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July 06, 2006

Affirmative Action

Originally, I was going to post this as a comment to this post, but while responding to Vivian J. Paige's comment, it started to get a little long, and as I have not commented on affirmative action in a while, I decided to write a full blog post instead.

Affirmative action had its time and place. Certainly, there was a time when it was needed, as this was a segregationalist culture. It was only in the last half century that women and minorities first gained acceptance to the University of Virginia.

However, today there are laws that are strongly against such a culture. People my age (and many older than myself as well) have never lived in a culture that encouraged discrimination on the whole, and could never imagine it taking place.

Women make up a large part of colleges today, more than the majority of students at UVa (in fact, based on the idea of affirmative action, men should be given an advantage for that reason). It is unfortunate that blacks and some other minorities are still not quite getting accepted at a rate similar to their proportion of the population of the United States. But affirmative action is not neccessarily going to help if some of these students are receiving good grades at bad schools. The problem must be fixed at the source.

Some of America's schools are simply not living up to the needs of students, many of these being in urban minority centers and small rural areas. Students who receive good grades at these schools may not necessarily be ready for an advanced education.

And what's worse, minority students who did well at good schools should not have any trouble getting into good colleges. I myself am an ethnic minority, and believe I may have received benefit from it. At times, this really bugs me. Did I get accepted to the University of Virginia because of my merits and abilities, or because my parents did not happen to both be white Americans of European descent? Certainly, I would like to believe it was the former, and I did have to work hard for my diploma, but now I am left with some doubts about myself.

Affirmative action served a purpose in ensuring that students who did not happen to be born white males could get into schools. With that right far from in danger, it is time to eliminate race-based qualifications and artificial quotas. Diversity is a deeper topic than the amount of melanin in a person's skin; it is in ideas and perspectives. Such diversity can be found in the activities and essays listed on a college application, or the employment previously held in a job application. Racial diversity would remain.