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Affirmative Action Essay

Many upcoming high school graduates have aspirations of continuing his or her education at a major university. In order to become accepted into a college of one’s choice, he or she must dedicate time and effort to obtain the grades required. People have been taught that through hard work and dedication comes the reward of a better future. Although this seems to be the ideal and just situation, our nation has made the effort to give more equality to the minority groups through affirmative action. At the time when affirmative action was first introduced, it may have been the most plausible reparation; however, many Americans in both majority and minority groups are feeling the repercussions of the act. Affirmative action has evolved into a roadblock for hard-working students who strive for a good education more than it has helped the minority groups (“Negative”). Affirmative action was adopted to create opportunities for minority groups but, in turn, has created reverse discrimination and preferential treatment in college admissions.

There is evidence to show affirmative action has not met its expectation, but first, its history will help to give a better understanding. Affirmative action by definition, according to WordNet 2.0, is a policy designed to redress past discrimination against women and minority groups through measures to improve their economic and education opportunities. The United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit segregation in public accommodations and discrimination in education and employment. Afterward, on “September 25, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order #11246, which required federal contractors to take ‘affirmative action’ to remedy past discrimination against African Americans” (“United”). Without realizing it, President Johnson took part in a very discriminating act. The Civil Rights Act passed during a time when minorities felt as though they deserved retribution for the many years of suffering they endured.

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America’s effort to rectify this led to affirmative action, which allows women and minorities not to be overlooked in college admissions. Many see this as a step toward the end of racism; however, many Americans, including those of minorities, view affirmative action as an “. . . attempt to end discrimination with discrimination” (“Affirmative”). Furthermore, it somewhat indicates minorities are incapable of accomplishing such goals on their own. History tells the purpose behind affirmative action, but does the evidence prove its failure? “Reverse discrimination” is often the choice phrase many people use to describe affirmative action. In an attempt to eliminate racial preference through college admissions, the government, unintentionally, created a new age of discrimination. An example of the reverse discrimination is in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in which a white applicant was denied admissions because of the race (“History”). “. . . when colleges judge an application by which box is checked under race, this is distinguishing the feature of each applicant’s race, which is by definition, racial discrimination, . . .” (“Negative”).

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Another objection to affirmative action is the research done to prove it is preferential treatment. Before the affirmative action law was passed, the percentage of minorities enrolled in college was 4.9 percent. The percentage grew about 2 percent every ten years after 1970; however, in 1995, the portion of black students attending college had dropped to 25 percent below that of white students (Eisaguirre 93-94). As evidence to show racial preference is used when considering an applicant into college, Lynne Eisagiurre states the following:
A study published in the November 1992 issue of Academic Medicine shows that minorities with low-grade point averages and low Medical College Admissions Test scores will in most years find a medical school that will accept them about 30 percent of the time, whereas whites with the same credentials will get in about 15 percent of the time. ( 95)

Not only is preferential treatment a disadvantage to those of the majority group, it affects those among the minorities as well. It has become an ongoing complaint with the minorities, generally African Americans, that “one of the most troubling effects of racial preferences for blacks is a kind of demoralization” (Steele 573). The use of affirmative action sends out a message to all of America that minorities need all the help they can get in order to be successful. This is not true. Minorities are very well capable of possessing a successful future without the aid of the government. As Steele explains it, “preferential treatment is an implied inferiority” (573). Another example is the grounds on which affirmative action was created. It was developed to right a wrong, in other words, an attempt to eliminate gender and racial bias in America by compensating for the past. Therefore, it makes minorities think of themselves as a victim of “past victimization” rather than seeking achievements based on their hard work (Steele 578). Affirmative action does not mend the inhumanities of the past. Perhaps society could better serve these minorities by lending a helping hand to those who seek success but are not in the position to achieve such goals on their own (“Affirmative”).

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On the other hand, there are those among the American population who agree with affirmative action. It has been argued that with affirmative action the less advantaged minorities are offered a chance at an educational future, whereas without it, most would not be admitted into a university. With this offer, minorities are given a positive influence. Also, it brings diversity into the classroom, subjecting students to interact with their peers in hopes of becoming more open-minded. Celia Wolfe-Devine emphasizes minorities will contribute to students and act as role models through the continuance of affirmative action (79). In an effort to create an opportunity for minority groups in college admissions, affirmative action has caused an adverse reaction with reverse discrimination and preferential treatment. While affirmative action has opened the door for minorities, at the same time it has closed the door for nonminority groups that otherwise qualify but are left out because of race. In conclusion, affirmative action should be discarded and admissions should be based solely on the individuals’ qualifications. Without gender or race being the main qualifier for admissions, the graduating rate would increase as well as the quality of life on campus.

Works Cited

  • Eisaguirre, Lynne (1999). Affirmative Action: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 29 November 2004 from <http//>. p. 93-95.
  • Hoffman, Chelsea. “Affirmative Action–Moral Compensation or Reverse Discrimination?” The Colby Reader. Colby College. 26 November 2004. <
  • “Negative Action by our Universities.” 26 November 2004. <
  • Steele, Shelby. “Affirmative Action: The Price of Preference.” The Longman Reader. Ed. Linda Stern. New York: Pearson Education. p. 571-575.
  • “Supreme Court of the United States: Affirmative Action.” Microsoft Encarta Multimedia
    Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2003.
  • “United States (History): Affirmative Action.” Microsoft Encarta Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2003.
  • Wolfe-Devine, Celia. Diversity and Community in the Academy: Affirmative Action in Faculty Appointments. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.
  • WordNet. CD-ROM. Vers. 2.0. Princeton University: 2003.
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