Affirmative action creates equal opportunity for the benefit of all

As the first early admittance letters arrived during the fall, crude comments spread through the school in regards to my friends’ acceptance into college. “She only got in because she is black,” rang through the halls. Students came to me with that same audacity and said, “I don’t know how they got in, I’m really surprised,” and “You have such an advantage because you’re black.” The worst was, “I need to get poor or have some tragedy in my life so I can get in too.” This incident clearly displays the oblivion and ignorance of our student body.

Affirmative action is a broad, controversial and complex term often used incorrectly. How schools are allowed to consider race in admissions varies from state to state and between public and private schools. Some, like UC schools, are not allowed use affirmative action at all. Other schools, including many that Marlborough students apply to, may use different forms of it. Some might directly consider race in choosing students, and some might consider a candidate’s “life experience,” such as what neighborhood they grew up in or what high school they attended, which can be easily tied to race.

I agree with colleges that use it, because it gives opportunities to highly qualified people who might not otherwise get them. The term “affirmative action” has its origin in President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, which established a presidential committee to evaluate equal employment opportunities. One of the main goals of the order was to have the panel recommend action to “promote and ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons, without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.” As Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Affirmative action is the primary tool to promote minorities who have been historically discriminated against. America’s history shows whites enslave and oppress blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities, who suffered through brutal punishments and unpaid labor and who were denied the most fundamental rights of our Constitution. What whites did in the past led to setbacks and challenges for all minorities that still affect us today.

Also, affirmative is about more than cultural minorities – it’s also about gender. Women have been one of the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, so at an all-girls school like Marlborough, we all need to realize that affirmative action helps all of us. Instead of criticizing affirmative action, we should look at the facts and embrace it.

It is NOT reverse discrimination. There is a difference between a majority discriminating against a minority and a majority discriminating against itself. When a majority that controls the decision-making makes a choice to advantage a minority while disadvantaging itself, it’s not discrimination. A better term would be “reduced opportunity,” where a long-lived privileged group agrees to lose some its long-lived privileges.

In reality, a college will not admit a student with a GPA of a 2.0 or a low SAT/ACT scores just because he or she is a minority. When students overcome adversity due to the status of the high school they attended, discrimination, or their other difficult life experiences, they are break stereotypes and the status quo, and they deserve help and a chance to go to a top-ranked college. Also, affirmative action benefits college campuses as a whole. The job of admissions officers is to bring in not just the best academic class, but the most diverse class possible. It would be foolish to believe that a community made up entirely by the same people with the same backgrounds and grades could provide the same range of perspectives as a diverse student body.

I do admit affirmative action is an advantage, but in today’s world it is a necessity. Human nature is to gravitate toward those who look like you and act like you. Members of the majority are unlikely to disadvantage themselves without a policy in place to guide them. Despite the fact that we have a black president, racism and discrimination still exist. Outside of this bubble that we call Marlborough, I have personally been called names, ignored and followed through stores. I receive looks of disbelief and surprise when I say I attend Marlborough, as if I’m not smart enough or don’t have the money to attend such a school. Even on my way to Larchmont, trash and soda cans were thrown at a friend and me by a car of white boys.

It is impossible to put a date on when affirmative action will no longer be needed. Many people believe that today everyone is pretty much equal and are given equal opportunities, but unfortunately this is false. Once a society is built on discrimination, that discrimination is hard to erase. Once a majority with power is created, it defends itself. Once people oppress others and achieve economic superiority, it is hard to change the impact of the wrongs they cause. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a society to reach absolute equality. Until it does, affirmative action is a necessity.

– Jasmin ’10