Friday, February 20, 2009

The problem with affirmative action

A viewpoint on affirmative action by a high school kid of Indian descent in the Tucson Citizen (USA).

Imagine a business owner interviewing people for a high-profile job. After meeting with numerous applicants, the owner narrows the list of potential employees to two: a white male and another person.

This second person belongs to a minority group, but apart from racial differences, the two final candidates are identical. Whom should the business owner hire?

According to affirmative action, the minority candidate should be offered the job.

Ponder for a moment what would happen if the owner were to hire the white male. Think about the uproar such a choice would cause.

Civil liberties unions and minority associations would be up in arms, complaining of discrimination.

But it's doubtful that the hiring of the minority candidate would be met with such fierce resistance.

As defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, affirmative action refers to "an active effort to improve employment or educational opportunities for members of minority groups and women."

Herein lies the problem. Affirmative action is based on the belief that members of minority groups are inherently underprivileged and therefore, in order to compensate for their inferior positioning, must be given certain advantages.

Black journalist and media consultant Deroy Murdock explains this fundamental flaw in logic, saying, "The underlying philosophy behind affirmative action is the notion that blacks and Hispanics (and other minorities) aren't that smart and aren't prepared . . . (so we) must help. . . . That's where affirmative action programs come from."

Thus, while affirmative action appears on the surface to be a mechanism against racism, under further scrutiny it emerges as a system based on racism itself.

Proponents of affirmative action argue that the current system is necessary in order to combat discrimination.

Nancy Stein, editor of the journal CrossRoads, argues that "White people . . . have received preferential treatment for hundreds of years without being stigmatized for it," and affirmative action helps make up for this fact.

But wrongdoing in the past should not be compensated for by committing the same crimes in reverse in the present.

While it is certainly true that racism still runs rampant and must be dealt with, it makes little sense to fight discrimination with discrimination.

Black economist Walter Williams sums up the insulting nature of affirmative action beautifully, saying it "is demeaning in many ways, and even those who support it, would find it insulting if told that the reason they have a job is because of affirmative action."

A person who receives a job offer due to affirmative action would hardly feel as if he or she deserves the offer on merit, but rather would think of the selection as a function of race or gender.

Why is it assumed that we need to help minorities achieve success by giving employers extra incentive to hire them?

As University of California Regent Walt Connerly says, "People are competing very well on their own without preferred programs, and (unfortunately) they carry the burden of people saying they got there by preference . . . It is time that we allow those people to walk with dignity."

As a person of Indian descent, I don't believe myself to be disadvantaged or inferior to any white person purely because of my race, and I therefore find affirmative action absolutely unnecessary.

I would like to forge my own path without the artificial help of a flawed system.

The fact is that here in America, we will never be true to the ideal that "all men are created equal" until we truly treat all people equally, without giving anyone preferential treatment, whether male or female, white or black, young or old.

Affirmative action seems a fantastic idea in principle - it is certainly desirable to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.

In practice, however, affirmative action is flawed for three major reasons:

1) It is highly insulting to women and minorities to be considered inferior and in need of extra help;

2) it undermines merit, for the sake of racial diversity, as the primary criterion for being offered a particular position; and

3) it is essentially reverse discrimination.

It's about time we did away with it.

Ravi Ram is a senior at Catalina Foothills High School

3 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

"White people . . . have received preferential treatment for hundreds of years without being stigmatized for it,"
from whom have we received it?

As an Irish person living in South Africa I am discriminated against -even though during apartheid Ireland was a pretty damn poor place- because I am white, irrespective of my not being South African. Non-white immigrants to SA are treated as 'previously disadvantaged' whether they come from China, Zim or Somalia. Why?

Anonymous said...

What affirmative action in South Africa is really about is that blacks want whites out of the formal sector so that blacks can't be shown up to be inferior to whites as there will be no whites to compare themselves with.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I don't understand the concept of "reverse racism", please could someone explain it to me?

As a White African, I've been a vicitm of Racism for my entire life. Could "reverse racism" mean that now they will stop being racist towards me? I just don't understand how you can reverse something like "racism".