Saturday, October 23, 2021

Affirmative action is beneficial to everyone

February 20, 2001

A storm of social unrest is stirring and is threatening to roll back the historical civil rights gains that this country obtained during the 20th century. Civil rights victories such as the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which gave women the right to sue their rapists in federal court, already has been abolished.

In Michigan, affirmative action is being attacked in a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Gratz against the University of Michigan. Unsurprisingly, Gratz obtained counsel from the very firm who struck down the Violence Against Women Act, the Center for Individual Rights. Now, with a conservative presidential administration in office, the anti-civil right laws’ rhetoric is beginning to gain momentum.

While minorities, women and whites may differ on what they believe to be severe racism and sexism in America today, no rational person would dare say racism or sexism does not exist and that neither hinders the progress and livelihood of minorities. So why are people opposed to a program that encourages institutions to venture outside of their traditional methodologies of recruitment that was historically limited to white males and find the means to incorporate qualified minorities and women into their ranks?

The heart of the reasoning against affirmative action is based on falsehoods that have been spoon feed to the public.

One such example is the argument that affirmative action is reverse-racism against white males, intended to punish them for the historical atrocities committed against women and minorities that they have nothing to do with today.

This is false, because affirmative action does not punish white males; evident by the fact that they have continuously held a firm grip on a vast majority of every determinate of one’s quality of life - such as wealth and education.

Also, affirmative action’s intention is not to make up for the tyranny of the past, but to effectively deal with the inequalities and social problems that exist today because of those past cruelties. Supporters of affirmative action are looking for reassurance and evidence of the enforcement of rights we have just recently gained, and of the planning of steps to further equality.

Still, many continue to reason that affirmative action only benefits women and minorities so it is inherently discriminatory, at best, against white men.

However, white males do benefit from affirmative action when their female counterparts benefit from the program - with white women benefiting the most - because both men and women are now financing most families.

Therefore, white males also reap the rewards of affirmative action through the increased incomes of their female partners.

Also, opponents of affirmative action contend the program stigmatizes minorities and women and causes a racial discord or even a divide among the races and sexes. However, the stigmas that have been attached to women and minorities are born from the pseudoscientific beliefs in biological and even culturally inferiority of women and minorities to white males. These beliefs are archaic, but have been embedded into the psyches of many Americans.

Affirmative action is not rooted in this doctrine nor does it promote it. Instead, affirmative action recognizes that it is beliefs, such as those mentioned above, and the stratification of wealth and power, which is largely due to the historical oppression of many groups - that keeps women and minorities at a disadvantage in our society. Also, the biological and cultural inferiority doctrines and unfair stratification of wealth and power in this country are the primary causes for past and current racial and gender disharmony.

Another argument against affirmative action states that while the program may have honorable goals, its results are dishonorable because it gives less qualified or even unqualified individuals that extra push into positions that would have otherwise went to a more qualified white male.

The assumption that affirmative action recipients are less qualified then their white and/or male counterparts springs from racist ideology of inferiority or at best misconceptions about the way affirmative action is implemented.

Affirmative action does not force any institution to accept or hire a set number of minorities or women. There is no quota system. Affirmative action programs that had quotas were deemed unconstitutional and had to be done away with. Instead, affirmative action makes organizations show that a good effort to recruit minority and women for positions was made.

Another popular argument for opponents of affirmative action is that the success of groups like Jewish-Americans and Asian-Pacific Americans prove that minorities who were oppressed can become successful without programs like affirmative action.

Yet, the history of each minority group is unique and the success or failures of one group should not be used to make judgments about the progress of another group.

Ashley Bell, a journalism freshmen, can be reached at bellashl@msu.edu.

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