Questioning the effectiveness of affirmative action

Throughout our high school careers, we’ve dedicated our lives to rigorous classes, athletics, and extracurriculars, all for the sake of getting into a good college. Yet despite all the hard work we put in, admission officers at the nation’s top colleges continue to consider racial background alongside academic merit and personal achievement.

Several recent Supreme Court cases have brought light to this subject, sparking a nationwide debate. While Fisher v. University of Texas examined the ethics of racial preferences, the new Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action case challenges whether banning these advantages is even constitutional.

Following the civil rights movement of the 1950s, affirmative action, also known as “positive discrimination” or “employment equality,” was created in hopes of increasing representation of minority groups in the professional world. The federal government began to implicate policies that primarily gave advantages to Latinos and African Americans when applying for employment or higher education. The goal was to promote diversity in these institutions, creating the opportunity for varied ideas and perspectives.

Affirmative action was created with good intentions, and undeniably helped minority groups reach milestone achievements; however, more than half a century later, its effectiveness comes into question. It’s true that without affirmative action, America might have never seen a black president, Hispanic doctors, or Muslim professors. After years of subjugation, these people needed the advantage, as success would have been impossible without it. But in today’s world, is it in the best interest to categorize the needy by race?

The United States has undergone tremendous social reform in these past few generations, and minorities have been able to gain a significant presence. Though we are far from achieving complete racial equality, it has come to the point where racial preference has become more detrimental than it is beneficial. While it may seem like a moral obligation, giving certain minorities an advantage can only act as a temporary solution in this battle.

In their 2009 book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford explore the racial injustice of the education system. In an experiment controlled for grades, legacy status, test scores, and athletic standing, it was found that an African American student was 15 times more likely than an Asian American to be admitted to a competitive university. Hispanics have six times, and whites three times higher of a chance of being accepted than that same Asian student.

Although many of these students do extremely well, some accepted under affirmative action end up falling behind their peers, and are unable to remain competitive. It is only through race-blind application processes that an academically balanced student body would come to exist.

Under affirmative action, the legitimacy of those who succeed in the most selective schools is often questioned, and they are faced with more discrimination, under the presumption that their success was entirely dependent on affirmative action.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas remains outspoken on his stance against affirmative action. As an African American student, he was a beneficiary of racial preference, but faced prejudice towards his work. In his memoir My Grandfather’s Son, he recalls how “Many asked pointed questions unsubtly suggesting that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated. Now I knew what a law degree from Yale was worth when it bore the taint of racial preference.”

In a society where equal opportunity has become so valued, it is illogical that any form of racial discrimination still exists. It is not until racial preference is completely eradicated that social justice will be reached, and minorities will gain the equality they deserve.

As Justice Thomas wrote, “just as the alleged educational benefits of segregation were insufficient to justify racial discrimination then … the alleged educational benefits of diversity cannot justify racial discrimination today.”

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