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Critical Thinking: Affirmative Action

Rebecca Aitken
CAP 9
Green Section
April 30, 2014














Critical Thinking: Affirmative Action


Affirmative action leads to reverse discrimination, degradation of true minority
achievement, and the enforcement of stereotypes; therefore, the American Association of
Affirmative Action must stop allowing affirmative action in higher education admissions.
Affirmative action began in the 1960s as an attempt to end racial discrimination and provide
equal opportunities for minorities (Driscoll). In reality, affirmative action leads to discrimination
against majority students, as well as heightened racial tension. The affirmative action systems
present in the United States today seem to favor African Americans and Hispanics over
Caucasians and Asians. In doing so, these systems violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the
United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Driscoll). Many attainable and
appropriate solutions have been put forward for this problem, but the best would be to simply
stop affirmative action in college admissions.
Although affirmative action had a justified purpose when first put in place, recent history
shows that it is discriminatory and no longer necessary. President John F. Kennedy first set the
idea in motion. Executive Order 10925, signed by Kennedy 1961, mandated that all government
contractors had to “take affirmative action” to hire employees without regard to race (Bailey).
Then, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or
national origin by employers and unions (Cayton). Affirmative Action has made colleges and
universities more diverse, leading them to accept more minorities such as African Americans,
Native Americans, and Hispanics, but the means in doing so have been unconstitutional.
Originally, racial quotas were put in place by some schools. After the Supreme Court decided
that these systems, designed to stop discrimination, were discriminatory themselves, they were
banned by the Equal Protection clause (Smith). However, the Supreme Court upheld the right to
consider race as one of several factors. In most states, colleges and universities today are still
allowed to consider race in admissions.
Affirmative action is unfair to majorities, such as Caucasians and Asians, who, in the
past, have had higher scores than minorities, but have been denied admission in favor of the
minorities (Driscoll). Instead of making peace and encouraging relationships between different
people, affirmative action has heightened racial tensions. When Ronald Reagan ran for president
in 1980, he promised to eradicate affirmative action, referring to it as “a distortion of federal
guidelines,” arguing that “college entrance boards should be color blind” (Bailey). Since then,
affirmative action has been banned in Arizona, California, Florida, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New
Hampshire, and Washington (Smith). These bans helped alleviate discrimination by affirmative
action, but affirmative action is still legal in most states.
Beginning in the 1970s, the Supreme Court heard challenges to affirmative action. One of
the most famous was in 1978, in the Bakke v. University of California case. Alan Bakke was
denied a place in the medical program at the University of California, while minorities with
much lower test scores were admitted (Bailey). The Supreme Court ruled that the school’s
admission system constituted an unacceptable quota, but the school could legally consider race
and ethnic background as a factor in an application. More recently, in 2003, two cases taken to
the Supreme Court challenged affirmative action – Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.
Barbara Grutter was rejected as an applicant to the University of Michigan law school (Driscoll).
Grutter had a 3.81 GPA and a LSAT score of 161. Disturbingly, all black students with similar
scores were accepted, but she was denied. More than 90% of white students in her scoring range
faced rejection as well (Pearson). Jennifer Gratz faced a similar situation. She was denied
admission to the University of Michigan undergraduate program in 1995. Grutter and Gratz both
argued that their rejections violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal protection guarantees
and that they displayed unconstitutional discrimination against whites. All of these cases
demonstrate the reverse discrimination that comes as a result of affirmative action.
Affirmative action negatively impacts both minority and majority students. Many
minority students benefitted by affirmative action admit to “feeling inferior or insecure on
campus,” saying that they feel pressured to work harder to demonstrate that their admittance was
deserved (Driscoll). Sally Driscoll writes, “it is difficult to defend one’s credentials in a system
that mandates quotas.” In the past, Driscoll explains, qualifications for minority students have
been lowered in admissions, leaving them unable to keep up with the demands of college when
they are admitted.
Affirmative action casts a negative light on minority students. It enforces the stereotype
that they are socially and economically inferior, rather than potential leaders of a free and open
society (Pearson). Thus, affirmative action does little to improve racial attitudes, as studies show
(Driscoll). Furthermore, Douglas Kahn, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, writes,
“I have observed from my experience that racial diversity has virtually no effect on educational
quality.” He writes that diversity does benefit student life outside the classroom, but the benefits
are not substantial enough to justify a race and ethnicity-based admissions program.
There are many steps that can be taken to remedy the problem of affirmative action. The
first potential solution would be to increase funding for primary and secondary education in low-
income school districts (Driscoll). Doing so would allow students who receive inferior education
to acquire a greater education, which in turn would allow them to be more academically prepared
for college admissions. Encouraging more extracurricular opportunities would also help solve the
problem, as this would enrich the students’ academic lives and make them more interested in
learning. By focusing on improving schools in low-income areas rather than on aiding certain
minority groups, the government would also be insuring that certain groups are not discriminated
against, and those who truly need help are getting it.
Another way to fix the problems caused by affirmative action programs would be to
reform them so that race is not the primary criteria. In other words, the affirmative action
programs could change to have a greater emphasis on socioeconomic factors. This solution
would “reach many minorities while offering equal opportunity to all races and ethnicities”
(Driscoll). It is mindless to assume that all minority students are in need of help, but
unquestionably, a percentage of them are. However, many Caucasian and Asian students are
disadvantaged as well. Race-based affirmative action systems could be reformed so that all
disadvantaged students are given increased opportunity, rather than just minorities (Driscoll).
The ultimate way to fix affirmative action systems would be to simply remove them.
Affirmative action was put in place primarily because of racial discrimination, but since its
establishment, racial discrimination has evolved from what it was, becoming much less
prominent. Affirmative action, in reality, is no longer needed. Driscoll writes, “all should be
treated equally and given the same opportunities.” In conclusion, programs that set quotas for
minority groups are discriminatory and should be phased out (Driscoll).
If affirmative action in higher education admissions is not stopped, there will be a great
deal of repercussions. First, colleges and universities will continue violating the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, through assigning education points systems that are strictly based on race. Pearson
writes, “affirmative action strictly seeks to turn the tables between the supposed oppressors and
the oppressed, thus violating the very heart of the Civil Rights Act and the intent of its original
sponsors.” Secondly, if affirmative action continues, funding that could be used for better
purposes will be wasted. The true inequality among college and university applicants is that of
financial need, and funds would be better spent on helping these students. Finally, if affirmative
action continues in higher education, immigrants would receive benefits, rather than the
minorities for which affirmative action was founded. Affirmative action was designed to benefit
the disadvantaged descendants of American slaves. A study conducted by Douglas S. Massey,
however, shows the 41 percent of blacks at Ivy Leagues are not American blacks, but rather
immigrants (Driscoll).
Affirmative action has allowed colleges and universities to be more diverse, but it has
also caused reverse discrimination and degraded true minority achievement, which enforces
negative racial stereotypes. Affirmative action is simply not necessary for the United States
today, as racial attitudes have evolved since the time when affirmative action was put in place. If
affirmative action is not stopped, funds that could be put to a better use will be wasted, minority
students that do not need help will receive unnecessary support, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
will be violated. Therefore, the American Association of Affirmative Action must stop allowing
colleges and universities to consider race in admissions.


Works Cited
Bailey, Ellen. "Points of View: Affirmative Action." EBSCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
<http://web.b.ebscohost.com/pov/detail?sid=d3dbd16f-4ff4-4d6c-94e5-
2a490c3b1d7b%40sessionmgr198&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9cG92LWxpdmU
%3d#db=pwh&AN=22826484>.
Cayton, Andrew. Modern American History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.
Driscoll, Sally, and Heather Newton. "Affirmative Action is Unjust and Increases Racial
Tension." Points of View: Affirmative Action (2013): 2. EBSCO. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
Kahn, Douglas A. "Supreme Court Must Realize Affirmative Action Doesn't Improve
Education." The Christian Science Monitor (2013): n. pag. Global Issues in Context.
Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <http://find.galegroup.com/gic/>.
Pearson, John. "Points of View: Affirmative Action." EBSCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
<http://web.b.ebscohost.com/pov/detail?sid=79f2a9c6-beaa-4501-9c96-
40c67e54e376%40sessionmgr110&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9cG92LWxpdmU
%3d#db=pwh&AN=12416114>.
Smith, Patricia. "Supreme Decisions (NATIONAL)(The United States Supreme Court to Hear
Cases Related to Freedom of Religion, Campaign Finance and Affirmative Action)." New
York Times Upfront 27 Oct. 2013: n. pag. Global Issues in Context. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.




Annotated Bibliography
Bailey, Ellen. "Points of View: Affirmative Action." EBSCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
<http://web.b.ebscohost.com/pov/detail?sid=d3dbd16f-4ff4-4d6c-94e5-
2a490c3b1d7b%40sessionmgr198&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9cG92LWxpdmU
%3d#db=pwh&AN=22826484>.
This article tells a great deal about the history of affirmative action. It will be very useful
in helping me discuss the foundation of the issue.
Cayton, Andrew. Modern American History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.
This textbook is about Modern American History. It gives me good historical
information, including important facts about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other
background information.
Driscoll, Sally, and Heather Newton. "Affirmative Action is Unjust and Increases Racial
Tension." Points of View: Affirmative Action (2013): 2. EBSCO. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
This article provides key information for my first and fourth arguments. I know that it is
credible because it references other sources and states facts, while still offering an
argument against affirmative action.
Kahn, Douglas A. "Supreme Court Must Realize Affirmative Action Doesn't Improve
Education." The Christian Science Monitor (2013): n. pag. Global Issues in Context.
Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <http://find.galegroup.com/gic/>.
This article is written by a college professor, who works at a school where affirmative
action is applied in admissions. The professor, Douglas Khan, shares his point of view on
affirmative action - he opposes it. This source is helpful because it provides beneficial
information, particularly for my fourth argument. Additionally, the fact that that article is
written from the point of view of a professor adds depth to what he has to say, as he has
seen the outcome of affirmative action.
Pearson, John. "Points of View: Affirmative Action." EBSCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
<http://web.b.ebscohost.com/pov/detail?sid=79f2a9c6-beaa-4501-9c96-
40c67e54e376%40sessionmgr110&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9cG92LWxpdmU
%3d#db=pwh&AN=12416114>.
This source not only gives me an all-around overview of the history of affirmative action,
but it gives me critical information to support my arguments about reverse discrimination
and the enforcement of stereotypes.
Smith, Patricia. "Supreme Decisions (NATIONAL)(The United States Supreme Court to Hear
Cases Related to Freedom of Religion, Campaign Finance and Affirmative Action)." New York
Times Upfront 27 Oct. 2013: n. pag. Global Issues in Context. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
This article talks about the court cases that have stemmed from affirmative action.
Additionally, the article was written recently, so it gives me updates on the status of the
issue of affirmative action.