What comes to your mind when you think of affirmative action?
Maybe you see it as a great way to promote diversity and provide equal opportunity education.
Or, perhaps the very phrase leaves you with bad taste in your mouth.
Wherever you stand, the issue of affirmative action in higher education has once again reached the boiling point.
Since 1997, the University of Michigan, particularly its law school, has been under fiery accusations (and lawsuits) for discriminating against qualified white applicants to admit less qualified minority candidates.
On April 1, over two thousand protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. to show their support for affirmative action.
This went on while the Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue.
Its fate won’t be known at least until July.
With the debate that affirmative action fuels, it is important to understand its effects.
Picture this: an Ivy League school that caters to those with family names of power and prestige.
You are taking a class on diversity, yet there is not one non-white person in the classroom.
This scenario is not unlikely, but less likely with the implementation of affirmative action.
We must remember that prior to the 1950s, there were very few schools that allowed blacks to attend.
And, for those who triumphed to integrate this country’s higher learning system, the struggle continues.
Years of bloodshed and persistence made it possible for me to add to the diverseness of Temple University.
So, it is unfortunate that bad associations follow affirmative action.
The use of affirmative action is to promote equal opportunities for those who otherwise would not be considered.
Affirmative action is not and should not be based on a quota system, and anyone who believes in true equality would find a quota system intolerable.
Quoting or capping the amount of minorities in any system is not promoting diversity; it only keeps the majority in control and in power, thereby furthering segregation.
So, how do we promote diversity without looking at race?
This is a question that the Supreme Court justices are taking into consideration.
But there is a major problem with gaining diversity without considering race.
In America, our mindset is very much centered on race.
With media influence, and the lack of effective celebration of diverse cultures in this melting pot called America, we are fed the same institutionalized bias that we know as American His-story.
At this point, most Americans seem unable to look at America without a racial lens.
The notion of gaining diversity on the grounds of socio-economic status is another idea that has surfaced over the past few months.
This may sound like a good means to an end, but it lacks concrete assurance that diversity would be achieved.
If a college is diverse in terms of economic status, but lacks racial diversity because the college only targeted white areas, is that true diversity?
What the future holds for affirmative action is something that cannot be answered with confidence.
However, we must remember that affirmative action does pose problems where its implementation has been abused.
Collectively, though, more benefits than failures have been garnered, especially in providing countless opportunities for the less fortunate, as well as for racial minorities.
But there is a long way to go.
It is discouraging that some people view affirmative action as a method to get less-qualified minorities into the seats of more-qualified white students.
But let us think of the overly qualified minorities who have been denied admissions because of their skin color, who never had an opportunity anything close to equal.
Mosheh M. Gains can be reached at JournalistMG@aol.com.