Affirmative action is still necessary in today’s society

Tara Pringle

Affirmative action helped me go to college, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

If it weren’t for me receiving the Oscar Ritchie Memorial Scholarship that pays for more than half of my tuition, I wouldn’t be a student in college. I’d be at home, gifted but poor, working at whatever retail store pays the most money.

The problem is: I’m not poor enough for grants, but my parents make just enough for me to get the smallest amount possible on loans. My freshman year I only qualified for about $500 worth of loans, which will not go far at any college or university.

I’m grateful for my “minority” scholarship because it enabled me to be where I am today. I don’t look at it as affirmative action, but as helping out those who need it most. People seem to think ever since MLK, we have “overcome.” We haven’t done anything. We have to face the reality that it’s just harder for black people to get jobs, especially in my industry – journalism.

Look at the mastheads of major magazines, and you’ll see few people of color on staff. Why is that? Is it because there are no qualified black journalists applying for these positions? I don’t think so.

I belong to the National Association of Black Journalists, which has a large population of student journalists. At the annual convention last summer, I met a lot of students like myself. We’re all hungry for a job in the industry but realistic about our chances of actually getting one.

I think people have a misguided view about affirmative action. If there was a black woman and a white woman applying for the same job, and they were equally qualified, whom should the employer choose? If blacks have historically been denied access to that field, should the employer hire the black woman? If the current make-up of employees at that company is 99 percent white, is it wrong to hire the black woman for diversity’s sake?

People have always looked at affirmative action as unfair, thinking that unqualified people would get all the jobs, leaving white people out to dry. And we all know that’s not the case. Even with affirmative action, nine times out of 10, my skin color is a disadvantage, not a plus.

The first step to fixing the current system is admitting things are still not equal in this country. Even people like me, who value education and work hard day in and day out, are still denied opportunities. I’ve had phone interviews for internships, where everything was fine and they were excited to talk to me. But when I showed up in person for an interview, looking very professional in a suit, my interviewers gave me a different feeling, making me think if I had been a white woman, the job would’ve been mine.

When I finally graduate and get a job working for whatever magazine I choose, will I be any less successful because I’ve been helped along the way?

Tara Pringle is a junior magazine journalism major and editorial writer for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].