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Affirmative action is important for opportunity equality

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Affirmative action is important for opportunity equality

Parker Grogan, Staff Columnist

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Recently, the Harvard University affirmative action trial came to a close. The lawsuit consisted of the Students for Fair Admission organization suing the college on behalf of Asian-Americans, a group which claims to face more difficulty in getting in to the Ivy Leagues due to affirmative action.

According to CNN, the plaintiff wants to eliminate the factor of race in the college admissions process entirely, and Harvard admits that if the college used a race-neutral or race-blind approach, the number of black and Hispanic students on campus would plummet.

While some people argue that it is inherently unfair to decide who gets in to a school based off of a factor they cannot control, is it not equally or even more unfair that people are unlikely to gain any opportunities to make a difference in their lives because of a factor they cannot control?

According to an article in The Washington Post, “Affirmative action is not about discrimination. It is allowing colleges and universities to gauge potential when circumstances haven’t allowed a young person to reach their potential yet.”

In John Iceland’s book, “Poverty in America,” he identifies that poverty is most prevalent among the less educated, in single-parent families (mostly headed by females) and among groups which have experienced discrimination and segregation.

Furthermore, all of these factors are intertwined to make each individual factor nearly impossible to resolve. Because of the racist past of the United States of America, “minorities are more likely than whites to have lower levels of education, employment, and wages, and they are more likely to have chronic health problems.”

Additionally, when integration occurred and white flight from schools ensued, voluntary school segregation has led to classroom segregation, which has led to unequal access to high-quality facilities. Essentially, as evidenced by Iceland’s research, due to discrimination against minority groups, in higher poverty neighborhoods, 17 percent of the population was white, 45 percent black and 34 percent Latino.

While many universities, especially the Ivy Leagues, have great financial aid opportunities for low-income students, how are those students supposed to get in to the school in the first place without the economic and social benefits most other students accepted have grown up receiving? Not only do the ACT and SAT – the two main standardized tests students are required to take to apply to college – cost money to be taken, they also cost money to see a score improvement according to The New York Times.

Furthermore, the ACT and SAT may claim to accurately test the intelligence of a student, but such tests in no way reflect the life skills many students have that show much greater resilience and aptitude. How can a student be expected to have a high test score when he has to have several jobs to help support his family, and how can a student be expected to have a high GPA when getting food on the table for his younger siblings is and should be his main priority?

The challenges faced by various socioeconomic statuses, which in America is highly correlated with race, does not indicate a difference in intellectual ability, but rather a difference in circumstances and, thereby, opportunities.

According to a New York Times article, in schools that chose not to consider race in the admission process, the number of minority students accepted to the school was extremely low, having no reflection on the growing number of minority students graduating from high school.

Affirmative action is necessary. Without it, there would be no way for the inequities of race to be somewhat balanced out. Affirmative action does not adequately satisfy this need, but it is a start to redistributing the opportunities given to different groups of people.

The case is now headed to the Supreme Court, putting the 1978 ruling that first allowed universities to consider race as an admission factor at risk.

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Affirmative action is important for opportunity equality