Understand affirmative action

“You are so lucky you don’t have to pay for tuition because… you know…you’re black.”

“You probably don’t have any problems getting jobs, since employers have to meet their quota.”

“I wish I was a minority, because it so easy for you people to get in to college.”

“It would be tough for anyone else to get accepted, but since you’re a minority it should be easy.”

I wish these statements were a result of my overactive imagination, but they’re not.

Ever since its conception in the 1960s, affirmative action has been a highly debated topic. On one hand, people believed that the policy gave minorities and women equal access to employment and education. On the other hand, people argued that the policy was unfair because it gave minorities and women unequal advantage. Despite the latter argument, President Kennedy and Johnson pushed for affirmative action, making policies prohibit employers from discriminating against minorities and women.

Unfortunately, affirmative action has been said today to be another type of discrimination. This argument has birthed the popular myth that minorities do not have credentials for the jobs they hold but are instead hired solely on the color of their skin. Such interpretation is inaccurate.

For one, affirmative action does not tell businesses to hire minorities because they are minorities. Kennedy wanted employers to use “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and those employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin.” Kennedy invited employers to look at prospective employees’ credentials before dismissing them because of their ethnicity or gender.

For two, affirmative action does not permit minorities and women to get a free ride to college. Affirmative action helps to create more opportunities for minorities and women to pay for tuition, and prohibits universities from rejecting them on the bases of race and gender. The policy causes universities to reach out to underrepresented groups on their campuses. As a result, universities changed their recruitment style and reached out to communities that they normally wouldn’t consider.

Scholarships and grants that are targeted towards minorities and women ensure equal opportunities for students to attend college and be able to pay for tuition. The purpose of these scholarships is to encourage minorities to attend college. There is a socioeconomic imbalance that these scholarships try to make up for. The African-American and Hispanic community have higher rates of poverty than White communities in America with African Americans at 27 percent and Hispanics at 24 percent. It is hard to dream of going to college if you can’t even picture food on your dinner table.

The fact is that it is unacceptable to believe that certain ethnicities or genders are handed opportunities, and that they did not earn the positions they have. The fact is that, in this country, oppression still exists towards minorities and women, and, to reverse it we have to support policies that enforces equality and boldly addresses America’s history of discrimination.

Watts is a senior majoring in English. She can be reached at WattsB@jbu.edu.