Posted by: Mike | April 13, 2008

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is undoubtedly one of the touchiest subjects in modern American politics. Inextricably linked to the issue of race, discussions of affirmative action are often tense and are sometimes heated. Proponents of affirmative action claim that it is a necessary step toward achieving racial (and, in some other countries, gender) equality. But should the government be promoting affirmative action? Is affirmative action the same thing as reverse discrimination? Read on, and be enlightened.

Affirmative action refers to the practice of giving a non- dominant or minority group preferential treatment in employment or access to educational institutions. In addition to this preferential treatment, governments using an affirmative action program will reach out to minority groups through advertising campaigns or propaganda to entice them into to bettering their situations. Affirmative action in the United States began in 1961, when President Kennedy issued an executive order requiring that federal works projects “take affirmative action” to ensure non-discrimination in employment. Since then, affirmative action has evolved into the practise of giving preferential treatment to minority groups, particularly African Americans.

Those who support affirmative action in the US point to large wealth disparities between white and black Americans. They point to the long history of racial prejudice, beginning with slavery. Many advocates will point to studies which show that implicit racism is rampant in America (a Harvard study estimated that 80% of whites and 50% of blacks held implicit prejudices against African Americans). Therefore, they conclude, affirmative action is necessary in leveling the playing field.

There are a few problems with these arguments, however. Though it is true that large wealth disparities exist in America and that blacks have been subjected to horrible oppression in the past, we must ask ourselves this question: Who will decide when African Americans have truly achieved equality under affirmative action? If the purpose of affirmative action is to achieve racial equality, who will be the one to decide when affirmative action has accomplished its goals? Before you answer this question, keep in mind that the most stalwart advocates of affirmative action are not poor black people, but rather middle and upper class African Americans. If racial parity were magically achieved in this country tomorrow, odds are that these advocates would not disappear, but would only lobby all the harder to maintain affirmative action policies.

There is a second, far more profound reason to oppose affirmative action. This reason stems from the fact that affirmative action programs in the US inevitably discriminate against other minority groups. The most striking example of this is the “Asian Fail”, a term which refers to Asians who score higher on standardized tests and get better grades in school, but who are denied admission to colleges over less qualified candidates due to affirmative action policies. A 2005 study by the Center for Equal Opportunity found that Asian Americans were admitted to the University of Michigan at a rate of 54%, compared to admission rates for Hispanics and African Americans that exceeded 70%. Yet, the study also revealed that the Asian applicants had scored a median of 140 points higher on the SAT than Hispanics, and 240 points higher than African Americans. Far from promoting equality, affirmative action programs in our nation’s colleges clearly proliferate discrimination and unfairness.

Another reason to be skeptical of affirmative action is that it harms race relations. Neo- Nazi groups routinely use affirmative action to demonize African Americans and appeal to poor white youth (ex. by suggesting that all of the good jobs available to poor youth will be given to African Americans via affirmative action). Less extreme examples can be found among non- black students and job-seekers who feel they are the subjects of reverse discrimination in college and job applications. Affirmative action is even used by some conservatives to suggest that prominent African Americans owe their career successes to preferential treatment. (See the second paragraph of Conservapedia’s entry on Barack Obama, for an example: “He has no clear personal achievement that cannot be explained as the likely result of affirmative action.”) In terms of race relations, affirmative action harms everyone involved.

A final reason to oppose affirmative action comes in the form of a question: Who should be included in affirmative action programs? Simple, right? Wrong! Virtually every minority group in the US can claim a history of discrimination. This includes not only African Americans and Hispanics, but also Asians, the Irish, Jewish Americans, gays and lesbians, and even short people (discrimination of the short trumps discrimination against blacks in the business world). It would be impossible to fit every group that has been discriminated against due to immutable characteristics into an affirmative action program, even if we limited the program to those groups with significant income disparities. In fact, it is inevitable that some of these minority groups will end up being the objects of further discrimination due to affirmative action (ex. the Asian Fail, as mentioned above). There is simply too much discrimination against too many minority groups in US history to make an equitable affirmative action program feasible.

I sincerely hope that I have not offended anyone by making this article. I would like to point out that though I am a white male, I would stand to benefit if affirmative action were implemented in some of the colleges I will be applying to (white undergraduates make up only 31% of the population at UC Berkeley, my top college choice). Yet, there are too many flaws bound to affirmative action programs for me to be able to support them. Perhaps affirmative action programs could be revised by making socioeconomic status the factor that determines who benefits from them. Or perhaps affirmative action should simply be abolished, to be remembered only as a sordid program in America’s long history of racial blunders. Either way, the status quo is unfair and untenable, and must be changed.

MR

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Responses

  1. THE CLASSIFICATION OF AMERICANS BY RACE AND ETHNICITY MUST END

    The Racial and Ethnic classification of Americans is nothing more than institutionalized racism and must be ended. The United States of America has been known as a country of rugged individualism based on individual freedom and liberty. Why has America become a country obsessed with classifying its citizens into different racial and ethnic sub-groups?

    The only groups that actively support the continued collection of racial and ethnic data are big government bureaucrats and “racial and ethnic special interest groups” that also happen to receive significant funding from the federal government. These organizations argue that identifying people by race and ethnicity is necessary in order to redress some past injustice and that the federal government must continue to collect and use this information in order to set up special racial and ethnic programs, affirmative action quotas and other set-asides for these groups, some of whom consist of new immigrants, illegal aliens and non-citizens. Nothing can be further from the truth. In a country where we can no longer ask people what religion they are, what their party affiliation is or what their sexual orientation is, why are we still asking them about their racial and ethnic background?

    Americans are beginning to realize that racial and ethnic identification is more a matter of personal choice than anything else. In the 2000 Census, seven million American citizens refused to place themselves into a single category by refusing to describe themselves as only white, black, Asian, Latino or any one of the other specific categories listed, because they were of mixed race. Attempts by the government to create a “mixed race” box for the 2000 Census was met with resistance by racial and ethnic special interest groups like the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, because they feared that a mixed-race box could pose a danger to the justification for their existence. The fuzzier such racial and ethnic categories become, the harder it will be for these racial and ethnic special interest groups and the government to traffic in them. If a mixed-race category were to be added, every brown-skinned person of mixed race registered in this category would shrink the government’s official count of Blacks, Latinos, Asians or American Indians, eventually reducing their political influence and ultimately the amount of money these groups receive from the federal government, which amounts to approximately $185 billion a year.

    Through the mandated collection and use of racial and ethnic specific information, more and more of American taxpayers’ hard earned money is being routinely distributed to these racial and ethnic special interest groups at the expense of all other Americans who may or may not be members of these groups. Through executive orders, congressional legislation, affirmative action programs, racial set-asides, quotas and other programs based solely on race and ethnicity, our federal government is playing the key role that pits one racial and ethnic group against another, which could eventually lead to our destruction as a country.

    Rather than helping a diverse population become assimilated and united as one nation, the Federal government is doing what the Nazi government of Germany did in the 1930’s and 40’s; creating government supported institutionalized racism by the intentional classification of it’s citizens by race and ethnicity.

    With the support of racial and ethnic special interest groups, our federal government seems to view our citizens not just as Americans, but rather as “pawns” in some social science experiment to be classified and separated into different racial or ethnic sub-groups for some unknown purpose. By mandating the classification of Americans into specific racial and ethnic sub-groups, the federal government and the advocates of “diversity” are actually perpetuating institutionalized racism and keeping Americans divided. Maybe the real purpose of collecting this data is to justify the continuing flow of government money to these racial and ethnic special interest groups.

    If we want to help poor Americans escape poverty, get better health care, find a job or get a good education, why should it matter what their race or ethnic background is? The answer is: It should not! Americans need to come together as members of one country and remember that we are all individual Americans, regardless of race or ethnic background. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired a nation when he voiced his dream for a color-blind nation, a nation in which people would be judged by the content of their characters, “not the color of their skin.” The answer to this government encouraged racism is the concept of Liberty with a limited, constitutional government that is devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than the claims of different racial and ethnic special interest groups. Where Liberty is present, individual achievement and competence are rewarded, not people’s skin color or ethnicity.

    I will support legislation barring the federal government from the collection of racial and ethnic information about the American people and/or the classification of American citizens by race and ethnicity, including the collection of census information. Exceptions should be made for law enforcement, hospitals and medical research purposes.

    I will also support legislation that bans affirmative action programs, racial set-asides, quotas and any other programs that give special preferences based on race and ethnicity.

    By:
    JOHN W. WALLACE
    Candidate for Congress
    New York’s 20th Congressional District
    http://www.FreedomCandidate.com

  2. I agree with your conclusion, but I disagree with a few of the things you said in your post. I do not think that affirmative action in the US is anything like what happened in the racist country of Nazi Germany. In Germany, various minorities were persecuted for being “inferior”; in the US, minority groups are being given advantages in order to “catch up”. I also think that you have grossly miscalculated the intentions of the federal government in implementing affirmative action. I have no doubt in my mind that those who support affirmative action are well intentioned. Lastly, I don’t think that America should ever become color blind. We must recognize our differences, but we are all equal. That is real diversity.


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