Does Affirmative Action Perpetuate Racism?

Affirmative Action as we know it has served its original purpose; without revision it will ultimately perpetuate the racism and oppression that it was designed to destroy. The original purpose of Affirmative Action is to provide special consideration for qualified, under-represented women and minorities in education, employment and awarding contracts to compensate for historical and institutional racism, discrimination and oppression by white males.

Even though the face value of this policy appears to give women and minorities a long overdue short cut in the line of opportunities on the ride to their dreams; it is really an illusion of fairness that causes them to forget and overlook who owns the amusement park in the first place. Affirmative Action should not focus on giving under- represented populations short-cuts to the front of the line–but provide them with the psychological and educational tools that will allow them to design their own rides and build their own amusement park.

The current Affirmative Action policy is punitive in nature because it suggests that all white males are powerful, wealthy racists who oppress women and minorities. And if they do not personally have these characteristics, some white male in their family lineage did or will have these characteristics in the future for which they must be punished by exclusion. This policy also assumes that simply because he is a white male, he is automatically intellectually and financially superior to women and minorities. Additionally, everything that he wants will easily come to him without hard work, struggle and sacrifice because other white males in dominate positions anxiously wait to anoint his every desire.

This may be true for a small percentage of white males, but I believe that the majority of people regardless of race or gender have worked extremely hard to achieve their goals and dreams. The key to white male success is not that someone gave them the answers to the bar or college entrance exams, but that they share the same work ethic, identity and level of self-esteem as the people who wrote the exams.

A billion years from today American slavery and the annihilation of the Native Americans still will have taken place in America. How many years, decades or centuries must past before white men will be justly punished for the sins of their fathers? How will we scientifically measure whether or not they have been sufficiently punished for the sins of their father? Will we measure it by the success of women and minorities in comparison to white males; or by the percentage of white males who fail in areas where they were previously successful? Based on the current conditions in American society Affirmative Action does not create a cooperative, cohesive American culture that unites its citizens; but one that is divisive and refuses to learn from the past and most importantly learn to forgive.

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Affirmative Action needs to be a policy that affirms the authentic beauty in all races, religions, ethnic groups and genders to ensure that all qualified applicants including white males are given an equal opportunity based on a “rotational system” that reflects the racial and cultural diversity in America.

The reason that we need some type of Affirmative Action policy is because it is human nature for people to associate with people who think, act, feel and behave like themselves. Look at your friends,(do not include sexual relationships of any sort) how many real friends– not work buddies or colleagues that come to your home for social activities or lunch on occasion– do you have that are from a different race or religion and do not share your belief system? Most people have close friends who are the same race as themselves. There is nothing wrong with having the majority of friends in your personal life who look and think like you; however in a culturally diverse society like America it is essential for our well-being that we have a policy in place that supercedes social and cultural conditioning and personal preferences that creates a work force and educational system that celebrates, cultivates and respects cultural diversity.

I think that Affirmative Action should focus on alleviating the conditions that create or contribute to racism and discrimination in the following manner:

1. We should establish a cultural diversity committee that represents all major systems and departments in education, employment and politics to develop a rotational hiring and acceptance criteria that include all races and genders (including white males).

2. America should declare an official language. Even if it is Spanish or French, I am willing to learn it. One of the reasons that Native Americans and Africans in the slave trade were not successful in defending themselves is because they spoke over 100 (some sources say over 1000) different languages living in close proximity of one another. Because they could not communicate with each other they were unable to plan, vote or organize themselves as an effective community, let alone defense army. Reality is subjective. Language gives people the tools to see, understand and respect each others point of view.

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3. In order to build self-esteem and self-worth in all ethnic groups, we should establish a committee that includes members from all ethnic groups and genders to oversee that all public school textbooks objectively include the contributions of all races and genders for all topics and theories. Freud, Jung, Skinner and Watson are not the only people to contribute to the field of psychology. For example, every text book should include theories from Asian, Hispanic, Arabic, White and African psychologists both male and female. When students see the contributions and success of people who look like themselves, as well as others, they will then learn that success and intelligence is not a physical characteristic of being white or male, but who you are on the inside.

4. There is no such thing as a white person. All people have culture, traditions, and heritages. How can you respect the differences in someone else when you can’t see and respect the unique differences and beauty within yourself?

5. History should be taught objectively and truthfully so that people will learn that being a victim or a hero is not related to skin color but internal integrity and dignity. African Americans should be taught that one of the reasons that the slave trade in America was so successful was because many (not all) African leaders captured and sold their own people into slavery. Europeans were not familiar with the continent and would not have been as successful without the cooperation of native Africans. White people need to know that there were many white people who fought against slavery and lost everything including their lives and families because they felt that slavery was evil. Not all by any means, but it is documented that many Native Americans were successful paid slave catchers because they were most familiar with the land. Learning that all ethnic groups are capable of choosing to do what is right or wrong, will teach people that it is not their skin color that determines their success in life but the choices they make.

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by Cassandra George Sturges