How Do You Feel About Affirmative Action?

Over the summer when I started my college search process for senior year, I immediately went to YouTube to watch college decision reactions. Two months later, I felt like I had seen everything. People getting accepted to every school on their list, being denied from every school until they got accepted to their dream school at the very end, or having a “below average” application but being accepted to a very prestigious school. I could understand the two former scenarios, but when it came to the latter, I was confused. So naturally, I went to the comment section for an explanation. I saw things like “she took someone else’s place”, “she got in because she’s black”, and “affirmative action strikes again”. The phrase “Affirmative Action” sounded familiar to me, and after looking it up, I remembered it from my US History class.

The term “Affirmative Action” was first used by John F Kennedy on March 6, 1961 in Executive Order 10925. This Executive Order required federal employers to ensure that all applicants and employees were treated equally, regardless of their “race, creed, color, or national origin”. Nowadays, affirmative action can come in terms of employment or college admissions, and it benefits people that have been disadvantaged due to not only race or ethnicity, but also economic class, gender, and religion. It’s a popular topic of debate, with most recently President Donald Trump’s plans on having the Justice Department sue affirmative action universities because of it being seen as race based discrimination. Currently, the states of Michigan, California, Arizona, New Hampshire, Florida, Washington, Nebraska, and Oklahoma ban affirmative action at all of their public universities.

Opponents of affirmative action believe that it unfairly disadvantages white students and diminishes the importance of merit. It also has the potential to reinforce stereotypes when evaluating applicants. For example, just because an applicant is African American, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are as under-qualified or disadvantaged as affirmative action policies might assume. Also, affirmative action often discriminates against Asian American students, and a recent federal court case was taken up against Harvard University in relation this issue.

Proponents of affirmative action believe that it’s used to reverse the effects of the United States’ past discrimination and foster diversity throughout colleges and workplaces across the country. Although there’s more racial diversity throughout the US today, it isn’t as present as it may seem, so for many people, it’s crucial that affirmative action still exists in our society. It also leads to the breaking of many stereotypes, like for example, women being leaders in the technology field and minority presences in Ivy League institutions. Lastly, affirmative action doesn’t only benefit students of color. In fact, in a Times article written by Sally Kohn, it was found that the group that benefits the most from affirmative action is white women.

So what do you think? Is affirmative action still necessary in our society, or an antiquated way of improving diversity?