With the date quickly approaching for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the University’s verbal arguments quickly approaching, thoughts toward the legitimacy of our race-conscious admissions policies are filling the minds of people across the country. However, with even the comically colloquial President Bush misquoting the quota system, I can’t help but feel that there is a tremendous amount of misperception about affirmative action and the virtues of its existence.
The reason for this confusion lies with its supporters, who seem to be confused themselves. The voices of people supporting affirmative action in this country have amounted to nothing more than the mere thundering percussion of a pindrop. The messages of the left are so inconsistent with one another that they have droned themselves out in a jumbled mixture of diffused static. Simply put, supporters of affirmative action routinely can’t explain why they support affirmative action.
And when an answer is stumbled upon, a concoction of two aspects, involving economically-poor segregated schools and neutralizing our race-biased society is the usual result. However, both of these points are wrong and are poor arguments for affirmative action.
First of all, affirmative action should not be seen as a booster to counteract ramshackle schools. There is no question that schools are more segregated than they were 20 years ago. Nor do I deny that there are many societal implementations designed to keep the level of poor inner city youths down to a minimum. However, affirmative action does not remedy these implementations because it only band-aids the true problem. These segregated public schools are sinking, leaving many kids to drown, but if affirmative action is meant to counteract this then I’m afraid policymakers have simply missed the boat. In this country ,where there are more black males in jail than in college, the victims of our societal caste system drown before they even reach 16 years old, when a college application is but a pipe dream. If we are to save these kids then we should devote time and energy to repair the ship instead of throwing a life-preserver to a chosen few still afloat. The best way to help these children is to revamp the education in our grade schools.
The stickier contention is that affirmative action makes up for past discrimination in an effort to cure this country’s rabid racism. The task of convincing opponents when purely looking at this reciprocity argument is certainly a formidable one because the logic of the argument simply doesn’t compute. How can one fight discrimination with discrimination? It certainly presents a quandary of principle. But what is not understood is that the purpose of affirmative action is not to combat discrimination. The fighting of prejudice is a desired but wholly secondary and resulting effect.
The strongest rationality for affirmative action is the one that is most saliently misunderstood. It is the argument for diversity itself. The ultimate goal whenever patching together an enrollment class, is to form an eclectic and educational student body; a collage of minds begetting diversity of thought. Yet affirmative action only appears to create a diversity of race. The keystone of the University’s affirmative action theory lies behind the notion that diversity of race is diversity of thought.
This may seem like liberal blasphemy, but the theory is that as a minority growing up in America, living in our majoritarian exclusive and culturally imperialistic society will innately give a minority student a fresh perspective from that of a white student. It is this perspective that is the desired commodity and the reason why it is legitimate to give the 20-point advantage to the son of a black physician rather than to the son of a white coal miner. His social class is irrelevant. This unique cultural perspective augments one’s normal intelligence and academic achievements and does not replace it.
The ensuing cultural meshing contributes to the further enlightenment of us, the future leaders of society. Ironically, the grounds for affirmative action rest on the biases within our society and this racial exposure will one day help abolish the very reasons for affirmative action. I look forward to a day when affirmative action is no longer needed, but that day has not yet come.
Whatever ideology subscribed to, students at this University had better decide their reasons for supporting affirmative action soon – because in less than a week the whole country will be confronting us with microphones and someone had better be making sense.
Butler is an Art sophomore and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.