Affirmitive Action Essay, Research Paper
Affirmative Action and Racial Tension
Affirmative action. What was its purpose in the first place, and do we really need it now in the liberal super sensitive nineties? It began in an era when minorities were greatly under represented in universities and respectable professions. Unless one was racist, most agreed with the need of affirmative action in college admissions and in the workplace. Society needed an active law that enforced equality during a period when civil rights bills were only effective in ink. With so much of America s work force spawned from integrated schools now, some may question whether racism really is the problem anymore, and many college students might answer yes. They see it on college campuses today, and they are not sure why. Subconscious prejudices, self-segregation, political correctness, reverse discrimination, and ignorance all wade in the pool of opinions surrounding affirmative action and racial animosity. With racial tensions ever present in this country, one might quest!
ion whether the problems can be solved by affirmative action.
Some feel that affirmative action in universities is the answer to the end of racism and inequality. If more black students get into and graduate from good colleges, more of them will go on to even out the lopsided numbers in the work force. Prejudice secretly slips through everyone s thoughts. Or so Barbara Ehrenreich believes when she writes of a quiet, subliminal prejudice that is caused by statistics that prove the fewer numbers of blacks in high profile jobs. When we see ninety percent of leadership roles in the corporate world held by white men, we begin to doubt other s competence in that field. With so many minorities in menial roles, people begin to believe the white man is best for the top jobs; he knows them well(114). But with positive affirmative action policies at work, people should begin to recognize that minorities are just as good or better in the typical white man s job.
Ehrenreich believes affirmative action should guarantee that the best person regardless of race gets the job or gets into the school until it is all so evened out that our subconscious doesn t put competence and color in the same boat(114). The subliminal prejudices she speaks of may also be stirred by newspaper headlines that feed our emotions and actions. Twenty-nine out of thirty UA students feel the media influences the subconscious(Martin). When blacks read sometimes false statistics about their failing race in periodicals, it builds anger and animosity towards whites(Irvine and Goulden 78). The media implies that they are still not going to overcome the white man at the rate they are going. They subliminally become prejudice of white people, and in effect take violent actions sometimes building emotions that lead to things like the L.A. riots. With our surroundings and media creating images of inequality, affirmative action seems a necessity. It will provide a m!
ore positive goal for black students.
Affirmative action might not create racial unity even if we do reach the anticipated equal work world we and Ehrenreich dream of though. The evidence is on the college campuses today. Though numbers are not greatly equal, minorities are a big part of university life. In this so-called integrated setting, one might notice that even the equal self-segregate. The great question all white people ask is why do the black people all sit together when dining. Clarence Page points out that whites sit separately as well, but no one questions them(258). Page observes a U.S. News & World Report survey saying that 53 percent of blacks at large schools found whites hostile and aloof. At the same time, 33 percent of whites said they were physically afraid of black students(262). Is plain ignorance on both races parts the answer to the dining question? Affirmative action brings the diversity, but are the diverse educated enough about one another. A simple answer may not be a con!
flict between races, but a conflict between interests. People are guilty of not understanding one another in their own races, but all of this isolating is causing unnecessary divides on campus. It seems some are bitter towards white people still because of the past and its effects. The effects of this self-segregation may be greater than some think, though. It s suicidal economically to become so bitter that we isolate ourselves from others, Hugh B. Price writes(Robinson and Tidwell 197). Affirmative action is useless if it causes such isolation among students.
When some believe affirmative action to be failing, they begin to turn to political correctness as the solution to inequality. Political correctness seems to cause more sequestering though. It plagues college students too afraid to speak for fear of being accused of as racist. When students are unable to express themselves freely and have to undergo sensitivity training, the likelihood of tension building is greater(Zuckerman 64). White students often find double standards and feel they cannot fight against them. They grow in all shapes and sizes, the separate student unions, theme dorms, yearbooks, and dances(Page 258). More than two thirds of the 30 UA students surveyed did not think that this was right(Martin). Minorities appear to increase the divide, because affirmative action never promised that all students, white and black, would get along. They would only be educated together. White students might not be making a great effort to understand black students, !
and black students may just be searching for familiar comfort in one another. It seems we are all developing a feeling of hostility between races when we separate ourselves from each other.
Young white students might also resent minorities when they view affirmative action as reverse discrimination. At a point where whites and blacks feel discriminated against, affirmative action begins to look ineffective. When affirmative action policies deny a white student admissions over a less qualified black student, racial aversions may swallow people s once open outlook. The University of Texas went to court when four white students were denied admission to its prestigious law school and a number of less qualified black students were admitted. Bitter white students are beginning to go to the law to fight reverse discrimination. Judges found that the University of Texas was guilty and that liberal use of affirmative action undercuts the ultimate goal of the 14th amendment: the end of racially motivated state action ( Thumbs Down 31). If affirmative action is eliminated completely in the nation, minorities in turn will become angry and cause the pendulum to possib!
ly swing back to where we started( Going, Going… 12). Some believe animosity will still breed until a happy medium is attained, and until the nation s goal is met, some advise affirmative action might effectively exist with a number of strict limitations.
There are also those who believe affirmative action has some of the most negative effects. Irvine and Goulden quote Booker T. Washington at the closing of their article as saying, No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced regardless of his own merits or efforts (81). These writers feel affirmative action is a well-meant folly that can only encourage harmful outcomes because it does not teach blacks to believe in hard work and ability; rather, it rewards them for being black(81). If black students go to a university where their scores are lower than that of the white students, they may not excel as much. There are greater drop out rates with students going to a university too difficult for them. More than 70 percent of black students at UC Berkeley fail to graduate, and most believe that this is only because they have been mismatched with the wrong school for their standards(Irvine a!
nd Goulden 80). If more black students fail, this feeds the before mentioned subliminal prejudices with ideas that minorities cannot do the job. Resentment builds, and black failure begins to blame white racism. In a survey thirty UA students took, 27 recognized that black failure was due to crumbling social standards and loss of support within the communities(Martin). Not one person thought it was white racism alone, but is the rest of the nation still threatened by this simple, lazy answer? It seems that affirmative action s failure to perfectly integrate has caused people to look for another answer to racism.
There are so many possible answers to racism that just don t seem to work. It is a wonder universities have come this far under such controversial terms. The university is a temple of reason and tolerance or it is nothing (Zuckerman 64). Higher learning institutions must almost be nothing though, because so many choices we make are not made out of reason or tolerance, but out of necessity. Affirmative action is the reason for more diverse student bodies, while at the same time, it might be the cause for more black failure rates in colleges. Its necessity is different at every moment in life; sometimes it is not the answer to universities problems. It transformed from the cure to inequality on college campuses to quite possibly the reason for racism on campuses. Our subliminal judgments of one another are at the real root of a lot of quarrels, but we can work away at them until we see equal numbers on campuses and in businesses. With or without affirmative action a!
strong effort must be made by all races to reach the solution of this perennial problem plaguing American society.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Planet of the White Guys. Time 13 March 1995:114.
Irvine, Reed, and Joseph C Goulden. The Blame Whitey Media. USA Today Magazine January 1994: 78+.
Landes, Alison, et al. Minorities – A Changing Role in America. Wylie, Texas: Information Plus, 1994. 93-111.
Martin, Anna. Student Survey. 30 October 1996.
Page, Clarence. We, the Indigestibles: The Campus Culture Wars. Showing my Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 257-282.
Price, Hugh B. The Black Middle Class: Past, Present, Future. The State of Black America 1995. Eds. Paulette J. Robinson, and Billy J. Tidwell. New York: National Urban League, 1995. 181-197.
Zuckerman, Mortimer B. The Professoriate of Fear. US News & World Report 29 July 1991: 64.
Going, Going … National Review 29 July 1996: 12.
Thumbs Down. The Economist 30 March 1996: 30+.