The continual effort for equality and equal opportunity is a goal that we should all seek as a society. We need to invest in future generations in all social economic areas to provide an equal playing field for success. Academics, employment, and politics are major deciding factors in what opportunity we can be exposed too. African Americans among other minority groups such as women, were subjected to unfair disadvantages that prevented them from reaching the same success as others. Today affirmative action is still highly debated on its legitimacy and methods of implementation. For many, it is viewed as reverse discrimination because it provides advantages to minorities over the majority.
The concept of affirmative action was introduced when the civil rights movement was beginning to take shape during the early 1960’s. President John F. Kennedy is recognized as the first president to advocate affirmative action in his executive order 10925 in March 6, 1961. In President Kennedy’s executive order, it states, It is the plain and positive obligation of the United States Government to promote and ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons, without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin, employed or seeking employment with the Federal Government and on government contracts. This was a big step for civil rights and recognizing that certain minority groups have been oppressed by social and economic interests. At this time in history, black and white children attended different schools up until 1965 under Jim Crow Laws. The educational school districts for African American children were not funded equally. Kids attending these schools were not receiving an education that was equal to the all-white schools. The majority of employers were biased against hiring African American applicants if other applicants were available. In occupations such as a supervisor or management position, it was not viewed as appropriate for an African American man or women. During this period of American history, affirmative action was a necessary step for our country in creating equality.
In our current time, my opinion opposes certain aspects of affirmative action not for what its purpose is, but for how it is implemented. There is no question that situations of inequality are still happening today. However, I think our schools and workforce are continually moving to a more diverse and equal playing field. The generations of minorities that were oppressed from opportunity for education and employment are fading away. I think we are approaching a shift in society where the need to reevaluate and update affirmative action to current social and economic conditions must be reviewed. Specifically, in college institution admissions.
In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) Barbara Grutter was an applicant to the University Michigan Law School where she was rejected despite having a resume that she argued qualified her to be admitted into the institution. She filed a lawsuit against the school under the accusation that she was denied admission for being white and a part of the majority race. The United States Supreme Court ruled that the University Michigan Law School may use race as one of the deciding factors in evaluating applications in promoting a well ethnic diverse student body. By controlling applicants based on race, education institutions are effectively cultivating racial diversity.
I think this is ironic because we are helping minorities to excel that were previously oppressed in past generations by oppressing the majority. If we are truly going to live in a society that is equal opportunity and focused on equality, we cannot continue to use race in any evaluation for admission to college or on a job application. I also do not think that attending a college that has created a diverse student body based on race or ethnicity brings much to the table for my learning experience in college. I think that we have something to learn from every teacher and student in our classes. Not because they are of different race or ethnicity but because we are all unique individuals with our own ideas and experience. I do not think that test scores are everything either, but if two students with identical applications apply with one having higher grades and being a white male. That man with higher grades should be selected fairly without question. Whether we come from financially poor or rich families, Caucasian, Hispanic, or Native American descent, we all work hard for our future and goals.
This irony is also applicable to job applications. In my opinion, no one should be selected for a job based on being a woman or ethnically different from the majority. Women represented 56% of college graduates in 2017 (Jon Marcus, 2017). As far as gender, men have become the minority in college. The problem for women isn’t getting into college, it’s getting a job out of college. Despite women being more educated today than men, men still hold more management positions than women by a lot. Women only make up 25 percent of executive and senior-level officials and managers (Warner, 2017). This is evident that gender inequality is still a current issue in our workforce. Why is there such a huge gender gap in management with affirmative action laws in affect? I only know of two individuals that are women in management positions at my work. I think our current affirmative action laws need to address this issue more exclusively in why this gap persists today.
Another way our current society has evolved is interracial marriage is more widely excepted and present. Immigration and cultural blending has created a very diverse society. Identifying someone by their ethnicity in these circumstances can be controversial. According to Greer, (2006) in 2003 over 4 million Americans belonged to two or more races (pg. 465). So what ethnicity should these individuals mark on their next job application or college application exam? I would pick the one that is in your favor and that is not being white.
Just because someone comes from a financially stable household does not mean they are receiving financial assistance for school. I work full-time while going to school to take advantage of my employer education assistance and my own money to invest in my future. It would be a lot easier to just focus on school but that is not realistic for me. I think that college should be accessible to anyone that wants to attend. However, I think our perspective on college should be something earned and not deserved. Professor of law Ralph Richard Banks from Stanford University said, We are all living on unearned advantages (2016). We need to face the reality that most of us have some form of advantage in reaching our goals whether it is coming from a household that is well off financially or having the ability to graduate with an associate degree in high school from the school district you attended. How can we create a system of equality that gives everyone an equal chance? How much should we rely on a system such as affirmative action? What can we do to better our own unique circumstances for success? In our last presidential election, Bernie Sanders advocated the importance of making college attainable and affordable for any economic class. How many people would go to college even if it was free? It is surprising to me that there are few employees at my work that take advantage of the education assistance benefit that I do.
The solution to equal opportunity and equality isn’t an easy fix. Helping minorities without limiting opportunity to others is complex. Affirmative action is not perfect, but it is necessary and can be improved better. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete (R. Buckminster Fuller). Take advantage of your resources whether it is work education assistance, government grants, scholarships, or affirmative action programs. Don’t rely on our government or your unique circumstances to provide a way for you to be successful.
You may have to work a little harder than someone else, but in the end, it will be worth it. The more educated and active we are as a country, the more our economy will grow and present new opportunities for success. We need to recognize that issues with equality remain and until that changes the need for some form of affirmative action will remain in place.
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