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Affirmative Action: Does It Truly Help?

The term, affirmative action, was popularized by John F. Kennedy in 1961 as a way to help those who had been discriminated against. However, it was not fully implemented until Johnson in 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the Senate with a vote of 71-29 and the House with a vote of 290-110.
Now this act was passed because of the discrimination that people were facing in the private sector. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 had tried to prevent discrimination, but after a Supreme Court ruling on its application, or lack thereof, to the private sector, a new Civil Rights act was needed. This gap was filled with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it would not be long until people were up in arms about the constitutionality of the utilization of the law.

Affirmative Action – An action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; positive discrimination.
First off, there is no such thing as “reverse racism”, or “reverse sexism”, or any kind of “reverse discrimination”. The sheer definition of the word causes any reversal of the term to mean the exact same thing as the term itself. If a white person dislikes black people solely because of their skin color, then that is racism. If a black person dislikes white people solely because of their skin color, then that is also racism, not reverse racism! Now this discrimination was epitomized by the famous Bakke case in 1978. This is otherwise known as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. In this case, Allan Bakke, a 35-year-old white male, applied to 12 different medical schools.

This case was taken on by the Supreme Court, which ruled these schools were not allowed to have set-aside a specific number of seats for minorities. However, the court also ruled that schools were allowed to consider race for entry. (Note: This post is not about whether Affirmative Action is fair or not. It is simply going to address whether or not it truly helps those who it is trying to benefit. However, I would like to interject that this decision pisses me off. It’s not my decision to choose my skin color or gender. I should not be discriminated against because of these. I’ll address this in another post.)

Now you may be asking yourself, “How could being let into a better school hurt someone?” Well scholars refer to this theory that affirmative action hurts those it is meant to benefit as “mismatch”. Now, the concept is this. A minority is accepted into a school that a white person with the same grades and work ethic is not accepted into. This causes the minority to be below the standard of the average student at the university, which causes suffering learningwise and, later, career wise.

A paper published in 2005 in the Stanford Law Review claims that “a student who gains special admission to a more elite school on partly non-academic grounds is likely to struggle more . . . [and] if the struggling leads to lower grades and less learning, then a variety of bad outcomes may result: higher attrition rates, lower pass rates on the bar, problems in the job market. The question is how large these effects are, and whether their consequences outweigh the benefits of greater prestige.”

A study, commissioned by the Law School of Admission Council in 1989, called the Bar Passage Study (B.P.S) examined the bar-passage rates of blacks and Hispanics. The study examined the amount of blacks who got into their first-choice law school. It found that 689 of around 2000 black applicants got into their first-choice law school. Of these 689 students, 512 went to their number one school, and the other 177 went to their second-choice. The B.P.S. data found that 21% of the black students who attended their second-choice schools failed the bar on their first attempt, versus the 34% of those who went to their first choice. While this data is unable to account for many possible variables, it does imply that there may be a connection between African Americans who went to a school where they may have been “below-average”, and those who went to schools where they would be either “average” or “above-average”. This implication seems like common sense, and the data corroborates this idea.

California, one of the more liberal states, passed Prop 209 in 1996. Prop 209 was simply a ban on affirmative action. Those who felt as though affirmative action was a necessity thought that this ban would cause minorities attending prestigious universities in California to drop. At first they did, but soon enough the rates rose again. While the rates have never reached their pre-Prop 209 levels, they have still been significant. For example, whites make up a large majority of the American population, but only make up 26% of U.C.L.A’s population.

This truly brings into question the effectiveness of Affirmative Action. In another post I will be addressing my thoughts on the constitutionality of AA, but until then just remember that good intentions do not always have the expected results.

Post-Scriptum: Who is truly racist? Conservatives who believe that systems should be pure meritocracies or liberals who think that minorities need assistance to get into college?




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