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The Affirmative Action Debate Essay

1866 words - 7 pages

For the sake of this essay, affirmative action in education is defined as: “policies and programs designed to advance equality of educationalopportunity for individuals from groups that have suffered systematic historical discrimination” (Mickelson 29). What is being referred to here is race-based affirmative action, or the act of taking into consideration an applicant’s race in the college admissions process. This is a hot topic all over the United States and has been for quite a while, the debate raging between two sides: those in support of affirmative action and those opposed. The ethics of affirmative action itself are difficult to determine, but here an attempt will be made to prove that affirmative action is indeed unfair. In addition, perhaps people are looking at the wrong issue. Maybe the real problem is the early education gap between the minority and majority students, something that, if fixed, could solve the issue of affirmative action once and for all.
Just to make things clear, because the topic of this is race-based affirmative action, “majority” will refer to the racial majorities in college admissions (mainly whites and to some extent Asians) and “minority” will refer to racial minorities (such as African Americans, Hispanics, etc.) Also, diversity, unless stated otherwise, means racially diverse.
Before any analysis can take place, it is beneficial to first know a little bit about the subject area. With that in mind, the history of affirmative action can be condensed into the basics: Supreme Court cases and major legislation. Civil Rights Act of 1964 got the ball rolling on affirmative action, both in education and in general. Title VI of this Act ordered desegregation of public educational institutions, from elementary all the way up through post-secondary (Moreno 16). In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an Executive Order that required government contractors to take affirmative action in hiring workers. Colleges and universities followed suit and began to use affirmative action in admissions as well (Garrison-Wade and Lewis 24). Following this was a whole slew of court cases, both supporting and condoning affirmative action. There are too many to effectively express here. Still today the debate continues to be fueled from both sides, neither group relenting or compromising.
The two sides in this issue are simple, supporting and opposing, and they need to be well understood before the case against affirmative action can be attempted. Those who support affirmative action have the general argument that it allows disadvantaged minorities to be admitted to universities whereas without affirmative action they would be turned down and would be unable to have any access to higher education (Ogletree). In fact, Mary Ratliff, state and local president of the Columbia, Mississippi NAACP branch, says this regarding affirmative action: “Many African Americans are underprivileged economically due to past inequities. To not...

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