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Affirmative Action Cannot Erase Years of Oppression
For forty years the issue of affirmative action has been subject to a tremendous amount of debate and controversy. When President Kennedy proposed the idea of preferential treatment in 1961, the nation was in the midst of radical changes regarding civil liberties. It was a time when the injustices imposed upon minorities were beginning to be recongnized, and people wanted to make up for the years of oppression that served as a barrier for the advancement of minorities in America. At the time, the idea was morally justified and socially appropriate. While it is still a morally commendable effort today, the system has become an attempt to atone for the sins of our country’s past, and a double standard that threatens every citizen’s liberties.
The first problem with affirmative action is the obvious fact that it is an attempt to end discrimination with discrimination. When a company or university discriminates against a white male for the sake of bettering the outcome of another racial group, an injustice occurs. Affirmative action is the governmental legislation of the active discrimination of one person over another—an unacceptable and dangerous double standard.
Secondly, affirmative action seeks to reconcile the injustices of the past. The horrible atrocities of the past, including slavery and the refusal to grant women and minorities the right to vote, cast an ugly shadow on the history of our nation. But affirmative action cannot erase what our ancestors did years ago. Instead of trying to reconcile the oppression of the past, we should try to lend a hand to young minorities that want to learn and be successful, but lack the resources they need to accomplish their goals.
Another issue concerning affirmative action is the stigma attached to the minorities themselves. Minorities are capable of getting the best jobs, obtaining admittance to the most prestigious schools, and being as successful as any white male has ever been. The problem occurs when people view them as inferior because of affirmative action–the attitude of “You couldn’t do it on your own.” These implications have a lasting, damaging effect on the mental well-being of minority students. How can anybody feel truly accomplished when a lingering doubt about the legitimacy of his achievements exists?
Our society must learn to embrace diversity. People from a variety of different cultures and racial backgrounds have a lot to teach one another. The only way for this to happen is to maximize diversity on
college campuses and in the workplace. While affirmative action is not the best way of going about this, there are other ways of promoting diversity. Encouraging minorities from a young age to pursue their goals and obtain a good education is an important start. Assisting people from poor socio-economic backgrounds in gaining the resources and motivation they need to level the playing field with the more privileged population should be something we all actively do. Understanding and accepting diversity is not the issue in question; the issue is the best way of going about creating a society where minorities and non-minorities alike can be judged based on merit and character, and not on the color of their skin.