Affirmative Action: Much ado about nothing

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’

I was eating my lunch on campus this past week and I heard this conversation that somewhat bothered me. These two employers for the university were talking about filing in these five leadership roles for next year. I had my earphones in my ears and so I don’t think they knew that I could hear them. They were discussing the qualities of the students who were in the program. I was expecting to hear them talk about the students’ work ethic, interpersonal communication skills, leadership skills, and things of that nature.

However, these were not the qualities that they were discussing. Rather, they were talking about the races of each student and whether or not they had the “right mix,” or in other words, enough races in the student positions. To me, this goes directly against the dream of Dr. MLK.

Should we have affirmative action in the United States? I completely understand the argument for it. There is no doubt that minority groups in the US have been bereft of equal opportunities in America because of prejudice. The number of civil and economic hardships that blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and everyone in between far surpasses the number that whites in America have encountered. This historical circumstance has made it that much harder for minority groups to attend college, find good jobs, and live a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, I believe that there are ways to combat this disparity that America faces without enforcing Affirmative Action or similar programs.

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I understand that the people who support these programs have good intentions but I think it really limits our progress. The reason why I feel this way right now is because of this anthropology class that I am currently enrolled in this semester called “Human Variation.” In the class, I have learned a lot about the variations in the genetics of human populations. One of the most interesting facts that I have learned that there are really no distinctive genetic traits or genetic markers for races. Even though people associate diseases with certain races, genetic research has shown that these assumptions are wrong. For instance, many people associate sickle cell anemia with African-Americans and believe that only blacks contract the disease. However, there are people in the Mediterranean and in India who also contract the disease and therefore shatters that assumption.

Judging people by their race has also been a problem in the medical field. Studies have shown that doctors use different treatments on people based on their race. One of these differential treatments has been the use of pain medications. Studies have shown that doctors often give high doses of pain medication to whites than to blacks. Why is this? Because doctors have been under the assumption that blacks can endure more pain than whites. Why is this? Because studies from Confederate doctors in the South “proved” that blacks could endure more pain. These studies are still cited in medical journals today.

mlk_statue_01I have no problem with people celebrating their ancestry and their family’s heritage. I think things such as Black History and Hispanic Heritage months should be maintained as time goes moves forward. Nonetheless, I think it would be in our best interest to not weight race so heavy. I hate to bring it up again but I really think that UT should get rid of its race policy on application forms. I understand that it is in place to promote diversity on campus, but there are other ways to do this. I think diversity would still be maintained if the university would look at the geographic and economic backgrounds of prospective students. And I think that employers for the university, like the ones that I overheard earlier this past week, should commit to this way of thinking.

Now I understand that it is hard, if not impossible, for people to not see race. However, I think in order for society to make progress, we as a society need to start focusing more of our attention on judging people more on their actions than their physical appearance. I know that I would hate it if I was only hired because of my physical appearance and not my abilities. On a similar note, I have a feeling that many women would also hate it if they found out that they were only hired for their physical appearance rather than their abilities as well. More and more women are entering the work force these days and I don’t think it is because businesses are more conscientious about hiring women, but because more qualified women are entering the workforce. Thus, I truly do believe that the same will happen with different races entering the workforce.

Thus, I think that things like Affirmative Action really does go against what Dr. King was striving for so many years ago. I think he much rather have students be accepted to a college based on their academic qualities, have workers get jobs based on their professional qualities, and have people judge one another by their character. But what do I know?

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