Samples Racism Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action

919 words 4 page(s)

Affirmative action ranks as one of the most controversial topics in America today and also one of the most likely to split people along ideological lines. To some, affirmative action is a backward program that represents reverse racism. Others see it as a practical means of correcting historic wrongs and ensuring that barriers to success are broken down for minorities. While there are some costs that go along with affirmative action, the practice brings a number of benefits. Affirmative action is mostly beneficial to society, and even though it is not a perfect means of bringing racial reconciliation, it does address some of the institutional, structural barriers that have long kept minorities from the sort of opportunities that they might have collectively gotten as a group.

Before one can discuss the advantages, it is important to note the costs. As some, including Supreme Court justices, have noted, affirmative action as a program does keep race as an active topic in American politics. Some argue that the way for America to move forward from racism is to simply quit talking about race and move on. These people assert that America is in many ways living in a post-racial era where all people have opportunities. The problem with this, of course, is that it simply ignores the realities of discrimination that currently afflict people of color and also the barriers to success that exist because of historic wrongs. Just because on ceases to speak about racism does not make it go away.

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Likewise, there is a legitimate cost incurred by some minorities who climb the ladder toward success. Because affirmative action exists as a program, there will be doubts about whether certain minority individuals made it into a school, a job, or another position because of their outright merit or because of an affirmative action boost. This is a legitimate concern for all minorities, as they do not want to wear this stigma around their neck. The truth, however, is that any individual who would automatically assume this about their black counterpart is likely to harbor some misgivings about minorities in the first place. This, according to some, is the last refuge for racists.

There also exists a cost to the marginal white candidates who end up losing out on opportunities because of affirmative action programs. Think about the white kid who grew up in relative poverty who has grades just above the cut off point but loses his spot to a similarly situated black person. That white kid might argue that he has done nothing to earn this plight and that the situation is unfair to him. In a way, he would be right. He is collateral damage. Affirmative action is about correcting the wrongs of hundreds of years of institutional racism and discrimination. White advantage was not built without some suffering by people of color, and by the same token, the advantage unfairly gained under these systems of oppression will not be reversed without some suffering, as well.

In terms of advantages, there are many. Affirmative action is not so much about the individual who gets the opportunity, but rather, about the opportunities for people of color at large. Affirmative action seeks to counter the privilege and advantage that has been gained by white people through several official means of discrimination. One can start with slavery, which allowed many white people to accumulate wealth and capital during a time when black people were capital. This continued into the post-Civil War era, when black people were discriminated against officially by businesses and government. America went through a period of Apartheid that did not end until the 1970s in some places. During this time, those black people were discriminated against in things like mortgage applications. As white people grew their wealth through the housing booms of the 1960s and 1980s, black people did not benefit from this wealth gain because they had been intentionally kept out of the housing markets. In a system where wealth begets wealth and people are allowed to pass down their money, it would be foolish to suggest that these problems of the past have no effect on the success of individuals today.

Affirmative action helps to install people of color into positions that society’s structure would have kept them from occupying. This means that future generations will have parents, brothers, and sisters who were allowed to go to good colleges, hold executive jobs, and be involved in business. It will expose the future generations to these sorts of things and give them the connections that have become so important in the age of networking. While this system might engender some ill will from white people who feel that it is unfair, it deals with something more important than individual thoughts on race. It deals, instead, with institutional racism, which can help to shape individual views on race as much or more than any other social construct.

It is true that affirmative action is the worst possible way to help bring about racial justice, except for all of the other ways available to society today. It is not a perfect system, but it is one that provides some answers and helps to heal some old wounds. It is America’s meager attempt at reconciliation, a concept that has been somewhat foreign to Americans even while people in other countries have had success reconciling their racial issues.

  • Perry, Barbara A. “Bakke to the future: affirmative action and the US Supreme Court.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 1.4 (2013): 602-607.

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