Affirmative Action

2269 WORDS

Affirmative Action
As Nick Catoggio went to his mailbox, he knew that his acceptance letter from

Harvard University had arrived. Although Nick was nervous, he knew that his hard
work in high school had gained him admission into one of the world’s most
prestigious institutions of higher learning. Because of his grade point average
of 4.0 in high school, his numerous extracurricular activities, and a combined
score of 1440 on his SATs, Nick believed that he would almost be guaranteed
admission to Harvard. When he opened the letter however, he was shattered when
he read the words, "We regret to inform you ..." He immediately called his
friend Richard Sahk, who had also applied, to tell him his news and to see if

Richard had received his letter from Harvard. Richard said, "Yeah Nick, I got
in!" Nick was astonished. Richard’s GPA was only 3.7, and he receive a
combined score of 1100 on his SATs. After a long pause he replied, "It’s
because I’m black, Nick," Richard felt bad for his friend. Both he and Nick
had realized that he was accepted by Harvard because of his race. Nick was mad
because he was qualified and didn’t get in; Richard felt upset because he
wasn’t as qualified as Nick but was admitted because of his race. This is an
anecdotal example of one of the many criticisms of affirmative action. In fact,
the whole controversy over preferences based on race and gender has been debated
ever since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. I believe that Affirmative
action should be discontinued, this program is a new kind of discrimination to
counter the past discrimination and this defeats the whole idea of the program.

Affirmative action is defined, as a program ensuring that a predetermined
proportion of jobs or college admissions go to African Americans and presumably,
other minorities and women as well (Woods 102). Also, James Q. Wilson in the
winter 1996 issue of The New Republic takes affirmative action to mean the
selecting of persons based on their group membership (23). Nicholas Lehman
writes that affirmative action today refers to " stuff that helps black
people." By this, he says that affirmative action today has come to mean
everything from "preferential college admissions to the way news is covered
to what's hung in museums to corporate promotional practices" (84).

According to Nicholas Lehman, affirmative action started out as Executive Order

10925. Lyndon Johnson, the incoming vice President asked Hobart Taylor Jr., the
lawyer son of one of his friends, to work on a draft of an executive order that
would ban discriminatory hiring by Federal contractors. Taylor later said that
he "was searching for something that would give a sense of positiveness to
performance under executive order, and I was torn between the words 'positive
action' and the words 'affirmative action.’ . . . And I took 'affirmative
action' because it was alliterative" (40). Even during Johnson's proposal
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issue of racial quotas was controversial.

Said then-Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, "... I know what will
happen if the bill is passed. I know what will happen if there is a choice
between hiring a white man or hiring a Negro both having equal qualifications. I
know who will get the job. It will not be the white man" (Lehman 40). The
people who seek to abolish affirmative action claim that more qualified students
are being displaced by less-qualified students. But there are no more or less
qualified students, only students who can benefit from attending a university
such as Michigan get a chance, and no one knows in advance who they are. The
opinions that accompany the various Supreme Court cases concerning affirmative
action have been perplexing, and, at times, contradictory. Woods Geraldine
referred to the opinions of the justices as pieces of a puzzle that no one,
including the court itself, knows how to solve completely (65). This confusion
is probably the result of disagreement among the justices. Many of the cases
involving affirmative action have been decided by very close votes. Even when
the justices vote the same way, their separate opinions often explain what they
agreed for entirely different reasons. Let’s take the example of the case,

"The Regents of the University of California v. Bakke." On October 12, 1977,
the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear case no.76-811. Both proponents and
opponents of affirmative action waited to hear arguments about whether a white
male, Allan Bakke, should be admitted to medical school at U.C.

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