In January 2014, US Senator Ed Hernandez of California proposed an amendment to repeal part of California's Proposition 209, which, enacted in 1996, ended the long-standing state affirmative action program in education, public employment and government contracting.
was a legislative solution introduced in the 1960s to counteract institutionalized discrimination. According to Tanner Colby of Slate (“The massive liberal failure on race
”, Feb 10, 2014), the affirmative action
, signed into law by President Kennedy, was actually enforced by President Nixon, who used this as “an almost hopeless holding action at best” as he did not want “to have the goddamn country blow up” when American was having riots in multiple cities.
In theory, the affirmative action
should have helped people to need no extra help after some time. What it actually did is to reap the best of “discriminated” groups, without sowing and nurturing for the rest of the groups. The action may have actually weakened groups. When Mr. Hernandez proposed the amendment, the Daily Californian defended such rolling back of the ban on the ground that enrollment for “staggering drop” in enrollment for certain minority groups since 1996 (“Reverse California’s ban on affirmative action”
, Feb 6, 2014). If affirmative action
had helped after decades of implementation, there would not have been such a fast drop. This drop happens because affirmative action
is a crutch that has been used when other methods should have been applied for healing and recovery. Repealing parts of the ban is to create a better crutch when crutches are no longer solutions.
However, methods such as affirmative action only help politicians earn quick and easy political scores-hence their enthusiasm for them - they are really manifestations of streetlight effect, a type of observation bias where people only look for whatever they are searching by looking where it is easiest.
Assigning a quota at the college entrance level is a much easier thing to do, compared to the considerably tougher tasks to systematically remove hurdles to fairness and equality in the more formative years of an individual’s growth, especially resources that can be committed at the K-12 levels. Such effort, however, will be harder, and it will not show immediate results for political gains.
Using affirmative action during college admission causes more issues than those it is designed to address. Racial quota system is sometimes used in college admission to increase student diversity. If diversity has to be gained by sacrificing principles such as equality, we have reason to doubt the true value of such diversity. A society should not reward things a person cannot change, such as skin color. It is better to reward things a person can change, such as commitment, perseverance, creativity and hard work. You get what you reinforce.
More importantly, the affirmative action is creating new types of discrimination.
Cases such as Fisher vs. University of Texas should have taught us that the affirmative action has an innate irony, that, in the name of equality, members of certain groups are actually held back so that members of other groups can have a head start in the game.
Qualified members from “majority” groups lose in college admissions due to point systems that automatically award bonus points for “minority groups”, even though, as Dr. Ben Carson so eloquently argues in Washington Times (“Beyond affirmative action to colorblindness
”, Feb 18, 2014), a child raised by accomplished parents from a minority group may get extra help while a white child from a problematic family is penalized, even if the latter has overcome greater adversity.
The "minority" label itself is also problematic and discriminating. When California Senate passed SCA-5 to repeal parts of the Prop209, Asian groups see this as an effort to unfairly punish Asian-American based on race. This is creating new wrongs for one group to sustain an illusion of paying for past wrongs for other groups.
It is condescending to assume that some groups are not equally competitive as other ones, which is racial discrimination of a new kind. All groups should depend only on personal character, hard work and other qualities within an individual’s control to win in educational competitions, rather than privileges they automatically enjoy simply by being part of a particular group. California’s proposal symbolizes a significant step back in time. As a matter of fact, more states should consider banning the use of Affirmative Action and move on to find real interventions to help each and every child, from any group, to have an equal chance of being competitive as they grow. To achieve true fairness, a society may start from the obvious: by being fair to everyone.