As a college student, I am very familiar with the grueling process of filling out countless college applications, writing essay after essay, and checking an assortment of boxes asking you questions such as your parent’s income and your race. I have found myself pondering why college admissions factor so much weight on race or ethnicity and whether or not it is fair. It is more than apparent that as our nation grows it has increasingly become a multiracial, multiethnic society. In such a society, is it untenable for our institutions to be sorting students in one pile or another depending on which little box is checked? This is exactly what the debate on affirmative action has been for decades.
Affirmative Action has been implemented since the early 1960’s, and while today it is mostly associated with education, the program was first created by President Johnson in order to make sure that employers with federal government contracts were not discriminating on the basis of race. Today it continues to be aimed at promoting opportunities for defined groups within society. It is often applied in educational and governmental settings to guarantee that minority groups within our society are included in all programs. While the point of creating affirmative action was to stop discrimination in education and the work force, many critics of the program claim it has created discrimination against “non-ethnic” whites and has ironically made it now more difficult for them. Critics feel that the policy gives an unfair head start to some in an otherwise fair race. Supporters on the other hand feel that affirmative action is one of the most efficient and successful tools for restoring the injustices caused by earlier historical discrimination against people of color and that it is not about giving an advanced start to anyone but about removing certain barriers that blocked the pathways of opportunity that only some faced and others didn’t.
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