Affirmative Action: Acceptance by Race or Merits?

In recent years, racism and discrimination have been a major topic in society. But what happens when a form of what some believe is discrimination only benefits a certain group of people? Affirmative action is a policy in some states in the United States that favors minority groups who are at a perceived disadvantage in the system. To a number of people, this process is controversial because some groups believe that many people are accepted into a university or occupation due to their race, rather than their merits.

Affirmative Action is a policy that was introduced by former President John Kennedy in 1961. It was created because people were being treated unfairly in that they were unable to get rid of segregation and openly racist acts, nor gain acceptance into jobs or colleges during the Civil Rights era. However, now that the United States has seemingly entered a new era, it could be argued that the policy is unfair toward non-minorities. Caleb Dempsey, senior, believes the policy is unjust in the event of two applicants having equal qualifications.

“If we both apply for a job and [a minority is] qualified for a job and so am I, we have the same exact thing, but they’re automatically gonna get it if [affirmative action] is in effect, just because they’re a minority in that case, versus me,” said Dempsey.

Although Dempsey understands how Affirmative Action can benefit those who are at a disadvantage, he believes other attributes should take precedent over skin color and it is wrong to assume someone has a disadvantage just because of how they look.

“I believe in a lot cases yes, it should be abolished. I guess there can be some cases where it can come in handy based on unemployment rates or where you are, like cities. But overall, I do kind of think it’s more unfair and it should be abolished,” said Dempsey. “The decision [in colleges or jobs] should come down to experience, politeness, respectfulness, and who you are as a person.”

Conversely, Ife Adeyemi, Student Mentor at the College and Career Center at Lake Ridge and student at the University of Texas at Arlington, believes the policy is helpful. When applying for colleges or jobs, authorities typically make you mark down your race or ethnicity. Adeyemi understands how non people-of-color might see it as unjust. Still, she says applicants are not chosen solely because of their race, but race is simply taken into consideration.

“In some cases, I can see how it might be unfair. I don’t think [affirmative action] really applies in every situation. Usually, I do believe that the person was just more qualified,” Adeyemi said. “At the end of the day, the minority of people do have to work harder. So, in a way, it is a way for us to actually get what we worked for.”

Affirmative Action has already been banned in eight states. However, Adeyemi has no issue with the bans considering they haven’t affected the success of the minorities affirmative action was put in place to benefit. Due to the fact that colleges already take other factors into consideration and it could be argued the policy is dying out, she sees no problem with the policy becoming obsolete.

“If you are a minority, you get an ‘advantage’, per say, to be selected over non-people-of-color. Colleges should still take into consideration financial disparities, disabilities, obviously academic stance, and involvement. If it has been banned in other states and people are still thriving and being successful, then I don’t see why [it shouldn’t be banned]. [Minorities] will be successful regardless,” said Adeyemi.

It could also be argued that Affirmative Action is not meant to only benefit certain people, but work environments overall. AP United States history teacher, Ryan White, says that with Affirmative Action still in place, it can cause people to work harder for the positions they desire, which ultimately leads to more service being done.

“It is about creating equal opportunities in the work place, for everyone. Affirmative Action creates competition in the work place. If everybody is getting equal pay and equal treatment, then that is going to increase your competition for certain jobs and increase productivity,” said White.

Although many believe Affirmative Action does not completely benefit all people, Amanda Mitchell, U.S. and AP Government teacher, says that this process allows for opportunities to be realistically equal and give people who are treated unjustly an even chance.

“Affirmative Action levels the playing field and gives more people opportunities to experience and be able to have job opportunities and opportunities in higher education,” said Mitchell.

Affirmative Action allows for minority groups to receive an equal opportunity without having to work twice as hard just to score a job interview. It gives people of color who want to apply and be accepted an even chance with the people who, historically, have had the upper hand. However, as the minorities increase, and the current majority feels more and more as if they themselves are being discriminated against, it is also possible affirmative action ought to change as well.

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