Affirmative Action: Are There Better Alternatives?

A recent post by Ryan59479 got me thinking about affirmative action. You can read the original post by following this link.

In that post Ryan had this to say:

I was surfing the internet the other day and came across this article about a group of conservative students in Texas who had a bake sale designed to highlight how bad affirmative action is. Indeed, I hear things all the time about affirmative action is really just reverse racism. People should be hired or admitted to place based on merit, not the color of their skin or their gender. Indeed, here’s how the students described their bake sale:

“YCT is a truly colorblind organization,” the Facebook event reads, “and believes that all government institutions are constitutionally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race in all circumstances, including affirmative action.”

Well, that’s certainly nice in principle. I do happen to agree that people should be judged based on their individual accomplishments and merit, not on the color of their skin. However, unlike these students and other conservatives who make similar arguments, I also live in the real world.

I originally commented on that post with this:

I’d say I’m a Liberal (mostly) and agree with the conservatives on this one, but I also see your point. I’m not sure what a good alternative would be either. I’m firmly in the equal opportunity camp and think people should get jobs etc based on merit. I think it’s inconsistent to decry racism and say judging people based on arbitrary characteristics like race and gender is bad, but then do it in the name of ‘the greater good’.

Interesting post mate!

After that, I kept thinking about it periodically throughout the day. Was there a better system? If judging people based on skin color is wrong, then shouldn’t we be trying our best to come up with a system that helps eliminate racism without actually using a form of racism to do it?

Then I thought about a study I saw recently:

wealthgap

And I remember thinking after reading it originally that the real ‘privilege’ isn’t necessarily the color of your skin, but how much wealth you have access to in order to pursue things such as education etc.

In other words, a person who grows up in a middle-class family is more likely to get a better education than someone who grows up in poverty.

So instead of targeting arbitrary traits, there must be ways we could help people who are struggling financially, and it turns out there are some alternatives that don’t necessitate rose colored glasses.

Such as this interview I found:

wealthgap3

And they go on to say:

wealthgap2

I think the bottom line is they’re looking at trying to eliminate the underlying problems instead of just using race to determine who gets a higher education. Overall, I think this is a more thoughtful approach, and sure it’s not bullet-proof, but I think it shows that we can find better solutions instead of just raising our hands up to the sky and pronouncing that affirmative action is the only course of action that can be taken to level the playing field.

Here’s another example:

wealthgap4

Makes sense to me.

The other thing we could look at is the European model that allows students to get a higher education for little to no cost. This would allow lower income students to have access to higher education, which in turn would open doors for them in the future in terms of jobs.

I think focusing on strategies like these could allow us as a society to stop using skin color as a determining factor when it comes to who can access help and who gets little to no help at all.

What do you think?

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6 Comments

  1. Extremely interesting studies and interviews! I’d tend to agree that addressing the financial barriers to education is the way to go in the long run. I’d also be a proponent for tuition free public universities. Unfortunately I don’t think that the latter will ever happen in America, at least not for a very long time because how the word “socialism” sticks in some people’s craws.

    As usual, very interesting read!

  2. Personally I’m opposed to affirmative action. I believe that it may have been (probably was) important and even arguably necessary. When I look at the occupant of the oval office though, I think that we’ve moved past the need.

    College though. What about affirmative action in regards to college admissions? That is what this conversation is about. Well, here’s a delicious irony. There have been lawsuits filed against colleges because admissions have been granted to black students instead of more qualified students. That would be old news, but some of the more recent lawsuits have been filed by Asian students. Asians, who are less half the percentage of the U.S. population as blacks, file the lawsuits. If they’re right, and a smaller minority is bypassed to allow a larger minority, then perhaps affirmative action has started to misfire for real.

    Here’s an article about it, and I chose one that leans toward allowing affirmative action in spite of the implications of the lawsuit. http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/11/18/affirmative-action-lawsuit-filed-harvard-pits-asians-vs-blacks-hispanics/

    Near the end of the article, I read a quote (this only part of it) “If the results are similar to the results of California’s Prop. 209 [which outlawed affirmative action in California’s university system], the lawsuit would cause African-American admissions to drop something like 40 or 50 percent at an elite university”

    Gosh that sounds bad. Here’s the problem. Harvard’s current statistics (https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/admissions-statistics) show that Asians make up 22% of current admissions. Twenty Two Percent! When they make up approximately 4 to 5 percent of the population. They don’t need affirmative action, and they are a much smaller percentage of the population.

    Now I recognize the validity of the argument that black Americans have a much higher poverty rate than Asian Americans. All the same, the claim that discrimination according to race prevents people for attaining higher education seems dubious at best. It’s money. Create a program that allows students from low income brackets to attend, and I might get behind it (probably would). Racial quotas though? I’m pretty well convinced that’s the wrong approach.

    • “It’s money. Create a program that allows students from low income brackets to attend, and I might get behind it (probably would). Racial quotas though? I’m pretty well convinced that’s the wrong approach.”

      Precisely. It feels like we just take the lazy route and assume every inequality is automatically due to race and gender, when there are other factors at play.

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