Note from the Managing Editor: The capitalizations and spellings of all references to racial groups are intentional and purposeful.
Affirmative Action is a bandage that attempts to staunch the bleeding of an amputated limb. Its purpose is to reduce racial disparities in higher education, as well as certain career fields, but fails to address the root of the problem.
One might ask, and be justified in doing so, just why these racial disparities exist. According to the American Psychological Association, there exists a pattern of education disparity, mirroring socioeconomic and healthcare trends, among Black, Latine, Southeast Asian, and indigenous groups relative to white Americans.
This mirrors a pattern of an educational system that fails the most vulnerable groups among us. According to a 2018 study published by The Education Trust, public schools primarily serving students of color and low-income students receive between 7-13% less per student in state and municipal funding. This means 7-13% less funding for advanced classes, school counselors and social workers, after-school programs, and high-quality teachers and staff. It is no wonder that educational disparities persist throughout K-12 education.
Critics of Affirmative Action claim that its targeted goal programs (as opposed to racial quotas, which were ruled unconstitutional in a 2003 Supreme Court case) favor racial preference over achievement, and even cause discrimination against white Americans. It’s important to remember, here, that no decisions or outcomes exist in a vacuum. It is not only misleading but also outright dishonest to claim that students across the country even have equal access to said achievement standards when communities of color and low-income families more often face additional challenges than their more affluent peers.
For example, environmental racism describes injustice in environmental policy relative to race, and often refers to the correlation of hazardous waste sites and minority neighborhoods. How is a student in Flint, Michigan, supposed to circumvent an institutional problem that resulted from political misrepresentation and a lack of mobility? This is only one example and does not even begin to touch on a swath of other issues including crumbling urban infrastructures, discrimination in the criminal justice system, and generational poverty.
The purpose of Affirmative Action is to close the gap between historically advantaged and disadvantaged groups, but evaluating its success is an almost impossible task. How does a society solve an issue so pervasive that it sets a huge portion of the country behind as early as childhood? Clearly, a bandage applied to a missing limb isn’t the answer.