Affirmative action is useful

Chris Kok

Affirmative action is a program that attempts to end inequalities experienced by minorities and women in education and in the workplace. It arose in the 1960s as a result of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement.

It is an attempt to end the oppression of minorities and women that has existed throughout the history of America.

It is also an attempt to end racist and sexist ideas in society. Although there are steps that should be taken to move beyond affirmative action, such as universal college education, universal employment and universal health care, affirmative action is still a necessary and important component of our society.

Racism and sexism are complex issues in America. Solutions to these problems are going to require dialogue between the races and sexes. Open dialogue will not only allow people to find out why racism and sexism are bad but also realize the full extent of racism and sexism in our society.

Affirmative action legislates an attempt to equalize the participation in education and the workforce by racial minorities and women though this does not legislate the discussion necessary to end racism and sexism. Legislation cannot change beliefs of people. That is not what affirmative action does. It does not start the debates necessary to end sexism and racism, but it makes sure those debates are possible.

How can race and gender stereotypes be broken without contact with people of other races and of the other sex? Through contact and communication, stereotypes fall apart.

A school that educates an overwhelming percentage of white males will not effectively question racial and sexual stereotypes that are pervasive in society. These graduates will then filter into the workforce with these false ideas.

In some jobs, they will directly have an impact on society, such as work in the media. In this case, their racial and sexual stereotypes will be filtered back to society, repeating the pattern. Even if they do not have as much influence over society, their ideas will influence their children, once again perpetuating the cycle.

If schools and employers work toward diversity, these stereotypes will have a harder time surviving. Communication between the sexes and different races will show that racial and sexual stereotypes are not reality – that they are fake. When larger and larger proportions of society reject these ideas, they have a harder time reoccurring.

There are problems with affirmative action. Rather than focusing on evening out exclusive policies of education and employment, we should work toward universal access to education and decent employment. Also, we should focus our efforts on inequalities that begin before college, such as inequalities in the quality of education at the elementary level.

Regardless of its shortcomings, affirmative action is a program that can help reduce inequality in society. It can also help to end the oppression of racial minorities and women that has been experienced in America since its very foundation. Although legislation cannot change people’s attitudes, it can change people’s experiences that will either reinforce those attitudes or invalidate them. Until racial and sexual inequalities cease to exist, affirmative action will be a necessary part of social policy.

Chris Kok is a senior international relations major and point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]