“You’re lucky to be black…so easy to get into college!” “I’ve never seen a black person do that” “Oh, I heard her say she was going to Harvard. I just assumed she misspoke.” These are just a few of the racially motivated statements people of color in higher education acquire on a regular basis. Defined as the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past, affirmative action is often at the center of American media and higher education (The Leadership Conference). Unfortunately, what was put into place to assist others has been misconstrued into something partisan to select groups.
Affirmative action can be traced back to President Roosevelt and World War II. He banned discrimination in the government and other work. In 1961, President Kennedy singed Executive Order 10925 which ordered federally funded projects to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin” (CNN). Soon after, President Lyndon Johnson expanded the Kennedy’s order to include women and signed the Civil Rights Act, “we seek not just legal equity, but human ability; not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.”
“Affirmative action is a very nice term for racial discrimination against better-qualified white people in jobs, employment, promotion, scholarships, and college admittance.” According to a majority of the population, affirmative-action is the worst thing to happen to the United States of America. Many, largely of the majority, believe that the policy is only about meeting quotas and easily creating a coveted diverse atmosphere. In reality, that couldn’t be the case…at all.
Interesting and not surprising, there is a racially-severed view of support for the policy. In a 2009 Pew poll, the majority of Americans supported affirmative action, but strongly disagreed about minority preference. African-Americans (58%) and Hispanics (53%) agreed that minorities should get a form of preferential treatment, while only 22% of whites agreed (Pew Research). The Research study also showed that more white people favored affirmative action when the question was presented in terms of “preference toward diverse students receiving higher education” rather than “preference toward black students receiving higher education.”
Simply put, people just have a problem with affirmative action! As mentioned above, some have noted it to be a sense of “reverse discrimination” aimed at the majority. In 2012, Abigail Fisher, a white female, sued the University of Texas for failing to offer her admission. She argued that “her race was held against her” during the admission process and “minorities who graduated below her at her high school were accepted” (NY Times). It should be known that the University of Texas implores a student body of 45% black students compared to that of 46% white students. During the court hearing, Fisher suggested an admission process that would completely take out race as part of the application, hinting that their merit would get them to where they deserved to be. One could only imagine how “diverse” and culturally aware schools would be with this action, and I’m not just speaking in terms of race.
Who are the main beneficiaries of affirmative-action? Depending on your knowledge, you may assume it to be African-Americans; however, that’s not quite the case. Contrary to popular belief, African-Americans are not the sole, or even the primary, beneficiaries of affirmative action. A wide range of groups have benefited from the policies including: women, veterans, people with disabilities, minority students, and other underrepresented groups (ncsu.edu).According the United States Labor Department, the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action are white women. The Department of Labor estimated that 6 million women workers are in higher occupational classifications today than they would have been without affirmative action policies (UCIrvine).
With an abundance of research and historical knowledge, why are people so upset with affirmative action? Considering the fact that many of the main beneficiaries of affirmative-actions are also the policy’s biggest critic, it’s safe to assume more knowledge and research is required. It is important to become knowledgeable on the wide variety of assistance offered through the education-centered policy. It is time for people- white and of color, to understand that affirmative-action is to the general public’s benefit, not just select racial groups. Originally put in place to reduce discrimination, its relevance is and will continue to still be necessary on all campuses.
North Carolina State University, NC State University Affirmative Action in Employment Training
CNN News, 5 Things to Know about Affirmative Action
The New York Times, Race and College Admissions, Facing a New Test by Justices
United States Department of Labor, Affirmative Action Laws & Regulations
Interesting Articles for Further Research:
Stephen Coate & Glenn Loury- Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?
Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.- From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity