In the last edition of my civics issues blog, I posed a question that would set up the arguments for and against affirmative action. Affirmative action is an issue that has produced many polarized opinions around it. At the core of the issue is the question I asked in my last blog: Is it constitutional to admit or deny someone to a university ONLY because of their race? This question is very important and has no simple answer. There are many sides to this issue and I hope to cover them all.
Those in favor of affirmative action have many valid arguments for it and raise many important questions. If we look at the demographics of the job markets in this country, we see what many would consider a sizeable problem. Minority groups such as African Americans and Latinos are desperately underrepresented in professions that require extensive schooling. If we look at doctors across the United States we see that over half of all doctors are white, while less than ten percent of all doctors are African American or Hispanic combined. Proponents of affirmative action see the roots of this problem in the decades of social and political infrastructure contaminated by racism. Our country has not recovered completely from the pre-civil rights era of blatant educational and occupational racism. Those in favor of affirmative action believe that by evening out the racial ratio in college admissions, and then the problem of the racial imbalance in the job market will be “fixed”.
The opposing viewpoint of this is one of far less optimism. I, and opponents of affirmative action, do not believe this idyllic “fix” for the racial ratio problem is the right solution. At the surface, it may seem like a good idea to balance the race problem in universities in order to balance the job market in the future, but I see many problems in this. This solution fails to recognize why colleges and universities would be overrepresented by whites if affirmative action didn’t exist. The reason why the ratio of whites to minorities in colleges is not representative of the population as a whole is because primary education is not available or of a high quality to everyone and minority races tend to be more deprived of a solid primary education base than whites. The way I see it, there are three steps in this race problem; first we have primary education, then college level education, and finally the job markets. The reason why universities are out of racial balance is because in general, and I emphasize “in general”, whites have more access to a quality primary education than minorities. This then means more whites and qualified to enter into universities and then the job markets. I believe this is a huge problem, but does not get fixed at the university level. In order to truly level the playing field for all races, we must invest in our primary education system. Inner city schools are typically majority African American, and have a much higher drop out rate in high school. If we fix the primary education system in this country, then we can work our way up. “Fixing” the problem at the university level doesn’t actually fix anything. It helps cover up the problem, but does not address the true issue here. To change the infrastructure, we need to start at the bottom and work up. We cannot start in the middle.
Another aspect of the argument in favor of affirmative action in college is the notion of university cultural diversity. Those in favor believe that colleges have the right to consider race as a factor for admission because a culturally diverse environment fosters the educational environment, thus promoting the educational system as a whole.
This is been shown to be true in that a culturally diverse educational environment tends to produce more culturally diverse graduates and eventually employees. However, the problem I have with this is the lack of distinction between race and culture. Last blog I talked about the Supreme Court cases and how the Court upheld the right of a college to foster a culturally diverse environment. My question is: Who is to say that racial differences equates to cultural differences? The country is full of many different people from a nearly infinite number of social and cultural backgrounds. Each community and town in the country has a different sub-culture unique to those people that live there. So is it justifiable to say that my neighbor who is African American and who has had the same upbringing as my white self, and comes from the same cultural subset of this country as me is more “diverse” simply because of the color of my skin? This is my biggest problem. Race is not a reliable indicator of cultural diversity in many cases and colleges should look for other ways to screen out culturally diverse people to admit.
Next blog I will talk more about the Supreme Court case coming up and the details about it. But I will leave you with another question: Do you think, by your own college experience, that racial diversity within a college population creates a culturally diverse learning environment?