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Editorial: Affirmative Action
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Affirmative Action: Imperfect But is Still the Best Option
February is Black History Month.
It's a good time to reflect on the continuing problems faced by African-Americans. Despite great strides that have been made since the civil rights movement, now fifty years in the past, America is still confronted with the problem of racism.
It was in 1954 that public schools were finally desegregated. While that has had a profound affect on allowing African-Americans access to public education in K-12 classes, it has done nothing to open colleges to those same children.
Then along came affirmative action. Opportunities opened for minorities of all kinds, not just African-Americans; opportunities that had previously not been there. However, our current administration, with Dictator George W. Bush at the helm, submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in mid-January 2003 making clear its stance against affirmative action.
"The White House is again talking out of both sides of its mouth," said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU legislative counsel. "The President loves to opine about his 'commitment to racial justice' but, at practically every turn, he backs policies that contradict his stated convictions. His position spells disaster for racial equality in America."
The White House was responding to a case filed by several white plaintiffs whose challenge to affirmative action programs in the University of Michigan's admissions system will be decided by the Supreme Court this year. And while it is indeed true that race plays a role in admission decisions at the University of Michigan, the school also awards points if the applicant's parents are alumni and if applicants come from the upper peninsula of the state, which is predominantly white, skewing the admissions system toward white--and often affluent--applicants.
At the same time, I do understand those who disagree and feel that race shouldn't be a factor--that admissions should be decided only on qualifications. But this simply isn't how it works. And that's without even going into the fact that minorities are disadvantaged by a public school system that doesnąt invest properly in schools located in poor, often minority, neighborhoods.
It's such disadvantages that beg for some kind of solution. A recent study by professors at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that resumes with white-sounding first names elicited 50 percent more responses than ones with black-sounding names. "White-sounding" names used included Brett, Anne and Jill while the "black-sounding" names included Tamika, Aisha and Tyrone.
Who's to say that this same kind of workplace discrimination isn't happening with admissions boards? It's highly likely that this kind of discrimination is taking place.
So what's the answer? Affirmative action isn't the perfect solution. However, until we address the disparity between public school funding for low-income neighborhoods and we truly do away with racism in our country, it is the best option we have.
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