When affirmative action first entered the political and social hemisphere, it was a prescient concept used to promote desegregation and equal opportunity among the various races that composed the increasingly diverse United States.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called for employers to select workers without regard to their racial backgrounds, using only their merits to determine employment. In this respect, the original meaning of affirmative action is rooted in the pursuit of equality for all.
But, in modern society, the term’s definition has been distorted to promote preferential treatment for racial minorities based not on merit, but on the color of their skin. This is the definition of racism and removal of the mandate for individual justice.
“Programs like affirmative action aren’t set up for justice, individually or socially, unless you define justice as opportunity rather than equality,” said Jeremy Goodman, a junior political science major and Temple College Republicans member.
When completing college applications, applicants are required to define their racial backgrounds, along with a plethora of other personal information.
But race should not be used to determine if an applicant is qualified for school admission because this removes the meritocracy process that should guide college acceptances.
“You can’t eliminate bias,” Goodman said. “Take away race, religion, ethnicity and sex, and just put grades, scores on your application.”
“There is no reason why someone should be rewarded or not rewarded based on what the race that he [or] she belongs to has experienced as a whole,” said Jordan Laslett, a junior political science major and eastern vice president of Pennsylvania College Democrats.
From the moment that children enter the school system, they are taught that if they work hard and achieve good grades, they will be able to attend college. But, when applying to college, if a white student and a Black student have similar grades, test scores and resumes overall, the Black student may be selected because of affirmative action.
This is a form of discrimination, and it is racist. Choosing one individual over the other, purely based on racial identity, is the definition of racism.
Colleges, employers and other selecting processes should never be in the business of correcting previous social wrongs. They should look to choose the individual most fit for the task — regardless of race.
“It’s good for a university to diversify itself to be more representative of the population,” Laslett said. “But when you add numbers and standards, that’s when universities get into hot water.”
If affirmative action is put into play, it should be based on class rather than race. This furthers the idea of helping an individual due to circumstance, and not a group of people blindly as a whole.
If two students applying to college have similar resumes, but one grew up in poverty while the other was raised in luxury, special consideration should be given to the poorer candidate because it is more difficult to succeed while poor, regardless of race.
In a study conducted by the Federal Reserve in 2014, adults were asked if they grew up worrying about having enough food or a stable caregiver. Of the ones who said yes, more than 50 percent reported financial difficulties at the time. Clearly, these kinds of hardships can impact academic success.
It is critical for society to provide equality for all those applying to college or joining the workforce.
But special consideration should not be given to people who are in a racial minority, and employers and universities should not focus on correcting history’s wrongdoings.