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Recently the merits of a race based admission policy to colleges and universities have come under scrutiny by the American public. Take into account the position of black conservatives, who feel that affirmative action merely perpetuates a system of preference in reverse and does nothing to fix the problems African Americans face in lower educational programs. When looking at the arguments of the Black conservatives and comparing them to the view points of the opposition, a certain conclusion may be reached.
The first concept of affirmative action was presented by President Kennedy in a 1961 executive order. His order stated that government contractors should voluntarily support affirmative action efforts by recruiting, hiring and promoting minorities (Moreno 5). Higher education did not become the focus of affirmative action until the 1973 case Adams vs. Richardson. In this case the Department of Heath, Education and Welfare Published guidelines ordering a unitary higher education system. The goal of these guidelines was to ensure that the proportion of black high school graduates equaled the proportion of white graduates entering state institutions of higher learning (Moreno 6).
This in itself is the problem that black conservatives see in implementing raced based uniform admissions policies. They feel that this system is not only demeaning to African Americans, but that school desegregation laws are based on a theory of black inferiority (Magelli 2). Shelby Steel, a Stanford University Professor and black conservative thinks that the federal government should focus on fixing old public school systems instead of giving minorities a leg up later in life when it is often too late to undo the damage inflicted by poor public schooling during childhood (Magelli 11). This is a valid point especially in many urban areas where underpaid teachers teach from outdated school books. But what is the answer? Would everything be fine if,,Ÿlike the black conservatives feel,,Ÿ the federal government removed itself from the situation (Magelli 3)? We need only to look at our own neighborhoods to answer that question.
A 2000 census report confirms that we continue to live in a segregated society. This study used an index that ranged from 0 to 100, where 0 indicated blacks and whites are evenly distributed in neighborhoods and 100 means that blacks and whites share no neighborhood in common. Scores higher that 60 are considered to be ghighh, while those greater that 70 are considered to be gextremeh (Massey 3). This study found that the average level of black-white segregation in U.S. metropolitan areas stood at 64. But in Cities like Detroit (85) or New York (81) the levels are extremely high. The study also states that no other multiracial country is as segregated as the United States. The only other country where levels of segregation routinely exceeded 70 was the Union of South Africa under apartheid (Massey 4).
So the fact that we still live in a segregated society nearly 140 years after the Civil War shows us that what we donft need is a hands off approach on racial issues from the federal government. What we need is more governmental intervention. In 2000 researchers working for the Department of Urban Development concluded that discrimination persists in both housing rental and sales markets of large metropolitan areas nationwide (Massey 5). This is not a problem capitol nor is it a problem of will or desire; this is a problem of segregation which exists in our neighborhoods and schools alike.
Another Idea held by black conservatives is that the issue of affirmative action has been clouded by race. Many black conservatives feel that a system of equality based on class rather than race would create a more accepted program. William Julius Wilson, a Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Chicago feels that any economic empowerment program for black youths should follow race neutral policies that draw the support of everyone, not just minorities. Wilson thinks that these programs would work to bring different races together (Magelli 23). We are all divided by class in the U.S. and Professor Wilson may have a point, but how valid is it? To find that out we must ask ourselves what kind of education we want.