniques of discrimination and reverse discrimination through means of affirmative action are not the solution to college applications and admissions processes.
    On the other hand, we can take into consideration the hypothetical situation that the author has addressed. Hypothetically, if the affirmative action decision that was made helped the small legislative minority, I would honestly hope that they would not vote in favor of it, if it just helped them. As legislative rulers, they have the authority within our democracy to take our opinions and make them into actions. If it was a collective problem that would only help a small amount of people, and affect and hurt many, I do not believe that the legislative officials would be accurately doing their job. As a democratic government, we as citizens have the power and authority to be able to vote for who we want to represent us and our opinions and reflect them in the legislation. If, for example, this proposed situation was voted in favor of only helping a small minority of upper level legislators, and harming the rest of us, the population would have control over to re-elect or remove someone from office based on their bad decisions. It is their job duty to make decisions to collectively help many citizens, and take our opinions and turn them into beneficial actions. Therefore, I can hope that a situation like this would never arise, and the legislative officials would be doing their jobs correctly to benefit and represent the peoples voices, even if it means it will put a small minority of legislators at a disadvantage.
    This also brings up an interesting point that can be extended to the situation regarding affirmative action. The importance of affirmative action puts those that are disadvantaged because of their minority race at an advantage over the other applicants. They are favored, for the first time, because many times they are neglected or disadvantaged. It is easy to argue that this is not fair to the majority, and clearly has caused issues for reverse discrimination. We can look at the infamous 2003 Supreme Court case as the epitome of this argument. In either situation it is not fair, however, we must understand that at some point minorities should not matter or play a determining role in admission status to a prestigious university.

  10. mikerwagner Says:

    Affirmative action is easily viewed as a mere leg up to a minority in compensation for a history of mistreatment, oppression, and discrimination. To the eyes of any student going through the admissions stages it can seem unfair and biased, possibly to the extent of a new form of discrimination.

    However, before withdrawing affirmative action, the right questions need to be asked. HOW do admissions offices accurately asses the qualifications of any student? The major categories include ACT, SAT, GPA and extracurriculars. In measuring these categories colleges (and grad schools) additionally give weight to the high school from which all these were attained. Then comes legacy, race, gender, economic background. That is a LOT of information to go through for just one student. Admissions offices are FORCED to dumb things down to raw numbers and paper.

    The same can be said when applying for a job. Before you go in for the interview you first send a resume. Any form of evaluation process that will evaluate mass numbers of people needs to be dumbed down to paper. This impersonal, dry evaluation process makes it near impossible to admit someone on character or personality (two things that I believe to be far more important in the real world). However bottom line is any applicant knows this and for that reason puts so much effort into “looking good on paper”.

    How then can anyone say that affirmative action should be withdrawn because its no longer necessary? I personally believe our nation is a long way of from no longer needing this system. Although there have been leaps and bounds in progress and America has (since the initiation of Affirmative Action) reached many milestones reflecting this progress, we are not yet there.

    As stated above, yes race is a factor in admissions. But so is legacy. I would argue that before affirmative action is withdrawn, legacy goes first. I can think of more examples of undeserving kids who have gotten into top notch schools because their father or grandfather did well and donates lots of money, than I can think of undeserving minorities. On top of that, the legacy program is a large part of why affirmative action needs to still be around. How many generations of student has passed since Affirmative Action was established? Enough to say that the majority are no longer feeding off of that great great grandparent that DID have an advantage over another student because of racism? Many of my friends here are only second, MAYBE third generation college students (meaning only two generations before attended college). I don’t think that is long enough.

    I am a white male student who got into University of Michigan with the help of three uncles and a brother that paved a path for me. I’m not ashamed of the fact I placed all four of them on my application, nor am I ashamed of the fact I got in here. I don’t think anyone should be because UofM is such a top notch school. But I also don’t think UofM is able to properly asses all advantages and disadvantages that all students maintain. For that reason, I look at recent history and see the progress we HAVE made and encourage further use of affirmative action.

    I think it is too easy for anyone to properly asses this policy based off of their own experience because as the original post reads, humans are naturally self-preserving. Who wouldn’t raise their hand? History must be incorporated and more time must be given to the system in order to truly evaluate its benefits.

  11. phillipschermer Says:

    I think that there is an important distinction that we need to make as we consider this debate about affirmative action. In my Law & Philosophy class, Professor Elizabeth Anderson explained that the logic behind Affirmative Action is to ensure diversity in the classroom. Why? Because diversity adds to the educational experience, and it adds in such a substantial way that it is worth legislating to ensure that such diversity is ensured in classrooms across America. If one believes that this end, improving the educational experience through ensuring diversity in the classroom, is both valid and worth being the motivation of Affirmative Action, then one must conclude that Affirmative Action is successful in its objective

    But there is another way to look at it. I see it through a different lens. I believe that Affirmative Action should be designed to ensure equality of opportunity for admission to college. This means that the law doesn’t discriminate based on race; rather, the law should ensure that students in socio-economically disadvantaged communities are given a push in order to level the playing field with their advantaged competitors. Let’s be honest, anyone who has an expensive calculator is able to do SAT math problems quicker, allowing that student more time to double check answers and deal with tough questions. Anyone who has enough money to hire a personal tutor to learn that the “theme of a passage” (at least according to the SAT people) is found solely in the last paragraph has a leg up. I will be honest, I fall more into the category of student who has advantages than is disadvantaged. What I am getting to is this: those of us who come from more privileged backgrounds have fewer barriers to success than those who come from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds. By success, I mean in terms of the college admissions process. So, the point of Affirmative Action should be to try to level this playing field. There is something intrinsically wrong in discriminating racially today in order to solve racial discrimination from a century ago. That is too broad and, to be honest, is in its nature racist. There is nothing wrong with attempting to level the playing field for those are born into a system where they have the cards stacked against them. Basing Affirmative Action upon socio-economic status is a more precise and accurate way to ensure that those who need a bump up, get it.

  12. Brian Taylor Says:

    I think the author raises very interesting questions that arise from the dilemmas that affirmative action poses. I happen to agree wholeheartedly that it is impossible to complete remove or separate the intrinsic bias of judges from the rulings they make. The theory of utility, or rational choice, substantiates Justin’s greater point that self-interest, as opposed to competing legal notions of “fairness” or “justice,” have as much impact on the outcome of a supreme court case as any legal doctrine or philosophy does.

    “The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” I think this quote from Chief Justice Roberts (in Seattle Schools v. Communiy parents, which struck down a racial balancng requirement for Seattle middle schools) provides another interesting jumping point by which to continue this discussion. Is racial preference constitutional under any circumstance? The court has a spate of disparate rulings in this regard. On one hand, as Justin notes, the Court stood against AA in Gratz. Then, they upheld AA in Grutter v. Bollinger based on the “diversity” paradigm.

    I think that diversity is a valuable goal at the collegiate level. However, equating true diversity with simply racial diversity is a false equivalent. Why should a poor caucasian boy from Oklahoma not be afforded the same “diversity” that a black man may receive?

    My personal take on the matter is that government should not promote affirmative action (for business contracts and such) in any way. Private colleges however, are a different matter. But if private restaurants cannot discriminate against who they serve, private colleges should not be immune from a blanket ban on discrimination, either.

  13. kaitlinlapka Says:

    Sitting pre-bubbling for the ACT test, I sat with my friends from high school. My one best friend who looks entirely Caucasian with brunette hair, whose father is 1/3 Native American (Chippewa from the Northwestern side of the mitten), bubbled in Native American under the race column. She is technically a member of the tribe with the minimum requirements that allow you to join. She is like 1/16 or something, so little that it’s not even known. She joined the tribe just so that she could recieve some financial aid for each semester of school. Her Caucasian mother signed her up. While bubbling, she smiled and jokingly said, “Hopefully this helps me with colleges!” I laughed while filling in my Caucasian/Non-Hispanic bubble. I remember saying, “That’s not fair. I shouldn’t be punished for being white.” We went on to talk in a light manner about reverse discrimination when my other friend across from us spoke up. “Well it wasn’t fair for blacks to be put into slavery for their skin color either. Maybe this is just repaying back the equality,” she said. (Or something very close to along those lines.)

    The two of us were both silenced and stopped talking. We felt ignorant and rude for what we had just said. (Our friend has a lot of different ethnicities in her family. Her mother is white, her father is black. He is also a Muslim. Her mother speaks French and her grandparents are from Tunisia.)

    However, when I looked back on it that day I still felt like what I said was true. But how do people talk about affirmative action while being politically correct and conscious? This post thread reminded me of this instance above and the awkwardness, thought, and consequences that resulted. Just another example of ideas of affirmative action and other policies like it, like the Gratz/UMich Supreme Court case.

    Like the author of this initial post said, “How can a policy that relies on discrimination actually abolish it?”

  14. jonkeren Says:

    Throughout this post you make strong and compelling arguments about why affirmative action is unfair and you back it up with facts. I strongly agree with your argument and stand strongly against affirmative action. I understand why it was created and what it is designed to do. I find it very noble that our country has set up a system to help underprivileged minorities in the working world and also in the academic world, but unfortunately this system is heavily flawed. A very good example of this is the Supreme Court case Ricci vs. DeStefano. Two years ago in New Haven Connecticut firefighters took a written exam, and the ones who scored the highest received promotions. Not one of the black firefighters scored high enough on the test to receive a promotion and therefore the city of New Haven invalidated the test and no one received a promotion. Although this decision was reversed in the Supreme Court, it should not have even got there. It is completely unfair to invalidate a test because one race of people did not score high enough. Not only did the city of New Haven act under the guidelines of affirmative action but their actions were a form of reverse discrimination.
    As to your argument regarding affirmative action to helping minorities getting into college, you were extremely accurate. It is unfair to give minorities a ” head start’ just because of their race. I understand that many of these minorities are heavily underprivileged and face many disadvantages and barriers that the “majority” doesn’t face, but there must be a better system than simply giving them a ” head start.” Additionally, there are many underprivileged people who are considered part of the majority and face just as many obstacles as the underprivileged minority to get into college. The underprivileged majority do not receive these benefits that the underprivileged minority receive and therefore do not get a “head start.” This is yet another reason why affirmative action is flawed.
    Overall affirmative action is not what this country needs. It may have been created to help the less fortunate minorities but it is stirring up many problems that this country does not need. it is not only created large amounts of reverse discrimination, but also creating a lot of animosity towards the minorities. In the end reverse discrimination is another form of political correctness which is slowly bringing this great nation of ours down.

  15. baysider1 Says:

    the blogger hits the nail on the head!Its unfortunate that Arrimative action has morphed into something who’s results ,nobody could have dreamed possible.
    There was a time in this country (early 1900’s)that certain minorities could never dream of equality in employment. Union jobs were handed down from fathers to sons.Racial and Ethnic discrimination were out in the open, just the way of life.The Irish immigrants were cops and fireman because that was all they could get.
    employment adds were very direct-“non-christians need not apply”
    Jewish med students had no-where to practice upon graduation until jewish millionares built hospitals where they could gain entrance(Mt Sinai)
    same with the Italian med students so they built St Vincents hospital.Something had to be done and affirmative action was the hammer….

  16. erfreed3 Says:

    I agree with much of what the author has to say. Affirmative action, in my opinion, is just creating more inequality. Although I do agree that certain races like African Americans have not always been treated equally or given the same chances as Caucasians, I do not see affirmative action as the proper way to make up for problems of the past. Plain and simple, affirmative action promotes inequality, only in this case, towards Caucasians. Thus, the question comes to be, should intelligent Caucasian students of our generation have to suffer due to the mistakes and inequality fostered by past generations? In my opinion, this answer should be no.

    The author points out that by nature, we look to agree with that which is in our best interest. A law such as affirmative action would not benefit myself, and I am not convinced it would even benefit all of those whom it is intended to. My point being that high school is supposed to serve as a 4-year test and preparation for college. If one does not do well in high school and gets accepted to college, not based on merit but because of affirmative action, who’s to say they will succeed? Now I realize that obvious criticism to this would be that by getting into college without trying as hard, one is receiving benefit. Yet, what I am trying to stress, is that, in the long run, this policy would hurt the common good of all. Allow an analogy: We have two candidates, candidate “A” and candidate “B”; they are both applying for a management job. “B” has always been a great student, ending undergrad with a 3.7 GPA, as well as having prior experience in a management position. “A”, on the other hand, has been an okay student, finished undergrad with a 3.25 GPA, and has never held a management position before. Naturally, the employer would say candidate “B” is the one for the job. Affirmative action, would say although “B” has worked hard all their life, “A’s” race was treated unfairly in the past, so to make up for that, were giving the job to “A”. The point I am trying to illustrate is that, if candidate “A” was selected, it would not benefit the institution that “A” is working for, it would only benefit “A”.

    So, if not affirmative action, then what? I’d say that “equal public education, across the nation” is the way to go. If students are given the same resources and opportunities to excel in public schools throughout the United States, then there should be no reason for affirmative action. Equal education does not skew favor in direction of any particular race; rather it gives individuals an equal opportunity to demonstrate their merit against others.

  17. Ethan Widawsky Says:

    You make a compelling argument that supreme court justices can be, or even are, motivated by their own self-interest. Is this wrong? it depends. From the stand point of psychological egotism its merely a reflection of the rest of the population. If you accept the validity of the idea that it is impossible to act from any other motive than what is ultimately self-interest, than the actions of the supreme court justices would not come as a surprise.
    Even then, it is still not surprising that supreme court justices aren’t capable of removing themselves from the decision making process. Today, though arguably no more so than in the past, justices are promoted to the supreme court because of their personal views. For a president, having the opportunity to nominate a justice is a legacy defining moment. The way Obama’s two appointments have acted will define his presidency just as various judicial appointments have defined former presidents legacies. Presidents appoint very polarized (or as polarized as could be approved by the senate) candidates to the supreme court. Justices then take it upon themselves to rule cases on their own personal opinion, which is obviously influenced by their person (experience, education, and as you suggest race and family). Essentially it shouldn’t come as a surprise that supreme court justices don’t come across as exceptionally objective (if even such a thing is possible)
    Lastly, you should consider the ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger. Voted on by the same 9 justices (i believe) Grutter upheld an affirmative action policy at UMich because it was specific enough and didn’t cause students to be accepted merely or in large part because of race. When these two are contrasted, it no longer seems as though Gratz was decided on subjective motives (the self-interest of the judges) but on the merits of the specific affirmative action policy in place and being considered in the case.
    In all, regardless of my opinion on affirmative action (of which i’m not a fan, especially at public universities), it don’t necessarily agree that the supreme court was acting out of its own self-interest in a far fetched way as to almost ‘throw’ the case for their own benefit. I think they evaluated the system on its own merits in both Gratz and Grutter and the fact that they came to different conclusions is evidence enough for me to say that they weren’t acting on a self-interested like or dislike for affirmative action as a whole.
    keep this in mind: “It is the greatest inequality to try to make unequal things equal.”

  18. Rachael Says:

    I agree a lot of what you’re saying, because when thinking about it in the big scheme of things, who wouldn’t want an advantage in any situation if they could get one. However, giving advantages to underrepresented minorities is not a characteristic that deserves an automatic 20 points into the college application process. This inevitable trait has nothing to do with intelligence or any other qualities that colleges look for in their applicants besides creating a diverse campus to one-up other colleges that can’t compare. Although it is possible that many underrepresented minorities do not always get the chance to go to college or their parents were not capable of attending college, that does not mean that a child with the intelligence and extra curriculars should not have an equal chance to someone who was born with a specific skin tone or family history.

  19. vasili pantazis Says:

    I agree with many of you’re points. Very insightful.

    • Isaac Collins Says:

      I agree with Ethan Widawsky and Vasili Pantanzis. However, if I may say, I would not raise my hand.

  20. lbaek Says:

    This debate will continue to be an ongoing one. Some people believe affirmative action should be removed because it is unfair to non-minorities while others believe it should be kept because it levels out the playing field. However, let’s think about this situation in a different way. How about considering affirmative action as offensive to minorities? Let’s begin.

    I believe affirmative action could be considered as institutionalized racism. This is because it victimizes the minority. Proponents of this action can basically tell minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics are inferior and thus, need special aid. Inevitably, this policy sets up difficulties for well-qualified students and unfairly places a stigma over them. In addition, affirmative action sets up barriers between fellow students. Thus, polarization has heighted over time. To me, it could be seen that wealthy white liberals like to patronize minorities and pull out the “diversity card”. It makes them feel good about themselves, as if they have done a good deed. However, people of color, minorities, are not fools. They know when they are being patronized and they abhor it. I believe that one of the saddest results of affirmative action is white patronization. Many people argue that minorities achieved a certain goal not by achievement but another way. For a majority of their lives, African Americans have been forced to fulfill the status of a quota filler. Some white individuals could congratulate themselves because they helped a certain race out.
    I’m not saying all think this way, but it could be the thoughts of certain individuals. I think the solution to this problem lies in getting rid of affirmative action. Why should we continue to promote discriminatory practices? With this proposal, many questions arise. If affirmative action was removed, would the same discrimination bar their entrance into good universities? One way to address this problem is to abolish the racial categories on the applications. I mean does it really matter what our race is? We re people regardless.

    Overall, I think its interesting to think about affirmative action as not just how it is beneficial to minorities, but instead, how it could negatively effect them. Thus, from this perspective, affirmative action hurts minorities. People of color who are qualified have to endure the fight the second guessing and white patronization that follows. Doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to pass people along in order to fit a political agenda? Manipulating politics with people’s minds and lives is not correct.

  21. clinthng Says:

    I think Affirmative Action isn’t helping anything at all. To me, it sends a bad message to individuals who do work hard (both minorities and majorities). For instance, the minority might be inclined to believe they won’t have to work has hard because they will have this ‘leg up’ in the admissions race — they could be a rung lower than their majority counterpart and get away with it.

    It’s unfortunate that being a minority or being in a lower socio-economic status carries the connotation that everyone in those groups aren’t as gifted or as talented as their counterparts. It’s as if being born into a lower class family automatically means that person is stupid. However, that’s where the connotation is and that’s where it needs to be fixed.

    We shouldn’t be correcting for errors at the top (assuming that the top is admission into a University like UMich), we should be working from the bottom. Resources need to be available to those in a lower socio-economic neighborhood. But doing so can be inefficient, especially to Universities who may have to spend money to help provide those resources, so the easiest way is to offer a reward to those who make do with what they have.

  22. Rachel Says:

    This post does an excellent job at proving why affirmative action is an unfair and outdated policy. The idea of discriminating for the sake of ending discrimination is not only counterintuitive, but counterproductive. Its purpose was to promote equality, but in it’s modern form only fosters bitterness amongst white students and an overly-competitive college application process across the board. In short, a concept founded on good intentions has had unintended consequences which outweigh its potential benefits of “equality.”

  23. danielle Says:

    I agree with both sides of the argument. It’s hard to tell when you’re doing the right thing. People are always going to be selfish — it’s natural. However, I would hope as everyone else would, that the general public as well as and especially our elected leaders, would know when to put aside their own selfish beliefs in order to benefit the country.

  24. Michael Zanger Says:

    Ok, but imagine a race where the white person is already a mile ahead of the minority group and every chance the individual receives to get ahead (affirmative action), the judge or person seeing the race, stops them and tells them they can’t do that? Minorities are already behind in the income gap. I believe it’s rather insensitive to compare humanity as a race, because then you’re just saying white people deserve to get ahead faster than everyone. Not everyone has equal access to opportunity.

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