As students begin to apply for colleges and jobs, they may hear of something called affirmative action.
So what exactly is affirmative action?
Affirmative action can best be defined as a system that allows for minorities to have a certain advantage when it comes to applying for jobs and college.
Most of the legislation associated with affirmative action applies to people of color and women.
Some were written to aid people who are disabled, those with low income and other categories that are deemed appropriate.
It is an attempt to address the discrimination that minorities face, by giving them an upper hand. It is also vital in order to make sure that institutions have a diverse population.
The basic ideas behind affirmative action were first thought of during the reconstruction Era because many former slaves did not have the skills to live a sustainable life.
fighting against discrimination led to the Fourteenth amendment, which addresses equality among races, being passed.
The idea was brought up again during the Civil Rights movement.
Eventually, President John F. Kennedy passed an executive order in 1961 that called for employers to not judge based on “race, creed, color, or national origin.”
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed his own executive order which called for an end to employers discriminating based on “race, skin color, religion, gender, or national origin.”
The order also said that employers should seek to hire more racial minorities and women.” Since then, more legislation has been passed, like the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and businesses and colleges have developed processes in order to eliminate discrimination.
In recent years, this has included universities putting racial quotas on students.
This means that each year, a certain amount of students who are not white must be accepted.
This has caused a lot of backlash, with some saying that it is reverse discrimination. Many people argue that it defies people’s expectations of equality.
They also claim that favoring minorities will not help in reversing the damage of discrimination, but will instead create new issues.
“It is a ridiculous concept. I feel like it’s unfair to choose someone based on something other than skill,” junior Josh Boynton stated. “If it were white people who were given a leg up, then there would be an outrage against it. the policies would definitely be deemed racist.”
Opponents also contend that accepted applicants based on factors like race and gender rather than skills decreases the quality of the institution, as they are not as qualified to do the work.
“If a white person has a better GPA and skills, then they should get the opening at a college or job. If a black person has a better GPA and skills, then it should be them who gets the position,” Boynton said.
Proponents of affirmative action say that it helps balance out the discrimination that racial minorities and women faced in the past, and to this day.
They also maintain that affirmative actions hold employers and universities accountable when it comes to needed diversity.
“Affirmative action has been extremely effective at helping minorities,” sophomore Karla Mercado-Dorado said. “Seeing as how discrimination against racial minorities will probably always be a thing in this country, the continues presence of affirmative action would help to at least balance things out.”
Affirmative action is such a heated topic, that cases having to do with it have been brought in front of the Supreme Court repeatedly.
Most recently is Fisher v. University of Texas (2016), in which two white females argued that the university had rejected their applications due to their race.
The Supreme Court voted in favor of the university, saying that it had the right to use race as a factor when considering which applicants to accept, as long as it is for a beneficial reason.
But the Supreme Court has made decisions against affirmative action, too.
One example is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2014).
The case did not a result in a majority vote, but Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a plurality opinion stating that states are allowed to ban affirmative action, and it does not defy the Constitution.
Since that ruling, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington – a total of nine states – have put some sort of ban on affirmative action.
Regardless, it does not seem like there is a nation wide restriction coming soon. Race is still used as a tipping point when dealing with college applications.
“I really hope that President trump does not remove affirmative action,” Mercado-Dorado said. “Because then some people will not have a chance.”