As originally articulated, affirmative action programs were supposed to seek out and retain minorities in the workforce and colleges. There is nothing the matter with this if only everyone had stuck to the game plan. Unfortunately somewhere along the line affirmative action turned into a game of preferential treatment and (wink..wink) quotas with the ostensible goal of making the workforce or student body reflect society at large. There is just one major logistical problem- the pool of qualified blacks for the police department or that college may not exist.
We can argue all we want about the causes for that lack of qualified individuals, but that argument does not solve the problem. No one on the Right denies that racial discrimination did not exist in the past or that it exists today. The differences may be in the extent and the depth of discrimination, or the location of that discrimination. Years later, the South is still seen as a bastion of intolerance and racial animus, but a sober look indicates that racial discrimination is perhaps more pervasive outside the South.
In fact, this pervasiveness of discrimination is the main rationale for continuing affirmative action programs. But this is like the chicken or the egg problem. Do we allow substandard minority applicants into college simply because of their skin color? Do we lower the standards for police officer applicants in the hopes of increasing the pool of possible minority applicants? Or do we try to address the problem at the deeper level and increase the academic achievement and high school graduation rates of minorities? It would seem this latter strategy would be the best path forward and it does not involve throwing more taxpayer money at failing public schools.
Perhaps the best solution as concerns college applications is to leave demographic information off of the actual form. Or if there is to be any demographic information to be considered perhaps the better criteria would be family income status. The current systems are unfair to more qualified applicants. Regardless, even in minority communities there are diamonds in the rough to be found. The affirmative action should be to search out these diamonds.
Furthermore, no one denies that diversity in the workforce or a student body is undesirable. Diversity has its advantages by exposing people to different people with different experiences and worldviews. In this way, stereotypes and prejudices can be disproved and broken down. The question is to what degree do we sacrifice quality for the sake of diversity?
Proponents of affirmative action as currently practiced insist it is necessary to rectify the wrongs of the past and provide a hand up to minority job and college applicants. Regarding that “rectify the wrongs of the past” argument, some people are under the mistaken impression that Jim Crow is alive and well and that the Civil War was never fought. This is sometimes taken to absurd extremes like the CIA being behind the crack epidemic that once seriously plagued the black community. If affirmative action is the vehicle to rectify past wrongs, then why has it not succeeded? Given the low test scores and graduation rates, high teenage birth rates, high unemployment rates and high incarceration rates for blacks that persists today, one would have to conclude that affirmative action has failed miserably.
But there are those who insist on it not to rectify the wrongs of the past but as compensation for those wrongs. The unfortunate truth behind this attitude is that many, many people who had absolutely nothing to do with those wrongs become the victims of this compensation system. As many of us learned many years ago, two wrongs do not make it right. In fact, those who subscribe to this view are simply endorsing a stealth rendition of slavery reparations.
Some also insist that affirmative action remain since it ensures minorities are given a fair shot. But what could be more fair than just not knowing the color of an applicant for college? I fully understand that is virtually impossible for job applicants since they have to be interviewed personally. But simply hiring someone because of their skin color makes no sense.
Like an entitlement program, once a program is started it is difficult to end. That was the gist of a recent Supreme Court case involving the Michigan public college system. Chief Justice John Roberts seemed concerned about what he termed “critical mass-” at what point do we determine that the goals of the program have been achieved? And once achieved, how do we keep them there? The answer seems to be that we just keep it for eternity according to the civil rights industry.
Of course, there are the obvious assertions of reverse discrimination. If it was wrong against minorities, it is equally wrong against majorities. Again, two wrongs do not make a right. And it certainly exists. In fact, the number of complaints submitted to the EEOC for workplace violations involving reverse discrimination have steadily increased since the 1990s. Those on the other side of the issue will argue that reverse discrimination cannot exist since a group in a position of relative power cannot be discriminated against. This social policy splitting of hairs comes as little consolation to non-minorities who have been denied a job, a promotion, or acceptance to a college.
And it makes intuitive sense to believe that affirmative action programs, as practiced, certainly do lower standards at times. Perhaps if everything is equal the minority should be given the benefit of the doubt and extended that helping hand. But unfortunately and for whatever reason, not everything is equal. Suppose the cut off point for qualification for a job on some test is 1,000 points. The minority applicant scores a 1000 while a white one scores 1,005. If taking only one applicant, the one who scored the 1,005 should get the job, admission or promotion. But that is not how it works and this is a lowering of standards no matter how one cuts it. It leads to some bizarre and bad business decisions and college admissions. Sorry, but remedial math and literacy courses should not even be offered in colleges.
And gaining admission, a job or a promotion simply by virtue of one’s sex, or skin color, or ethnicity certainly sullies that admission, job, or promotion. Receiving any of these things because you were given a leg up or extended a helping hand (no matter the motivation) does a serious disservice to the recipient of the social engineering experiment. Is it any reason minorities feel alienated on college campuses? Obviously there are qualified minority college, job and promotion applicants out there and colleges and employers should do everything to engage in outreach to these communities. Affirmative action means taking affirmative action to do so; it does not mean a lowering of standards for the sake of diversity.