Modern Day Segregation: An Examination of Affirmative Action Bans
The term ‘affirmative action’ initially appeared in President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order, which urged the federal government to make employment opportunities available to minorities (Chrisman, 2013, p. 71). The popularity of this phrase immensely grew as legislators strived to address the presence of racism that persisted throughout the Civil Rights era (Chrisman, 2013, p. 71). Affirmative action essentially champions the principle of the “structured readjustment and redistribution of economic resources and opportunities” as a way to rectify past instances of discrimination against minorities (Chrisman, 2013, p. 72). These minorities constitute a vast group of individuals, who have experienced prejudice or inequality based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. The role of affirmative action significantly impacts the college admission process, as it is remains commonly utilized by admission teams in the generation of a more diverse student body (Long, 2007, p. 315). However, in recent years, several states have enacted affirmative action bans in the admissions process of their state’s colleges and universities. This has led to the ongoing, heated debate that focuses on how these affirmative action bans in college admissions can create greater inequalities for racial and ethnic based minorities. This work will offer an in-depth analysis surrounding the influence of affirmative action bans on the demographic constitution within institutes of higher education in the United States. As research will show, affirmative action in college admissions is critical to promoting the advancement of minority populations in academia, with its retraction not only being disadvantageous to establishing a more well-rounded student body, but also resulting in a form of institutionalized racism that will have devastating consequences to the educational system of a nation still healing from the “separate but equal” doctrine.
Following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action gradually began to have an important role in the college admissions process (Long, 2007, p. 315). The power that affirmative action has in college admission decisions continues to be met by opposition, with numerous court cases reflecting how dissonance amongst the general population has endured the test of time. The mixed verdict in the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case was the turning point in the great impact that affirmative action had on the admission of minority students, with Justice Lewis Franklin Powell emphasizing that the use of student’s race and ethnicity should count as a single factor amongst multiple other components (Long, 2007, p. 315). In 1995, the Board of Regents of the University of California passed the resolution Special Policy-1 (SP-1), which terminated the use of affirmative action in the admission of universities within the University of California system (Long, 2007, p. 316). The passage of the California Civil Rights Initiative in 1996 eliminated the use of race, ethnicity, sex, and national origin from directly influencing the university admissions process (Long, 2007, p. 316). These policies that prohibited the use of affirmative action in admission decisions in the state of California were also enacted in other states, which include Texas, Washington, Florida, and Georgia (Long, 2007, p. 316).
While the ramifications that resulted from the establishment of affirmative action bans within the colleges and universities of five states in the United States were initially unclear, recent studies have illustrated significant reductions in minority enrollment. The admission rates of black and Hispanic applicants to several top University of California (UC) institutions experienced a decline of approximately 20% to 30% following the passage of the California Civil Rights Initiative (Card and Krueger, 2004, p. 6). Researchers have estimated that the complete elimination of affirmative action would reduce the acceptance rates of black and Hispanic students by about 14% to 22% (Espenshade and Chung, 2005, p. 298). These statistics in turn dissuade many minority students from even considering to apply to institutions that have enacted affirmative action bans (Espenshade and Chung, 2005, p. 295). This further creates a sense of not belonging amongst minority students on campus since they may not have the support necessary from peers who hail from similar backgrounds (Espenshade and Chung, 2005, p. 295). In order to combat these potentially damaging effects, the universities in the states with affirmative action bans have implemented various alternative programs that they believe will serve the purpose of acquiring a diverse student body. For example, the introduction of affirmative action bans has resulted in the adoption of the top X percent program, in the states of California, Texas, and Florida, which guarantees acceptance to a state university based on a scholar’s academic proficiency determined through their grade point average (Long, 2007, p. 319). In addition, these states have also created programs, such as the Texas A&M Century Scholars program and the Longhorn Opportunity Scholarship program, with the aim to offer financial aid, advising, and resources to low-income and minority students (Long, 2007, p. 320). Furthermore, the colleges and universities with affirmative action bans have also begun to include prompts within their college applications that inquire about socioeconomic status, second-language speaking ability, and adversities that one has overcome in order to better cater to students with varying racial and ethnic profiles (Long, 2007, p. 319). Another tactic that has become widely used by institutes of higher education is targeted recruiting at high schools that have educational disadvantages and a larger percentage of low-income students (Long, 2007, p. 320). While these alternative programs appear promising, colleges and universities that are within states that enforce affirmative action bans continue to observe declines in minority enrollment.
Throughout the years, the states that have enforced affirmative action bans in college admissions have often been met by both support and opposition. The relatively elevated approval for affirmative action bans is evident as nearly 75% of Americans disapprove of giving preferential treatment to minorities in college admissions and job hiring (Wilson, 2012, p. 6). Another survey conducted with U.S. adults found that 71% of whites, 59% of Hispanics, and 53% of African Americans believe that blacks should be held responsible for their own shortcomings (Wilson, 2012, p. 7). These individuals are also convinced that economic and educational outcomes should result from one’s efforts and talent, despite the potential inequalities that one may have encountered (Wilson, 2012, p. 7). Interestingly, younger African Americans have been found to support this view to a greater extent, in contrast to more mature African Americans (Wilson, 2012, p. 7). This may be a consequence of the time frames that these age groups received their education, with more opportunities becoming available for the younger generation of African Americans during the years following desegregation. Proponents of these bans also highlight that racial and ethnic advantages given to minority applicants may hinder white students with similar educational backgrounds (Long, 2007, p. 317). Studies have shown that black and Hispanic applicants are statistically more likely to gain admittance into a college or university than white applicants with the same qualifications (Long, 2007, p. 317). Critics of affirmative action further argue that college admission decisions that factor in race or ethnicity often allow for the acceptance of minority students without the same level of preparedness or accomplishments as other applicants (Long, 2007, p. 327). However, it is evident that the supporters of affirmative action bans either do not take into account the countless educational inequalities and the constant economic burden that many minority applicants have faced throughout their lives or they may simply believe that such instances are not absolutely insuperable. Due to policies such as redlining, many African American students are forced to live in low-income neighborhoods with substandard schools (Wilson, 2012, p.8). These students may not have access to additional tutoring or academic resources that can promote their educational growth, despite possessing the same level of intellectual interest and curiosity as their fellow white peers. Research conducted on economic mobility has found that nearly 70% of black children living in the most economically disadvantaged locations in the United States will likely remain the occupants of these types of neighborhoods as adults (Wilson, 2012, p.8). Thus, measures involving affirmative action bans advocate a form of institutionalized segregation that has the intent to further polarize the educational system within the United States.
During the last presidency, the Obama administration persistently worked to advance racial diversity on college campuses throughout the United States (Wilson, 2012, p. 5). Many proponents of affirmative action would applaud these efforts, as they believe that diversity on college campuses is critical to a more well rounded classroom experience (Mottley, 2015, p.160). The very essence of classroom discussions regarding various topics requires a wide range of viewpoints to promote the understanding of differing perspectives amongst the student body (Mottley, 2015, p.160). A multicultural education is highly rewarding to students as it allows them to gain the competence necessary to better interact with the exceedingly diverse population within the United States and around the world (Curfman, Morrissey, and Drazen, 2013, p. 73). Affirmative action also allows for minority students to attend higher-quality institutions, which enables greater economic and social returns later in life (Long, 2007, p. 315). These socioeconomic gains can extend to providing opportunities to their children and grandchildren. In addition, studies have shown that minority students who benefit from affirmative action tend to engage in community and volunteering programs to a greater degree than their nonminority peers (Long, 2007, p. 318). The advantages that arise from affirmative action not only aid in the socioeconomic mobility of minorities, but also generate a sense of greater awareness amongst the collective members of the student body based on range of distinct experiences and outlooks.
The role of affirmative action has largely shaped the college admissions process for many minority students. The implementation of affirmative action measures has served to provide educational opportunities to minority students who have endured racism, economic disadvantages, and limitations in their academic prospects. The presence of affirmative action bans in several states has aimed to mitigate the opposition to affirmative action initiatives through the generation of alternative programs, but these programs have only resulted in greater inequality amongst members of society based on their race and ethnicity. This report focused on whether affirmative action bans have the capacity to directly influence the demographic of minority students in colleges and universities within the United States. Research findings from states that have applied affirmative action bans in regards to university admissions have shown that minority enrollment has substantially decreased in relation to the proportion of minority students that comprise high school classes. It is necessary to note that some of the states with these affirmative action bans like California and Texas have highly diverse populations. By limiting the number of minority students enrolling in colleges, not only will this result in a polarized higher education system, but it will also make it significantly more difficult for minority students to obtain jobs that offer decent wages. It is critical for the general workforce to mirror the society it serves, otherwise both trust and societal progress cannot be firmly established (Curfman, Morrissey, and Drazen, 2013, p. 74). It can be observed that a practical alternative to affirmative action ceases to exist, with the programs proposed merely attempting to combat the decrease in minority enrollments without actually making a difference. These findings effectively liken the impact of affirmative action bans to a form of institutionalized segregation, where the concept of the American dream is impossible to secure. Thus, the institution of education as a whole within the United States continues to be riddled with discrimination, with true equality only being achieved once the use of affirmative action is no longer necessitated to acquire a diverse student body that is representative of the entire population.
Card, D., ; Krueger, A. (2004). Would the Elimination of Affirmative Action Affect Highly Qualified Minority Applicants? Evidence from California and Texas. 1-27. doi:10.3386/w10366
Chrisman, R. (2013). Affirmative Action. Journal of Black Studies and Research,43(3), 71-72. doi:10.5816/blackscholar.43.3.0071
Curfman, G. D., M.D., Morrissey, S., PhD., ; Drazen, J. M., M.D. (2013). Affirmative action in the balance. The New England Journal of Medicine, 368(1), 73-4. Retrieved fromhttp://ez-proxy.methodist.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ez-proxy.methodist.edu:2048/docview/1266235513?accountid=12408
Espenshade, T. J., ; Chung, C. Y. (2005). The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities. Social Science Quarterly, 86(2), 293-305. doi:10.1111/j.0038- 4941.2005.00303.x
Long, M. C. (2007). Affirmative Action and Its Alternatives in Public Universities: What Do We Know? Public Administration Review, 67(2), 315-330. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2007.00715.x
Mottley, M. (2015). Taking a step back from civil rights: The supreme court’s approval of affirmative action bans. Journal of Law and Education, 44(1), 155-163. Retrieved from http://ez-proxy.methodist.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ez-proxy.methodist.edu:2048/docview/1644935495?accountid=12408
Wilson, W. J. (2012). Race and affirming opportunity in the Barack Obama era. Du Bois Review, 9(1), 5-16.doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.methodist.edu:2048/10.1017/S1742058X 12000240
Modern Day Segregation: An Examination of Affirmative Action Bans