Leveling the playing field

Affirmative action. Two words that often leave a bad taste in many people’s mouths. This seemingly foul concept is actually an idea to support because it seems that no matter how much time passes, people will always find ways to discriminate. Affirmative action is a plan that tries to bring opportunities for those who haven’t had them due to the prejudice that afflicts this country.

President John F. Kennedy first set affirmative action into motion in order to reverse the effects of long term discrimination in the United States. It was meant to include people from minority groups in schools and the workforce in order to create diversity in these environments. And whether some choose to believe it or not, it is working.

Many times, people associate affirmative action with the notion of accepting underqualified students on the sole basis of their race. However,  it was instead started to create a sense of equality in a world where about 72 percent of the U.S. population is white.

In order to give minorities a level playing field with those who have had the upper hand in society for a long time, the environment that affirmative action creates is crucial. Without it, school and workplace racial populations would look very different.

Why we need affirmative action is simple: disparity in standards. Take for example the Florida Board of Education. According to the FBE, about 69 percent of whites meet the reading benchmark while only 53 percent of Latinos and just 38 percent of blacks meet it. With such imbalances in the education system, something must be done to level the playing field.

Affirmative action allows  schools to take this imbalance into account when reviewing a student’s  application so that they are not punished for the disadvantages they have no control over.

Discrimination is still prevalent in society today, as studies show that without affirmative action most universities would have a whopping two percent black student population. It is hard to believe that this percentage reflects the melting pot that America is supposed to be.

We should start questioning whether or not  this is the kind of image we would like to present to the rest of the world: a white dominated domain despite the number of minorities that reside here today. According to Forbes, Carnegie Mellon is one of the most diverse top colleges with 16.5 percent Asian American students and three percent black students.

Reading these numbers is shocking, and it is even more amazing to think that without affirmative action these numbers may be even more skewed than they already are, especially when considering that blacks make up 13.3 percent and Asians about 5.7 percent of the total country’s population, according to the United States Census Bureau. If one of the most diverse private colleges has such amazingly low numbers, most other private schools are abysmal.  

Affirmative action may be painful in the beginning. However,  just like medicine, the idea of affirmative action is a little hard to swallow but the results are beneficial. Although some believe  that such measures to reverse discrimination is not necessary, the numbers tell a different story.