Affirmative action is best available remedy

On Monday night, Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier spoke to students at Coffman Memorial Union on the importance of affirmative action. While some might wish her comments were irrelevant and no longer necessary, the subject of affirmative action remains important.
When Guinier was nominated for head of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice in 1993, President Clinton eventually withdrew her name because of her strong stance in favor of affirmative action. Although that was six years ago, the need for affirmative action has not diminished. Racism is a cancer that feeds on society. If it is not treated, it can eat away at the health of our communities. Minorities in the United States, particularly black youths, still have a much larger chance of growing up in a dangerous neighborhood and of attending a poor school with too few resources. They also have a greater chance of being turned down for a job because of stereotyping and prejudice.
We cannot easily fix all of these problems, but we can do our best to fix some of them. Affirmative action is the best program the United States has come up with to help less privileged individuals have a more fair chance at success.
The goal of affirmative action is not to replace a white-dominant system with a black-dominant system. The goal is not to allow unqualified individuals to enroll at top-rate universities. The goal of affirmative action is simply to create a more level playing field. Contrary to what some believe, it does not require universities to admit minorities who do not meet the standards of the school. It does not force a university to admit a certain number of minorities per year.
Affirmative action does require universities or employers to keep records on the numbers of minorities who work or matriculate at their institution. It also requires employers to document why qualified minorities are turned down from positions. Lots of paperwork, yes — lots of unfairness and “reverse racism,” no.
No cure is perfect, and affirmative action is no exception. Just like chemotherapy causes nausea and hair loss, affirmative action causes some to look down on the achievements of recipients, and it leads some to jealousy. That is very unfortunate, but it is not a good enough reason to eliminate the solution altogether.
Those who are not minorities should reflect on the advantages they receive every day before expounding upon the unfairness of affirmative action. Those who complain that affirmative action makes it look like minorities cannot succeed without government assistance should consider why they so quickly jump to that conclusion.
In a country where more young black men are in jail than in college, affirmative action is still necessary. Racism might not be as obvious as it once was, but it still exists in a more insidious form. Affirmative action is certainly not perfect. It cannot change attitudes, and it sometimes has unwanted side effects. Nonetheless, it is still the best treatment available.