Fairness demands diversity

While some people believe affirmative action is a program of discrimination, I feel that it is a program of opportunity. It corrects prejudice by enabling the identification of the talented among the disadvantaged, thereby adding to the labor pool. Affirmative action increases the representation of qualified people in the workplace and academia. Affirmative action was not only created for blacks; it was also formed for Hispanics, women and other underrepresented groups.

Although affirmative action has always been a controversial and long debated topic, it has resurfaced recently because of the current case before the Supreme Court regarding whether or not race should be considered during college admissions. It is the first time in 25 years that the Supreme Court has dealt directly with affirmative action in higher education. The court’s only major ruling on college affirmative action was the Bakke decision in 1978, which struck down the use of quotas but said colleges could use race as part of the admissions criteria in order to have a diverse class of students. Decisions in the cases are expected by July. The admissions policies at colleges across the country could be changed after this decision.

The Bakke decision makes sense. Race should be a part of the admissions criteria, if it is not part of a quota. Even now, many qualified minorities are not admitted to many schools because of bias. Without affirmative action, the problem would be worse, and many qualified students would not be admitted because they are members of a minority.

Some people don’t think there is enough racism to warrant affirmative action. They believe discrimination is in the past and that people should forget a history of prejudice. Discrimination still exists in today’s society. I remember an ABC television special with Diane Sawyer, that followed a black man and a white man to compared their experiences.

Cameras followed them as they shopped, as they tried to rent an apartment and when they went looking for jobs. In many cases, when the black man was shopping he was followed, when he went to see an apartment that was for rent he was told that it wasn’t for rent anymore. When the white man went after him, he was shown the apartment without any problems, and was able to shop freely without anyone paying him any mind. Sadly, this is typical.

Affirmative action also addresses hiring programs. Many times, people of color have been unfairly eliminated because of inappropriate qualification standards, excluded from hiring pools or have been rendered unqualified because of discrimination in education and housing. Court decisions on affirmative action have clearly marked what practices are illegal and are not relevant to one’s ability to do the job. They have also mandated hiring goals so that those employed begin to reflect the racial mix of the general population from which workers are drawn. And despite the claims of those opposed to affirmative action, there is no legal requirement to ever hire an unqualified person.

Although society will never truly be free from prejudice and racism, affirmative action helps to create a starting point so that qualified minorities are given a chance to progress in their careers and educational endeavors. There are many racial inequalities that exist and it’s important to do what it takes to change those things and make this society more diverse.