I’m brown, let me in. The case of Affirmative Action

ImageI am the product of affirmative action.

It has gotten me in front of people who I never would have seen, to plead my case on why I was more than qualified to be part of their world. I’ve won some of those arguments. Others I’ve lost. But I’ve never once thought that I didn’t deserve to win the arguments I did.

Maybe because I see affirmative action as a double-edged sword.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 to kick the decision on whether race can be used for admission back to the lower courts. It’s up to them now to decide if admission based on race is okay or if it’s an antiquated means to ensure diversity.

This is how that sword swings one way:

The original point of affirmative action was a chance. That’s it. To give those who needed the opportunity to take advantage of it, grasp it with both hands. What they make of that opportunity is completely up to them. For a person like me, it’s perfect. It’s not that I’m smarter, faster, or better than anyone else; it’s that I’m just as capable as anyone else. I can do this job/classwork/etc and I’m worthy of the respect of at least being considered.

The problem comes when affirmative action is used as the sole reason for admission or for granting a job. That’s like saying I’m just going to buy red fruit for the summer because I’m deficient in strawberries. There is a balancing act, a talent, to recruiting. Affirmative action should be one, not the only, way to recruit for diversity.

Here’s the other way the sword swings:

Because of this laziness, there are some who don’t deserve to walk in the door, much less be considered. Newsflash: Just because they’re a so called “minority” doesn’t mean they are qualified.  And it’s okay to say that. Really.

There has been may times where I’ve walked into a situation where I know I’ve been invited to the table because I fulfill two quotas –black and Latina–not because I was qualified. It’s during those times that I feel the worst and wonder whose spot did I just take who really deserved to be here?  That does nothing for me and the humble cause of diversity, it weakens it and makes it into a farce.

It’s also disrespectful me and the work I do.

Let’s also consider this. Now that I’m older and have seen other affirmative action grantees come behind me, I see a generation who has always had this at their disposal. They expect to be given things because of the color of their skin, not because they earn the opportunity. The result I’ve seen is sub par workers and students and heartbreak when they have to be escorted out the door.

Then what is the solution? Affirmative action or not? You solve this by answering a couple of questions.

  • Are there schools that are underfunded?
  • Are there schools that are drop out factories?
  • Are there schools that don’t have highly qualified teachers?
  • Are these schools in mostly brown, black, and poor neighborhoods?

Then we need affirmative action because there will always be need of an opportunity for people who didn’t think they deserved one.

I argue that the problem is in the implementation of it, that it is used as the factor and not one of the factors to employment and college admissions. The goal should simply be this: will this person be successful? How would we help them to become successful? If the answers to these questions are unsatisfactory, move on.

You and they will be glad you did.

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