An act, the purpose of which was the elimination of prejudice and the provision of equal opportunity for all, could not possibly have been endorsing the setting up of a new system of reverse discrimination. To select applicants solely on the basis of their racial background is to deny the opportunity of others on the basis of their racial background. Under the plan advocated by the Journal for Blacks in Higher Education, Blacks would simply "crowd out" other members of the student and faculty bodies. The others who would be crowded out would include not only members of the majority White racial group, but Hispanics and Asians as well, themselves members of minority groups. It is, I think, a plan to promote an increase in Black student and faculty populations, and not a project for the creation of a color-blind society.
Nevertheless, I can also see and understand the powerful arguments against the abandonment of affirmative action programs and policies. We continue to live, unfortunately, in a society that is decidedly not colorblind. In the course of everyday life, many of us face judgments and discrimination on the basis of our skin color, or supposed ethnic appearance. I can easily follow one of the primary arguments in favor of maintaining a system of racial quotes i.e. The idea that a lack of minority representation in school, or the workplace, or the military, automatically creates an anti-minority bias. In an all White office, classroom, or brigade, the opinion circulated are exclusively those of the majority group, or at best, are the majority's opinions of an imperfectly known and understood minority. White views will tend to reinforce White views, even if those views contain elements of prejudice against Blacks and other minorities:
Older white men, who are the best contacts, conscientiously recruit and support younger white men in the better blue-collar jobs, and while training them, driving them to work, or chatting during a job, they socialize these younger men to racial and other as they perceive them. The idea of reverse discrimination the preferential hiring of minorities and women over white men is a perception that enjoys growing currency among such whites. (Royster, 2003, p. 146)
The concept is one of a vicious cycle. I get my job because of an older White man and so become part of an all-White network. I learn that to succeed I must remain a part of this network and perpetuate its ethos. An excellent example of this thinking is to be found in the fact that originally our Constitution gave the vote only to White men. The restriction of the vote to this one section of society guaranteed that this group would be able to assert its dominance and perpetuate its own views, thereby controlling the very dialogue of rights and opportunities. (Murray, December 2001)
By excluding any one group, or multiple groups, we exclude the range of opinions and ideas that come from that group. We deny that group its voice in our society. Lack of minority representations in schools, business, and the military has resulted in; it seems to me, a great deal of additional discrimination.
A case in point is the United States Military. Until quite recently Black men and women were denied meaningful careers in the United States Armed Forces. A general culture of prejudice existed that, even after the admission of Blacks and other minorities into the ranks, barred them from advancement to the higher levels of command. Affirmative Action made possible the promotion of individuals like Colin Powell; individuals who, no matter how capable and talented, would have been ineligible for promotion under the prior system of racial prejudice and ingrained bias. (Staples, 6 January 2003) an inherently biased culture cannot easily change its views and become more accepting. It would be as if I watched only certain cable news programs, and received information about world events from other sources. I might develop an attitude that was biased towards that of the commentators to whom I listened. I would be inclined to adopt all of their prejudices and to feel their fears, and to sympathize with their causes. This would represent an exceedingly unbalanced view of world events. It is much the same in the military and other organizations with a long history of deeply-held racial and ethnic prejudice. In these situations, affirmative action helps to open the doors and let in fresh viewpoints along with fresh faces. An intellectually open-minded military can even help in increasing diversity at institutions that pride themselves on their commitment to diversity of every sort. A recent example is to be found in the case of a military man who was doing graduate work at a Western university. At first shunned by the faculty, he at last proved to them the validity of his opinions - and that by the very methods they hold most dear. (Card, 2003) His inclusion in the academic community served as an excellent example of the extreme importance of diversity and openness.
Affirmative action can also be defended on the grounds of righting past wrongs. If I had been denied entrance to a school, or been denied a job, because of my race I would certainly feel that I had been wronged, and would long for redress. It would hardly be wrong of me to pursue an action in the courts, to look for monetary damages, or at the very least compensation in the form of a place at the school, or a job with the organization. Minority men and women have long been denied opportunities of all sorts. Discrimination has been legally institutionalized in the United States, and also culturally ingrained. Hiring or placing individuals based on their racial or ethnic backgrounds does not automatically mean that the persons so placed are "unqualified," or "less qualified." As demonstrated in Miami University's (in Oxford, OH) non-discrimination policy, individuals are selected for the contributions they will hopefully make, and not because of their race or ethnic origin:
Affirmative action plans that compromise valid job or educational qualifications are illegal. Plans must be flexible, realistic, reviewable, and fair.... affirmative action programs are intended to hire the most qualified individuals, while achieving equal opportunity for all.
Miami University's Statement of Non-Discrimination: Affirmative Action Myths and Misconceptions," 2002)
In other words, while race or ethnic origin may indeed be a factor in admissions or hiring, it is but one factor. Many things are taken into account when hiring personnel, or placing students, but one thing that is not sacrificed is the consideration of the applicant's genuine abilities, as well as a careful consideration of what that applicant will bring to the organization. As noted previously, diversity provides many new opportunities of its own.
Affirmative action policies have not been without controversy. Many oppose the hiring or placing of employees, managers, students, and military personnel based on racial or ethnic criteria. I believe that, in some cases this can be a valid argument. If persons are hired or placed exclusively according to these criteria then the result is nothing less than a new form of discrimination. One is making the selection based on a biological factor that cannot be changed. On the other hand much can be said in favor affirmative action in terms of the good it does to open up all Americans to different points-of-view and diverse individuals. The wider our experience the more likely we are to possess reasoned opinions and to be open to different attitudes and ways of looking at the world. The roots of much prejudice lie in the narrowness of the knowledge and viewpoints of those who hold those prejudices. Affirmative action - if handled with care - can be a way to lessen and eventually eliminate those ingrained biases and so ultimately achieve the goals that were present at the founding of the United States; namely, equal rights and equal opportunity for all.
The 26 Worst Colleges for White Students and Faculty (Based on the survey by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education)." (12 November 2002). Adversity.net. URL: http://www.adversity.net/0_Education/Articles/jbhe26worst.htm.
Black Republican. (5 July 2004). URL: http://www.theblackrepublican.net/archives/cat_history.html.
Card, Orson Scott. (2003). "The Elusive Goal of Intellectual Diversity." The Ornery American: War Watch. URL: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2003-11-30-1.html.
Cohen, C., & Sterba, J.P. (2003). Affirmative Action and Racial Preference: A Debate. New York: Oxford University Press.
Miami University's Statement of Non-Discrimination: Affirmative Action Myths and Misconceptions." (2002). Oxford, OH: Miami University. URL: http://www.units.muohio.edu/oeeo/Myths.htm.
Murray, Hugh. (December 2001). "Who's to Blame for Affirmative Action Fiasco?" The Barnes Review. URL: http://www.barnesreview.org/Nov__Dec_2001/Who_s_to_Blame_for_the_Affirma/who_s_to_blame_for_the_affirma.html.
Royster, D.A. (2003). Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Staples, Brent. (6 January 2003). "What the United States Army Teaches Us About Affirmative Action." URL: http://aad.english.ucsb.edu/docs/usarmy.html.…