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Affirmative Action: Keeping Minorities Down For 30 Years.

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The subject of affirmative action in college admissions has been hotly debated since its inception. Although affirmative action was originally supported by the vast majority, that same majority is now starting to wonder if there is a better way. Commonly asked questions include: "Is affirmative action still working?" and "Is there an alternative?" The answers to each of these questions will provide insurmountable evidence that affirmative action in college admissions no longer fulfills its intended purpose and that the only viable alternative is to focus more attention on primary schooling for the underprivileged.

The most common question that arises in contemporary debates over affirmative action is, "Does affirmative action still work as intended?" The original purpose of affirmative action in college admissions was to eliminate racial bias in the applicant selection process and provide a helping hand to disadvantaged minority students. Has this happened? The simple answer is "No", but a more precise answer requires more elaboration. Richard Rodriguez, the Mexican-American author of Hunger of Memory and a direct beneficiary of early affirmative action policies, puts it this way, "I think - as I thought in 1967 - that the black civil rights leaders were correct: Higher education was not, nor is it yet, accessible to many black Americans" (Rodriguez 144).

In 1967, civil rights leaders of all types began to pressure universities and colleges all over the United States to admit more minority students and hire more minority teachers. They claimed that racial bias was the nefarious culprit responsible for the low numbers of non-white students and teachers at these institutions and that these low numbers were unrepresentative of the surrounding populations. Affirmative action policies were born in a drive to better represent minorities in institutional America.

However, all has not gone according to plan. In an effort to avoid the label of Racist, colleges and universities sometimes give preferential treatment to minority applicants. This preferential treatment means that promising majority (white) applicants are often passed over for less promising minority applicants. The term Reverse Discrimination has been applied to this phenomena and the flaws of affirmative action policies have become apparent. "Most folks today, with unintended irony, mean by 'affirmative action' that very preference by skin color that affirmative action was devised to eradicate," as Carl Cohen states in his article "Affirmative Action in Admissions Harms College Students." The article "Affirmative Action is Racist," by K.L. Billingsley, goes a step further and says, " . . . there are three kinds of racism: the David Duke and Adolf Hitler brand based on hatred, the Archie Bunker strain based on ignorance, and, last but not least, the racial bigotry born of patronization." By its very nature of benefiting one race over another, affirmative action failed in its primary goal of eliminating racism in college admissions. Additionally, affirmative action policies also failed the secondary goal of providing a helping hand to disadvantaged minority students. Some will point to the increased numbers of minority students as evidence to the contrary, but does increased representation of the disadvantaged mean that they are any less disadvantaged? Not at all, there are simply more minorities present. Richard Rodriguez describes the influx of disadvantaged students to university life like this, "Cruelly, callously, admissions committees agreed to overlook serious academic deficiency. I knew students in college then barely able to read, students unable to grasp the function of a sentence" (Rodriguez 154). Affirmative action policies are guaranteeing the college experience for students that are ill-equipped to reap the full benefits from it. Even if help can be provided to those that need it, is it right to do so?

The simple statement that minority students in general need additional assistance above and beyond the assistance given to majority students, is an endorsement for the inferiority of minority students. "The underlying philosophy behind affirmative action is the notion that blacks and Hispanics aren't that smart and aren't prepared" (Billingsley). Ruling that minority races are intrinsically disadvantaged and thereby deserving of majority help is another way of stating that minority races are less than the majority races. This is the "racial bigotry born of patronization" that Billingsley spoke of. No race should automatically start out as less than any other.

The majority desire to aid the lesser races in this way robs these minority races from their own greatness as well. "It demeans true minority achievement; i.e. success is labeled as a result of affirmative action rather than hard work and ability" (Messerli). Any academic success by a minority is now scrutinized and judged to be the result of affirmative action or not. The minority student in question may never know what the final determining factor of his or her own achievement is. In our society, it is now a simple thing to claim that a minority student was accepted to a university because of his minority status rather than her merit. Richard Rodriguez even validates this with the comment, "When I sought admission to graduate schools, when I applied for fellowships and my summer study grants, when I needed a teaching assistantship, my Spanish surname or the dark mark in the space indicating my race - 'check one' - nearly always got me whatever I asked for" (Rodriguez 143).

Yet another way in which affirmative action harms rather than helps the minority student is the way it "lowers standards of accountability needed to push students to perform better" (Messerli). By requiring less achievement (GPA or SAT scores) from a minority student in order for that student to gain the same reward (college admission), the minority student is taught that 100% effort is not required. This fosters lazy behavior in minority students and less desire to achieve full potential. Why bother if full

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