The time has come for affirmative action

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Humera Lodhi

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An application to Truman State University, with a place to write gender and race. (Photo by Afsah Khan)

Rich white males still dominate America. In its 237 years as a nation, upper-class white men still control the United States,; our politicians, our economic leaders, even our academic pioneers remain, overwhelmingly, wealthy, white and male. Though discrimination is illegal in America, not enough has been done to fix the inequality suffered by so many for so long.

In order to rectify this wrong,  affirmative action is needed.

 For almost 100 years after America’s independence, slavery remained a central part of American culture and industry. For another 100 years after that, governmental segregation was present in the United States. Racial minorities, especially African- Americans, were not offered the same educational opportunities and as a result, lacked the skills necessary to acquire high paying jobs and fell into poverty.  Their children lacked the means and money to pursue higher, more expensive education and, as a result, were stuck with the same economic misfortune as their parents. This cycle of hardship continued and is still present today.

The 2011 Census reports that 26 percent of African Americans, 27 percent of Native Americans and 23 percent of Latinos are in poverty, while only 12 percent of Caucasian Americans fall below the poverty line.

 Racial minorities are not less hard-working nor less intelligent. The cycle of poverty is simply hard to break. In addition to this, minorities have to deal with the additional prejudices present in society today; stereotypes still exist in America, and many still face racism from the peers and coworkers.

 Some, like Sen. Lamar Alexander, say the need for affirmative action is finished; the discrimination and lack of opportunity felt by minorities is a thing of the past. This however, is untrue. Often times, for job positions, Caucasian Americans will be picked over equally qualified African Americans.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 there was a 7.1 percent jobless rate among African Americans holding a bachelor’s degree while there was only a 4.1 percent jobless rate amongst white Americans with the same education level. Though African Americans are equally qualified; they have a harder time than their white counterparts in finding a job.

Affirmative action can help to fix this problem of poverty as well as the issue of discrimination. While institutionalized racism is illegal in America; simply outlawing it does not insure equal opportunity. When minorities have been forced to stay behind for centuries, and have fallen behind, something must be done to allow them up to come back up to speed.

Right now, the Supreme Court is reviewing a case of affirmative action, Fisher v. University of Texas. Abigail Fisher is suing the University of Texas at Austin concerning the college’s affirmative action policies . This is the second time in a decade an affirmative action case has reached the Supreme Court. People need to realize that, while affirmative action may not be the perfect solution, it’s the best one. Diversity is an important part of any culture, and is needed in both the educational and workfield.

Several fields suffer for lack of diversity. Having only one type of ethnic, socioeconomic, or gender in anything promotes convergent, instead of divergent thinking. Different types of people bring different perspectives to the table, which is necessary for progress as well as thoroughness.

According the Association for Psychological Science, in 2007 the ratio of men to women in math, science, and engineering fields was 3:1. Programs like affirmative action can fix this huge gap. MIT, which recruits women, has a 1:1 ratio of men and women; and if working to close this gender cap. Widely acknowledged as the number one college for technology, MIT promotes the recruitment of women because, they say, “women think in a way different than men; in a perspective that’s needed and is lacking in math and technology.”

Progress and inventions are stalled because of lack of diversity,and affirmative action can fix that.  We, as a nation, are suffering and falling behind because our lack of perspective. Affirmative action was put in place to serve a purpose and help the nation, one that it continues to do. The time for affirmative action has not past; it’s as needed as ever. We need to work to ensure equality and dispel stereotypes now, so that affirmative action for any minority, whether it be on the basis of gender or race, will not be needed for the next generation.

by Humera Lodhi