Is Affirmative Action 'Fair?'

Elizabeth Panter, Opinion Editor

There is one unifying factor for most 17 and 18 year-olds: college. Whether it’s waiting for a letter of acceptance or rejection, boosting up standardized test scores, or narrowing down to their top choice for their further education, for centuries across the world, but especially in the United States, oppressed groups have been- well, oppressed. If someone is not a white, straight cis (identifying as the gender you were assigned based on your sex organs). male, then chances are those people will have a difficult time. And those difficulties are very evident in the college process. Non-white people may have trouble getting into college because of financial aid or other reasons. Whether or not they should receive special treatment when it comes to colleges is a very big debate.
You have two sides of a coin. These groups have dealt with oppression and hardship, shouldn’t they have preference? Then again, why should a white guy be denied for his race when he may have better grades than another guy who’s black? This can develop into an ethical issue because most would think the most qualified people be accepted. Then again, minorities may not have the same opportunities prior.
“Being a minority comes second to actually like, your grades or your ACT scores,” Senior Patrick Marcus said. “You’re defined as a person before you’re defined as your minority status.”
Whether race should be a factor is up to debate. In 2009, Abigail Fisher brought a case against the Supreme Court about her rejection to University of Texas, which considers race as part of their decision making for applicants. This decision making does not apply to the top 10 percent of the state’s graduating class and Fisher, a white woman, missed the ten percent cutoff. The case ruled in favor of University of Texas and Fisher did not attend school there. If the university did not know her race, she may have been admitted based on all other charges.
“I think you have to say that [race] is one of the factors that admissions committees will look at when determining who they want to admit because they are not looking to be all of one race, or school of thought, they want to build communities that are more reflective of society in our world,” SA College Counselor Dunnigan said. “Can one’s racial background be a benefit in admission? Yes. And as we know from the case against Harvard put forward by Asian-American families can one’s racial background be potentially held against them or a negative, the people in that lawsuit would say yes.”
“The Harvard case asserts that the university’s admissions process amounts to an illegal quota system, in which roughly the same percentage of African-Americans, Hispanics, whites and Asian-Americans have been admitted year after year, despite fluctuations in application rates and qualifications,” Anemona Hartocollis and Stephanie Saul state in an article for The New York Times.
“Let’s not forget that you have legal precedent the United States called affirmative action, which does give the ability to things like businesses and colleges to take into account one’s racial background,” SA College Counselor Colin Dunnigan. “And colleges will use that as part of their admission process to determine who they will and will not admit.”
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary says the definition of affirmative action is “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women.” LGBT+ people could fall into this group.
Carl Cohen, in his speech at the Heritage foundation in 1998, states, “‘Affirmative action” has long had many meanings. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorized courts to take ‘affirmative action’ to uproot racially discriminatory practices. That objective was, and remains, morally right. But that same statute forbade race preference; it is morally wrong. Affirmative action and race preference are thus plainly distinguishable; the former (in its original sense) is right and lawful, the latter is neither.”
“Racial discrimination is wrong, no matter the color preferred,” Cohen said. “We begin to transcend racism when we stop the practice of every form of it, by every public body, now. To give favor to males or to females, or to whites or to blacks or to persons of any color, is morally wrong because doing so is intrinsically unfair. Color, nationality, and sex are not attributes that entitle anyone to more (or less) of the good things in life, or to any special favor (or disfavor). When, in the past, whites or males did receive such preference that was deeply wrong; it is no less wrong now when the colors or sexes are reversed.”
“Let’s not forget about 55 years old, it took one very brave black man [James Meredith] to open up our flagship university to people who look like him,” Dunnigan said. “That’s sad. So we’re only 55 years approximately removed from that.”
Does giving affirmative action towards minorities count as discrimination? Affirmative action would be giving minorities chances that in the past they would not have access to.
“You need to look at every applicant from the context who they are, as where they went to school, what the family background is, what difficulties they may have faced growing up compared to others, and ultimately decide whether that individual can be successful within your college community,” Dunnigan said. “And what we know is that students who come, especially first generation minority students who go to college, the trajectory of their life is changed dramatically through the attainment of that degree.”
Affirmative action helps minorities and oppressed groups by giving them more chances and opportunities that they may not have been able to receive otherwise.
“If you are looking for fair and a level playing field in this process,” Dunnigan said. “Good luck.”

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