Monday, February 18, 2008

An essay for class debating Affirmative Action (by me)

In order to gain a full understanding of the debate surrounding affirmative action in colleges one must first realize the purpose of college and university. While it is certainly true that institutions of higher learning exist to educate students, it must be realized that this is not the sole mandate of an institution of higher learning. Today’s modern universities must enable students to recognize and to maximize their potential. Students of all races, religions, and genders must be allowed to move forward and to bestow themselves with the self confidence and courage that can come only with the recognition of their hard work paying off. As Thomas Sowell profoundly states in his book, Race and Economics, “…those methods which are more direct and immediate – job quotas…subsidies… preferential treatment – tend to undermine the self reliance and pride of achievement in the long run.” (Sowell qtd in Thomas, 106) Supporters of affirmative action no doubt mean well, yet their actions are in fact detrimental, racist, and sexist, enforcing a mentality of inferiority rather than instilling beliefs of accomplishment and endless opportunity. University is not merely an outlet of higher education, it is a venue for sophistication and enlightenment; to admit individuals based on the color of their skin is to enforce a mentality of separateness and difference; a mentality that is anathema to those who seek to expand their mind and their view of the world in which they live.

When the white student applies for college acceptance he does so by submitting his SAT scores, his GPA, and a list of his scholastic accomplishments. When the African American applies, it would appear as though supporters of affirmative action are telling him to do so with the submission of his neglected childhood, a sad tale of the life he lived in the slums, and a list of America’s egregious history of slavery. In the words of Dana White, an International Associate for the Heritage Foundation, “It is time for liberal black leaders to stop hiding behind racism and admit that our priorities as a community have become our greatest hurdle to achieving long-term success… They must stop blaming white Americans for the sins of the past and set goals for the future.” (White) It is time that America as a nation recognize that blacks are not a race of pitiful, helpless subhumans; they are fully capable and in fact desire to be given challenges equal to those that face the white community.

The debate over affirmative action has traditionally been – and still is – one raised primarily by the black community. One must consider why Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Jews have not been as vociferously opposed to ceasing affirmative action policies. As suggested by Ms. White, who is herself an African American:

Other communities suffer systematic discrimination: Koreans, Chinese, Latinos and Jews, to name a few. But within these communities people encourage each other to go to school, get good grades and go to college. In some communities not earning a graduate degree is shameful. Only within the black community is academic or entrepreneurial success openly chastised. (White)

It is the black community that suffers the most from this self-inflicted repression. The black student is led to believe that without a helping hand – a boost from the kind white man in the admissions office – he or she will never succeed. According to The Affirmative Action Myth, an executive policy analysis written by Marie Gryphon, a lawyer and a policy analyst with the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, “Recent sociological research demonstrates that preferences hurt campus race relationships. Worse, they harm minority student performance by activating fears of confirming negative group stereotypes, lowering grades, and reducing college completion rates among preferred students.” (Gryphon, 1) This twenty-six page in-depth analysis of affirmative action policies debunks nearly all pro-affirmative action arguments. Ms. Cecila Conrad argues in response to the passing of the California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) that, “The end of race-based affirmative action in professional schools is likely… to reduce the supply of African American physicians and lawyers.” (Conrad) Ms. Gryphon, however, writes based on research done by William G. Bowen, the former president of Princeton, and Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard that:

The reason that affirmative action does not affect college access is that most four-year colleges and universities in America are not selective; they take anyone with a standard high school education. Preferences are policy only at the 20–30 percent of American colleges that have substantially more applicants than places. Students attending those schools have many other college options. The reason that minority students do not get college degrees as often as white students is not competitive admissions policies. Rather, the problem is that most minority students leave high school without the minimum credentials necessary to attend any four-year school, selective or not.[1] (Bowen and Bok qtd in Gryphon, 4)

The excuses for the failure of a more significant number of blacks to achieve a higher education are abundant. As Clarence Thomas, one of the most prominent Supreme Court justices in this nation’s history and himself a black American writes, “It was far more common… to argue that whites, having caused our problems, should be responsible for solving them instantly, but while that approach was good for building political coalitions and soothing guilty white consciences, it hadn’t done much to improve the daily lives of blacks” (Thomas, 106) Thomas suggests that one should “Do for self, brother.” Blacks must take responsibility for their own lives and instead of constantly seeking to blame the distant past, they must move forward with the focus being on result-oriented goals.

If advocates of affirmative action truly seek to assist blacks and to enable them to gain the competitive edge that will not only allow their admission to top ranking universities but will simultaneously diversify those learning environments to the benefit of all students, attention must be focused on repairing the public high school systems in black communities. In order to ensure that more blacks are capable of attending high level four-year universities, the high school system must adequately prepare the students for the challenges they will meet in college. As stated previously, the problem is not that blacks are being racially sorted out from their white peers when applying for college, “Rather… [it] is that most minority students leave high school without the minimum credentials necessary to attend any four-year school.” (Bowen and Bok qtd in Gryphon, 4)

An overwhelming plethora of information ranging from professor’s testimonies to psychological and sociological research data suggests that the policies of affirmative action cause more harm than good. The idea of being admitted based on the color of one’s skin is tinted with racism. The admittance of students in order to “diversify” creates the mental image of tokens. Thomas Sowell writes, “Even in the absence of overt hostility, black students at M.I.T. complained that other students there did not regard them as being desirable partners on group projects or as people to study with for tough exams.” (Sowell, 148) The idea of giving free handouts promotes the idea that it is not important for people to be self-supporting. It robs blacks of their self-confidence and dignity. Forcing students to accept blacks that were admitted to schools not based on their academic credentials but on their color does not diversify universities, it fosters isolation and resentment. “Law professor Eugene Volokh relates the story of a law student who claimed that he and his friends chose classes with high minority enrollments because they believed that competition for good grades would be less severe.” (Volokh qtd in Gryphon, 11) The students felt that because the class was comprised mostly of affirmative action admitted minorities the overall level of intelligence would be lower and they would therefore have a greater chance to look good.

The time has come to end affirmative action, to stand up for the rights of minorities to be treated the same as their white brothers and sisters. It is not too much to permit students to display their own capabilities. We must not rob them of the pride and joy, the satisfaction and confidence that will come upon the recognition of their own potential and their own ability to succeed.

Works Cited

Conrad, Cecilia. Black Enterprise Feb. 1997

Gryphon, Marie “The Affirmative Action Myth.” 14 Feb 2008 .

“Joie Jager-Hyman: Ending Affirmative Action May Hurt White Students - Politics on The Huffington Post.” 8 Feb 2008 .

Thomas, Clarence. My Grandfather’s Son. New York: Harper Collins, 2007

White, Dana “Who Says I'm Inferior?” June 27, 2003 .


“Affirmative Action (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” 8 Feb 2008 .

“Affirmative Action and the College Admissions Process.” 5 Feb 2008 .

Conrad, Cecilia. Black Enterprise Feb. 1997

“ - Narrow use of affirmative action preserved in college admissions - Dec. 25, 2003.” 5 Feb 2008 .

“ - Powell defends affirmative action in college admissions - Jan. 20, 2003.” 5 Feb 2008 .

“ - The Affirmative Action Myth - Blog | Blogs | Popular Blogs | Video Blogs.” 5 Feb 2008 .

Gryphon, Marie “The Affirmative Action Myth.” 14 Feb 2008 .

“InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies.” 14 Feb 2008 .

“Is the end near for affirmative action?” 8 Feb 2008 .

“Joie Jager-Hyman: Ending Affirmative Action May Hurt White Students - Politics on The Huffington Post.” 8 Feb 2008 .

“pa540.pdf (application/pdf Object).” 14 Feb 2008 .

Sowell, Thomas. Race and Economics. D. McKay Co, 1975.

“SoYouWanna know about affirmative action in college admissions? |” 5 Feb 2008 .

“The downside of ending affirmative action for whites. Why ASIAN-Americans gain.”

“The Wall Street Journal Online - Featured Article.” 12 Feb 2008 .

Thomas, Clarence. My Grandfather’s Son. New York: Harper Collins, 2007

White, Dana “Who Says I'm Inferior?” .

“Why Black Americans Should Look to Conservative Policies.” .

[1] Emphasis added


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