Schultz's puzzling argument

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Affirmative action was created to protect minority communities from systematic discrimination. In an article that was published by The Mac Weekly on Dec. 2, Joe Schultz asserted that affirmative action has not only lost its usefulness, but its relevance. I take issue with most of Schultz’s anti-affirmative action arguments, as they are not based on an understanding of current race and gender relations. I completely agree with Schultz about the importance of “merit, potential, and perseverance.” However, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that women and minorities often find themselves in socially and politically created situations that limit their ability to succeed academically and professionally.

For example, students of color are more likely to receive their primary and secondary education at under-funded inner-city schools than their white counterparts. Additionally, women, despite gaining the right to vote over 80 years ago, are still plagued by issues relating to pay-inequity and maternity leave.

All of these factors contribute to an inequality that is inherent in admissions processes and job searches, as candidates of non-dominant genders and races often are unable to compete, not for lack of personal drive or potential but because of policy failures that contribute to race and class polarization and the continued subjugation of women.

Thus, I am puzzled by Schultz’s argument that affirmative action encourages minorities and women to depend on the government, as it is the latter’s failure that has historically relegated the former into positions of subservience and underdevelopment.

Schultz’s assertion that past discrimination is used to justify affirmative-action policies is only half-right, as it presupposes the existence of an America that is now free from race-based prejudice. Less than 50 years ago, the Ku Klux Klan was one of the most active organizations in the United States. It is na’ve to assume that the hatred and ignorance that motivated their many unpunished acts has completely disappeared.

Affirmative-action policies not only seek to “balance the playing field” but also to promote an acceptance of multiculturalism. The fact that in 1954, the Supreme Court had to order the state of Arkansas to desegregate proves that inequalities sometimes require political attention.

Schultz’s slippery slope argument raises some interesting questions about the future of affirmative action, but the problem he poses can be easily resolved. If prejudices exist that systematically limit the rights of individuals to equal access and opportunity, the creation of a political solution is not only possible, but necessary.

In the case of sexual orientation, an affirmative-action policy is perfectly justifiable, as homophobia often hinders the professional advancement of many individuals. The other examples Schultz lists are unrealistic and trivialize the very real problems of racism and sexism that continue to plague our society.

Affirmative-action policies do not further the idea that minorities and women are incapable of succeeding on their own, rather they acknowledge that the government in its inaction has been largely responsible for maintaining and at times supporting discriminatory practices.

Contact Natalia Espejo ’07 at [email protected]