Point/Counterpoint pt2

Teddy Harris

Affirmative action is necessary

I believe affirmative action is a necessary evil in the United States. I wish that it was not necessary to have this procedure in place, but it is more than obvious that we need it in this country. Racist/sexist ideas and thoughts shape certain people’s perceptions of people of color and women in this country. It burns me to hear a “privileged white male” complain about affirmative action in this country.

Discrimination in hiring is still a fact of life for black men in our society. Take into account a study in The Wall Street Journal that showed white men with a criminal record have a better chance of being asked back after a first job interview than black men without a record. How backwards and bizarre is that? Do I still hear you grumbling that “things have changed since the ’60s?”

Black men are forced out of jobs in this country. A combination of vast structural changes in the economy and discrimination in hiring is seen as the cause of this situation. New York City has lost about 13,000 manufacturing jobs just in the past year; construction jobs are also down. This has forced many semi-skilled workers — often African American men — out of the job market almost immediately. Women of all races collectively still make less income than men doing the same work in this country. In tumultuous economic times such as these, does it really make sense to cut affirmative action as an added pressure to African-American men?

If you cut affirmative action not only do you cut certain people’s chances at careers of their choice, but you make it hard to trace acts of racism in the workplace or with school admittance.

The evil right wing of our government would have us believe that women and people of color earn less because we don’t work as hard or we’re not as smart. That simply isn’t the case. Laws have changed, but discrimination remains. Affirmative action only opens doors; women and people of color have to walk through those doors by themselves.

Affirmative action is an investment in the future for the entire country. A few decades of a “favor” cannot erase hundreds of years of severe racism and sexism, which still goes on today. By the time today’s college students are at the pinnacle of their careers, one-third of the population will be comprised of African-Americans and Latinos.

According to now.org, white men hold 95 to 97 percent of the high-level corporate jobs in America. And that’s with affirmative action programs in place. Think for a second how low figures would be without affirmative action. Of 3,000 federal court decisions in discrimination cases between 1990 and 1994, only 100 involved claims of reverse discrimination; only six of those claims were found to be valid. With all the talk of “reverse discrimination,” you would expect a higher figure.

Affirmative action may need revamping, but by no means is this country ready for it to be totally done away with. With all of the information given, the idea of the elimination of affirmative action only has racist undertones.

Teddy Harris is a senior communication studies major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].