“Well, it’s a lot easier for you guys to get in anyway … it’s harder for me!” After hearing this from a friend of mine, I felt a great sense of uneasiness. My friends and I were discussing graduate school and acceptance. As far as America is concerned, I am “African American.” My background is null. In accordance with that, I believe that affirmative action can actually hurt minorities in an effort to diversify the classroom.
One reason this policy is defective is what the experience that I just mentioned represents, which is that minorities can be affiliated with racial preferences. This poses a problem in our diverse society where stigmas are very easily formed and other groups feel a sense of unfairness. However, whether racial preferences are unjust toward non-minorities is less of a concern than are the implications directed toward those who are supposed to benefit from it. To put it more specifically, it implies that minorities, including women, are less capable of meeting qualifications than their counterparts. If racism is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities,” then this too could be considered rather racist. Academic performance is not linked with race or gender. What message does this send to those not included in this program?
Despite some discrepancies, the idea behind affirmative action in educational institutions is a forward-thinking one that makes every bit of sense: create diversity. It is true that diversity is beneficial in having a wholesome, multi-dimensional experience in the classroom. This should be enhanced and supported in every way possible.
But there are more accurate ways of evaluating students.
Economic opportunity should be the key indication that a person is disadvantaged, because we can see what is equal and what is not. Why should children of upper-class minorities be beneficiaries of affirmative action? Are they disadvantaged too?
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the idea “that ending affirmative action would cause a diversion of highly qualified minority students away from the elite colleges and universities appear to be unfounded.” In other words, qualified minority students don’t need special requirements in order to be accepted and therefore do not affect the ethnic composition of the student bodies in selective universities.
We should be cautious not to make generalizations about minorities or use affirmative action as a reparation for slavery or the racism and sexism of the ’50s. By doing that, we are marginalizing people instead of creating one standard for all to share that could potentially bring about a better respect that other races that have so yearned for.
Affirmative action does not aid in defeating the stereotypes of women, immigrants, children of immigrants, blacks, Native Americans and so on. By tailoring requirements to race, we are saying, “Hey! They are different.” It would be unfortunate indeed for a participant in this program to graduate from a respectable school only to find that their employer is really thinking, “Well, it was easier for him to get into Yale anyway.” Instead, send the message: I can compete, you can compete, he or she can compete.
Alexandra Aseye Aggor is a sophomore international communications major from Shaker Heights, Ohio.