Affirmative action misses the point
Editorial | Supreme Court ruling irrelevant to larger issue of societal injustice
The Supreme Court upheld a decision to ban affirmative action in Michigan’s public universities in a 6-2 ruling last week. The debate surrounding affirmative action is not a new one, and we’re not too surprised by the Court’s decision. But what are the implications of banning affirmative action in a society that is still far from one of racial, economic and social equality?
Ultimately, affirmative action itself is irrelevant. It’s a policy that was put into place as an apologetic, redemptive attempt to make up for a history of oppression toward minority groups in this country, and it’s not working anymore. The question here should not be about whether or not universities should be upholding affirmative action — it should be about what the government is doing to address the issues that disadvantage minorities in the first place. We’re not saying that these centuries of institutionalized racism aren’t still taking a toll on minority groups, but the way we are approaching the issue has to continue evolving if we expect to make any progress as a society. The way we address issues of race can’t continue to be limited to affirmative action in college admissions. That’s not to say that we think it should be banned altogether, but we don’t think there needs to be so much of an emphasis placed on requiring universities to implement it either.
The government should instead consider how it can help students prepare for college in the first place. They should be investing in programs that take practical steps in providing resources and support to give kids a better chance at a strong college application. Camden Adolescents Striving for Achievement, for example, is a youth development program that focuses on providing resources for teenagers growing up in an urban environment. It provides educational support as well as activities for weekends to keep these students on a more structured schedule that ensures a productive use of time, and ultimately helps them stay on track for the opportunities of higher education. The program is small, but it has a 100 percent college acceptance rate this year.
And so affirmative action continues to be, to put it bluntly, a lazy and uninspired way for the government to seem like it is addressing the racial inequalities that continue to plague our society. But the fact is, continuing to simply admit students from racial minority groups out of an obligation to diversity does nothing to actually help their situations and break the seemingly never-ending cycle of social injustice.
We already know that Rutgers does exceptionally well when it comes to diversity — and that’s not just because have been consistently ranked as the most diverse college in the nation. The Undergraduate Admissions Office at Rutgers doesn’t technically implement affirmative action, but because it does such a good job of using a holistic approach to consider every applicant it doesn’t necessarily need to. Rutgers considers every factor of a student’s application, and that does include race and socioeconomic status.
The fact is that affirmative action doesn’t even take any real action to level the playing field for minority communities in this country. It’s a passive policy that does more to make it seem like the government is ensuring diversity and representation in institutions than it does to provide any real solutions to racial and socioeconomic inequality. There ends up being more of an effort by universities to admit a high percentage of African-American or Asian students on paper than there is to ensure that these students are being given fair opportunities in college to do well. Affirmative action is based on the idea that minorities face disadvantages as a consequence of their race that disallow them from succeeding in our merit-based society. And yet, instead of going to the root of this issue, affirmative action just acts as a temporary band-aid that will only get us so far.