Recently, universities, businesses, and many politicians have decided that affirmative action has outlived its usefulness. They argue that it is time for our society to become colorblind, and that affirmative action gives minorities an unfair advantage in getting jobs, entrance into college, or government contracts. But how can our government adopt colorblind policies when its citizens still are handicapped by race? Studies have shown that African Americans, regardless of their financial status, are discriminated against in activities ranging from a job search to going out to dinner.
Prejudice, whether it be subtle or overt, remains. Affirmative action gives minorities a fair chance for success, and this will eventually lead to the end of stereotypes and prejudice.
However, affirmative action alone will not solve the problems faced by minorities. In conjunction with these policies, public education must be improved so that the problems of minorities (mainly African Americans) are attacked both through increased opportunities for jobs and increased qualification for those positions. Affirmative action alone creates a situation in which people may receive jobs solely on the basis of race, but education alone leaves deserving minorities without jobs because of the prejudice of employers. Together, however, these two solutions can end the cycle which traps many minorities. Should affirmative action be a permanent policy? Of course not. Ideally, all government policies would be colorblind. But now, we must continue to work toward "leveling the playing field." Once this has been achieved, affirmative action should be stopped. But it is clear that society does not ignore race, and for the government to abandon affirmative action now would be a denial of the reality of prejudice and an acceptance of the status of minorities in America.
Is it right to say that a person should be hired simply because they are white? If the answer is no, shouldn't we then question the wisdom of mandating that companies hire people simply because they are black? Or female? Or are snazzy dressers, for that matter? Many liberal, open minded people of all colors and genders have begun to say no. They have realized that there is no justice in declaring that it is wrong to fire people on the basis of their color, but wise and fair to hire people for the same reason.
The primary reason for my belief that the affirmative action system needs change is the amount of resentment its programs have created across the board. As the fierce debate surrounding this issue reveals, there is a growing frustration among those not receiving the privileges affirmative action provides. Many such people, when passed over for employment or advancement, have begun to wonder if those who have been promoted received their positions based on their gender or race, as opposed to their merit.
The fact is, America is a nation of great diversity, and while the affirmative action programs were founded on very worthy goals, our nation cannot achieve social equality, or even harmony, by granting privileges to one group over another. Perhaps, instead of having quotas imposed on them, businesses suspected of discrimination could have their hiring practices monitored by an outside official from the government, or be penalized through fines and restrictions.
In the end, the only way we can end discrimination in the work place is by ending discrimination in our nation as a whole. We form our beliefs and opinions as children, and it is with our youth that we need to begin fighting racism and prejudice, If Americans are taught from a young age to cherish diversity, to judge people by their characters, then they will retain these ideals as adults when it is they who run the workplace. In addition, the effects of education are long term, whereas the programs of affirmative action provide only a very temporary solution.
But as important as eliminating discrimination is breaking the cycle of poverty. Minorities often become trapped in America's inner cities, where an impoverished school system leaves children unprepared to compete for quality employment. By improving the educational opportunities offered to these children, we will improve their employment opportunities as adults, and this, combined with a focused effort to eliminate racism, will do more to create diversity in the American workplace than affirmative action ever could.
Affirmative action must not be left as it is, but with a little reform, it can begin working for equality instead of against it. Equal opportunity in the true sense of the word is a concept well within our grasp. We must not be afraid to reach it.
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