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Kayla Lord

Ben Henderson

CAS 138T

15 April 2014

Its Time to Replace Affirmative Action

Affirmative action dates back to 1961 when President John F. Kennedy created
the Committee of Equal Employment Opportunity. This committee sought to ensure that
organizations took affirmative action in making certain that they were not racially
discriminating in federally funded projects. In the next decade, President Lyndon
Johnson, and President Richard Nixon both issued executive orders fortifying the
affirmative action groundwork (The Beginning and the End of Affirmative Action).
Although affirmative action was originally intended to apply in the workplace, it was
pervasive and quickly spread into the college admissions process.
It was supposed to allow for equal opportunity. Equal opportunity was seen as
proportionate representation based on census data. Society today views affirmative
action, specifically in college admissions processes, as requiring admission of a certain
amount of each race. Most, if not all, colleges use race in admissions decisions. They set
quotas for the amount of students from each race that they intend to accept in order to
gain a diverse student body. It has come to the point that race is being weighed too
heavily in admissions decisions, when realistically it should not matter at all. Race-based
affirmative action in college admissions should be replaced with a socioeconomically
based affirmative action because the former is unnecessary, unconstitutional, and does
not foster equality.
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When affirmative action was first implemented, it was a necessary action due to
the racially biased society that existed in America. Segregation was first outlawed at the
state level in 1954 in the Supreme Court case Brown v. The Board of Education.
Segregation was outlawed entirely in 1964 with the introduction of The Civil Rights Act
(Civil Rights Act). In between these decisions was the introduction of affirmative action.
It was obviously meant to atone for Americas discriminatory past and aid in the fight for
racial equality. The government had to take firm action to give those discriminated
against, specifically African-Americans and Hispanics, an equal opportunity in the
workplace and in higher education institutions. Equal opportunity was seen as the need
for an even playing field free of bias. Unfortunately, race-based affirmative action has
had little success in fighting racism. It is a solution that treats the symptoms of the
problem but does not change the fundamental causes of the problem (Espenshade). Race-
based affirmative action is a topical treatment that gets rid of the indications of an
infection but does not treat the infection itself. It does not aim to eliminate the use of race
as a defining factor of character; in fact it does the opposite. It is a way of making
amends for racist behavior but it has not changed societys racist views at all.
Luckily, the civil rights movement succeeded as a whole and this country has
made huge strides towards achieving equality. Affirmative action is unnecessary because
the races that it targets no longer need additional assistance. Racist remarks and jokes still
exist, but overall, Americans have a much wider sense of equality today. Race is no
longer a factor commonly used as a deciding factor of a persons character. The president
of the Unite States, Barrack Obama is half black. Obviously, if a majority of the country
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voted for him, it means that a majority of the country does not see being a different race
as a factor that will make a leader less effective.
In fact, it may even undermine the accomplishments of certain races. Some may
argue that African-Americans and Hispanics who are accepted into college and hired or
promoted in the workplace were given extra help to do so. It makes it seem as if they did
not work as hard to earn their accomplishments as someone of a different race. Todays
society has confronted its biased past, and therefore, this practice is outdated.
Additionally, affirmative action is unconstitutional because it is ironically a
discriminatory practice. In an attempt to remove racism from the college admissions
process, they are technically being racist. College admission boards are using race as a
factor to determine how deserving applicants are. The 14
Amendment says, All
persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States. As a
citizen of the United States and individual is protected under The Declaration of
Independence which states that, we [the people] hold these truths self evident, that all
men are created equal. Both documents that this countrys government is based on a
promise of equality for all and this race-based affirmative action works against this
guarantee. Equality does not mean that there needs to be quotas that are filled each
semester; it means that race should not be seen as a defining factor. Equal chances of
admission means that each individual should be judged holistically on his or her
educational qualifications, such as high school GPA, SAT or ACT scores, and
involvement in extra-curricular activities. Race is not an educational qualification (Time
to Scrap Affirmative Action).
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Yet universities insist on utilizing these quotas in the search for diversity.
Diversity is having a student population that includes students from a variety of
backgrounds with varying opinions with the hopes of them interacting. It is supposedly
beneficial because it, in theory, produces cultured, racially unbiased, well-rounded
students. There is no proof that diversity causes the production of such students;
however, there is research that proves that diversity has no bearing on how much
knowledge a college student retains after graduation, when knowledge is defined as
factual information learned in class (Is it Time to End Affirmative Action?). Diversity
does not affect what professors teach, or how much of that information is learned. It is
important to be well rounded, unbiased, and cultured, but it is paramount that students
learns the information they need to be knowledgeable and competent in their careers.
Therefore, diversity is not necessary for an adequate college education. Furthermore, a
survey published in the New York Times found that diversity does not actually exist in
colleges because only 50% of the respondents said that they had a roommate or close
friend of a different race (Espenshade). Another problem with the universities concept of
diversity is that it is actually encouraging racial discrimination by pigeonholing racial
groups. The universities are stereotyping by assuming that all of those individuals that
belong to a racial group have similar beliefs (Time to Scrap Affirmative Action). As a
progressive society we should acknowledge and appreciate that each individual holds his
own original beliefs, which means that race has less to do with diversity than universities
want us to believe. While diversity is desirable for social reasons, this current illusion of
diversity is allowing universities to continue using race as a deciding factor in college
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What is the most interesting is the Supreme Courts view on affirmative action.
Above the entrance to the court is a sign that says, Equal Justice Under Law, (Time to
Scrap Affirmative Action). But is the court upholding this maxim? In 1950 Herman
Marion Sweatt filed a civil rights lawsuit against the University of Texas claiming that
his race was the primary reason he was rejected. The Supreme Court ultimately sided
with Sweatt and he was enrolled in the university. This case is seen as a landmark court
ruling that led to the eventual end of racial segregation and the beginning of affirmative
action (Mears). Consequently, many similar lawsuits reached the Supreme Court and the
judges typically found in favor of the plaintiff. A university could deny discriminatory
intent, but if the statistics proved that an individual was of a race that the school enrolled
less of, the courts sided with the plaintiff. In the late 1970s, the courts no longer used
statistical patterns to define discrimination; instead, they narrowly defined it so that it was
the plaintiffs job to prove that the defendant had discriminatory intent (The Beginning
and the End of Affirmative Action).
Throughout this dramatic shift in definition in the courts, universities continued to
use quotas. This is why when a civil rights lawsuit similar to Sweatts was filed in June
2013 there was a different outcome. Abigail Noel Fisher also applied to the University of
Texas and was rejected. The University of Texas has an admissions policy that says if an
individual graduates in the top ten percent of his class he is automatically admitted,
regardless of any other factor, including race. Fisher barely missed the top ten percent of
her class, and so she was judged based on different standards. She argued that it was
unfair that race was used in one admissions process, but not in the other (Espenshade).
The Supreme Court decided that the college can use race as a preferential factor in the
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quest for diversity but it must be narrowly tailored. With this verdict, colleges can
continue to wrongly consider race in admissions decisions.
The key difference between these two cases is the race of the plaintiff; Sweatt was
black, Fisher was white (Mears). This contrast illustrates how affirmative action has
become synonymous with reverse discrimination. Non-minorities, particularly Asians,
and Caucasians, feel that an even playing field no longer exists. Some even feel that they
are at a disadvantage. For example, a study found that at some universities, black
applicants who score 450 points (out of 1,600) worse than Asians on entrance tests were
equally likely to win a place (Time to Scrap Affirmative Action). This problem stems
from the definition of the word minority not changing, even though the societal
circumstances have. Minorities used to be those racial groups that were severely
disadvantaged, namely African-Americans and Hispanics. Some individuals in these
racial groups are still disadvantaged due in some part to their race, but there are plenty of
disadvantaged Asian-Americans, and Caucasians as well. Today, African-Americans and
Hispanics are still considered minorities, even though they are no longer particularly
disadvantaged. An African-American or Hispanic individual can be richer than 87% of
the population but still be considered a minority. The President of the United States of
America, Barrack Obama, is considered a minority, yet expected to rule in favor of the
majority. The definition of minority is a huge part of the reason why affirmative action
is no longer doing its job.
Affirmative action was intended to be a temporary measure that helped those that
needed it. It is no longer performing the job it should be and needs to be replaced with a
form of affirmative action that will. This form of affirmative action would focus on
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socioeconomic status. Those students of a lower socioeconomic status have trouble being
admitted to college for an array of reasons, beginning with their home lives. They
typically come from households where both parents, or the only parent in some cases, are
working to make ends meet, so they receive less academic support and develop academic
skills more slowly. Chronic stress present in these households also negatively affects a
student. These students are disadvantaged before they even step into school (Education &
Socioeconomic Status).
Then, schools in low socioeconomic areas cannot provide the best education for
their students because they are underfunded and have inadequate resources. Students may
see high dropout rates in their schools, which is discouraging and can affect academic
achievement. Once these students reach high school they may need to get part time or full
time jobs, leaving less time to focus on school work. Additionally, they may not have
money to pay for SAT preparation classes or multiple test administrations. This means
that lower socioeconomic class correlates with lower SAT scores, so these tests are
biased (Education & Socioeconomic Status). Meanwhile, colleges still rely heavily on
standardized test scores to rank potential students. Their lower socioeconomic status
directly affects the quality of their education, their ability to successfully navigate
certification assessments, and their chances of being accepted into college. These
students are continuously disadvantaged and they know it.
They realize that they have a lower chance of being admitted into, paying for, and
achieving in college, which leads them to decide not to apply at all and dive into the
working world instead. Today, without a college degree, it is extremely difficult to find a
job that pays well. Even those that do apply are discriminated against. They do not have
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the money for tuition or books and they are ill prepared academically. After being
accepted, many of them withdraw anyway due to lack of monetary funds (Education &
Socioeconomic Status). This is why, even though there are plenty of individuals who are
of a lower socioeconomic class but qualify for admissions on their own, they still need
monetary assistance in order to succeed in college. The government does offer grants and
student loans, but it does so knowing that those that need the financial aid the most are
the least likely to utilize it. All of this results in the continuation of the cycle of low
socioeconomic class. It is absolutely necessary that efforts be made to break this cycle
and to bridge the deep gaps in socioeconomic status. Socioeconomically based
affirmative action will bridge these gaps resulting in true equality (Education &
Socioeconomic Status).
Implementing a program such as this is as easy as the federal government
approving legislation that renders race-based affirmative action obsolete and sets the
guidelines for qualifying as socioeconomically underprivileged. This type of affirmative
action will create a level playing field for those who would otherwise have a slim chance
of attending college. Deciding who goes to college comes with huge consequences,
which is why everyone deserves a fair chance at being accepted. This new era of social
equality calls for a new form of affirmative action that does not allow race to be a
significant defining factor of an individual. Instead, we must aid those that truly need the
assistance. Socioeconomically based affirmative action will help those that need the most
help, like it was originally intended to do, like it is supposed too.
"Civil Rights Act." History. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
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"Declaration of Independence." THe Charters of Freedom. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr.
2014. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/
"Education & Socioeconomic Status." American Psychological Association. American
Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
Espenshade, Thomas J.. "Moving Beyond Affirmative Action." The Opinion Pages.
The New York Times, 04 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Apr 2014.
"Is It Time to End Affirmative Action." Intelligence Squared Debates. NPR, 21 Nov
2007. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. <http://www.npr.org/2007/11/21/16337441/is-
Mears, Bill. "Justice to Re-examine Use of Race in College Admissions." CNN U.S.
CNN, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Apr 2014.

"The Beginning and the End of Affirmative Action." RACE. American Anthropological
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Association, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
"Time to Scrap Affirmative Action." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 27
Apr. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
"14th Amendment." Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, n.d.
Web. 13 Apr. 2014. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/