Affirmative action is preventing equality

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (U-WIRE) — There is no doubt that the topic of affirmative action arouses a heated debate within the Utah university community. Some cite their opinions without properly addressing the historical and fundamental elements of the issue. Others take these opinions as direct attacks on their person and everything they believe in. One element that many of these rhetoricians tend to overlook is the true basis of the issue.
When originally introduced by the Kennedy administration in the ’60s, affirmative action policy was, at the time, a seemingly valid response to a legacy of racial subjugation and segregation in the United States. Its purpose was to temporarily remedy this country’s racial history by attempting to infiltrate minorities into the work place and into middle-class, white society. After two centuries of slavery and another subjected to Jim Crow laws, some type of action was needed, and legislation aimed at reconciling racial equality seemed like a logical approach.
However, just as specified in its original invention, the merits of this legislation were only temporary. Within 10 years, affirmative action degenerated to a system of quotas and inequality that has actually escalated racial and gender tension in this country.
One might ask what affirmative action actually affirms. The contemporary effects of this legislation deviate tremendously from its original purpose. Its current status is the arbitrary establishment of hiring quotas, business contracts and quotas for university admissions which may or may not distribute privilege to women and minorities.
Contemporary racial tension is clearly exhibited by the debate that occurs today regarding this issue. The fact that society continues to debate an originally temporary decree that began nearly 30 years ago is evidence of its fatal flaws. But, when we debate this issue, does anyone truly examine its merits and defects, paying careful attention to all sides? Generally that answer is no. This is an issue that evokes emotion and very biased opinions from both sides and rarely leads to any sort of conclusion.
On ethical grounds alone, most people would agree with such a policy, although many would question the wisdom of enforcing it by law. However, the true spirit of affirmative action is actually much different than its literal meaning. It is based on the idea of socioeconomic equality; that access to certain basics is the right of all Americans. It is foolishly presumed that these rights should be allocated to women and minorities for the reason that they were victimized by white males in the past, and because of the ignorant assumption that they cannot compete in the future without special treatment.
Distributing justice in a haphazard manner does not do anything to an epidemically racist and sexist culture.
As a woman, I take offense to the assumption that I require special help to excel in life. When being considered for a position or award, a progressive woman should want nothing more than to be evaluated and rewarded solely based on her merits and intellect, not by virtue of being a member of a historically classed inferior sex. It is insulting to be favored in this way, and it only perpetuates a future stigma of inferiority for women. Minorities should also take offense to this assumption.
Furthermore, when an unqualified woman or minority is placed in a position that he or she cannot perform well in, this person’s failure only provides incorrect confirmation of the inadequacy of their race or gender.
The most atrocious flaw of affirmative action is its exclusivity to those who are already elite. Graduate students, qualified job applicants and business owners are in no need of favoritism because they already possess the ability to fairly compete with their nonminority counterparts. To give these people advantage is ludicrous.
A more valid alternative to race- and gender-based favoritism is a move toward class-based affirmative action. Action must begin at the elementary level to provide all students with a quality education. Action should be taken to promote equal pay and equal opportunity for women and minorities. If parents are empowered economically, they will be able to support their families and provide them the basics without relying on government support.
Affirmative action brings about a new kind of racism and hostility which is evident in the campus debate. It creates a somewhat understandable resentment for those who are favored, which springs not from ignorance, but from experience. The generic argument against affirmative action is that it is reverse discrimination. White males claim they are negatively portrayed and victimized by it. In reality, favoritism is not simply transferred from one race to another; all involved end up losing.
Affirmative action is a result of disorderly thinking and an ignorant attempt to bandage tremendous past wrongdoing with an easy way out. Centuries of injustice will never be erased, especially not by future discrimination. A government attempt to regulate the behavior and attitudes of a society will always be a counterproductive failure. The most complex interactions of a culture have never been successfully controlled by even the most totalitarian of societies. Equality requires equal treatment, not the discriminate distribution of privilege.
Ashley Watkins’ column originally appeared in Wednesdays’ University of Utah paper, the Daily Utah Chronicle.