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What is race-based affirmative action? Race-based affirmative action refers to a policy which imposes remedies against discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. The implementation of this policy within college admission processes has stood to be a highly controversial topic. There are many individuals who are in opposition of race-based affirmative action due to how institutions cater to minorities rather than to the majority. These opponents tend to consider the policy to be a form of “reverse discrimination.” On the contrary, race-based affirmative action has many supporters that perceive the policy to promote social inclusion for minorities, rather than be implemented for discriminatory reasoning. In favor of the policy, in regards to education, implementing race-based affirmative action, within college admissions, is highly effective due to its approach towards three main principles: overriding former discrimination, remedying the products of past discrimination, and preventing future discrimination.
First, I will start by addressing the background history of affirmative action, accompanied by court cases involving the policy. Where did affirmative action begin? The notion of affirmative action made its initial appearance during President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 in the 1961. Initially, the purpose of affirmative action was to obligate institutions to abide by the nondiscrimination mandate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was created to counter the racial discrimination that existed within employment. In later years, additional factors, such as gender and disability became protected under this policy. Following the introduction, the policy’s trajectory shifted towards the educational system.
It was not until Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which occurred in 1954, that the surfacing of race-based affirmative action within educational facilities became serious. Brown v. Board of Education not only permitted minorities and majorities to attend the same school without regard to race; it, additionally, created a chain reaction in which black students would be entitled access to the same public academic institutions as their white counterparts. These schools had to, then, implement affirmative action by reserving spots for minority students to be admitted, or else they would be going against the court ruling. Racial integration of colleges and universities had been decided upon by the Supreme Court before Brown v. Board has occurred; however, equal access to quality education and the public discourse on race became more focused upon with the Brown ruling. This case set the precedent for many future affirmative action cases that involved education.
For instance, one race-based affirmative action case that surfaced subsequent to Brown v. Board was Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Since Brown, the prohibition of minorities receiving quality education has been dismantled; however, Bakke was a court case that tried to challenge affirmative action in postsecondary institutions. Many cases that have challenged affirmative action have been unsuccessful because majority colleges and universities stand committed to affirmative action. Within this case, white applicant, Allan Bakke, submitted an application to the University of California’s Medical School at Davis twice, with both times being rejected. Being that the university followed affirmative action, 16 out of 100 spots were reserved for minority applicants. Bakke filed a lawsuit against the institution because he believed that their admissions process was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment.
Next, I will discuss how race-based affirmative action is highly effective, within the college admissions process, due to its overriding of former discrimination of minorities. For countless years, white people have been historically recognized for racially discriminating against minority groups, especially against African Americans. This historic discrimination is a legitimate reason as to why minorities achieve academically at a lower rate than their white counterparts and need compensation through affirmative action. Race-based affirmative action supporters encourage its implementation as a means of compensation for all of the former discriminatory performances that were posed against them such as slavery, black codes, and Jim Crow laws. These setbacks caused minorities to trail behind those in the majority in key areas such as income, health, and housing. All of these key areas were strategically rigged to keep minority groups at a disadvantage. For instance, the white people that lied within the top percentage of income-earning families were more likely to get admitted into an elite school than a minority group participant from a bottom percentage income-earning family. These major setbacks for minorities were major issues that called for governmental response. By the government stepping in, it would override former discrimination by granting minority students a chance to attend institutions that their ancestors did not receive the chance to. However, many misconstrue this compensatory policy to be, in itself, a discriminatory practice towards the majority, which are not catered to by this policy. During the 1965 commencement address at Howard University, President Lyndon B. Johnson explained the overall reasoning behind affirmative action: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say ‘you are free to compete with all the others’ and still believe that you are being completely fair.” Race-based affirmative action, basically, gives minorities an opportunity to become acclimated within the real world so they will have a fair chance to compete with the majority that has had an overabundance of years having the advantage.
Second, implementing race-based affirmative action, within college admissions, is highly effective due to its approach towards remedying the products of past discrimination. The mistreatment of minority individuals by white people is the blame for the historic inequalities that continue to exist today. The legal permittance of racial discrimination has allowed room for the majority to remain at an advantage over minorities. If such preferential treatment of minority groups did not occur, then all avenues of politics, profession, and education would remain dominated by white people. Additionally, the past discrimination that was posed against minority groups has manifested in so many different areas currently. One instance is the socio-economic deprivation of minorities. Another instance is the social exclusion of minority groups. Lastly, the way those stereotypes are posed against minority groups.
Lastly, the practice of race-based affirmative action is effective because it will gradually pave the way for minorities to achieve equality in the future. First, by implementing this preferential act, it would force educational facilities to diversify their student bodies. Many schools perceive having “diversity” as having a student body in which the racial quota does not reach the extremes. For preparatory purposes, it would be ideal for college students to be taught within an atmosphere similar to the one of the real world that they will eventually confront when starting their career. To connect this to an analogy, it’s set along the same lines as a getting a new goldfish and putting them in water. It is highly recommended that when you buy a new fish, that you should place the bag of water, with the fish inside, into the desired body of water so that the fish’s familiar water temperature can adjust to the temperature of the body of water that he will eventually confront. To tie a bow around this, the new fish is a representation of the students and the familiar water is the diversity that is needed to get ready for the “pool” of diversity that the students will eventually encounter. While taking on these opportunities, the student will become submerged in the diverse atmosphere of the real world. However, there are some instances in which institutions become too overzealous to achieve diversity that they began to make the affirmative action counterproductive.
Furthermore, affirmative action has the ability to create environments in which diversity will be understood, experienced, and be perceived as being acceptable amongst the students. This will cause a chain reaction to occur in which the longstanding prejudices about minority groups will then become less prevalent due to the students inclination to a diversified student body.
Additionally, students can benefit in multiple ways from being given the experience to learn amongst schoolmates whose viewpoints and life experiences differ from theirs.
Redistribution of opportunity “so that those who have been excluded in the past or those who are currently excluded will be fully included (promote inclusiveness) Many institutions are developing many ways to diversify their camps, such as admitting descendants of enslaved people owned by the institutions. By opening opportunities previously unavailable to them “can improve the odds that their efforts will pay off through hard work and determination.” It helps spark the development of minority role models as more minorities enter professional and political positions.
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