Most will agree that affirmative action was needed when it was first introduced back in the 60s. Now, it’s among the most polarizing issues in the United States today. The debate has recently become even more intense after the Supreme Court officially upheld Michigan’s Proposition 2, which bans affirmative action for school admissions and other public sectors.
The proposition was originally approved in 2006, but after intense controversy and debate was overturned by Michigan courts in 2011. While the Supreme Court did not rule affirmative action to be constitutional or unconstitutional, they did decide that those lower courts did not have the power to overturn Proposition 2, therefore making it law once again. This decision has been met by praise and concern, with many believing that it could be a step towards ending affirmative action nationally.
I understand why affirmative action is uncomfortable for some. It’s too often associated with terms liked “preferential treatment” that makes some immediately fear it to be a form of reverse discrimination and it is that fear that makes it such a polarizing topic. While I can understand why some would be hesitant towards affirmative action, the reality is that this country isn’t ready to remove affirmative action completely.
I can agree that affirmative action may not be perfect, but statistics show just what can happen when it is removed. The University of Michigan has seen a 30 percent decrease in black enrollment since the ban on affirmative action took effect and California’s Proposition 209 has had similar results.
Despite this data, states like Michigan are moving ahead with their bans on affirmative action. Now, after the recent Supreme Court’s ruling, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a ripple effect occur where more states began to follow Michigan and do the same. If that happens, it’s hard not to think that the already low number of minority students enrolled in college will shrink even more. If that ever happened in Illinois for example, schools like Illinois State who are currently trying to increase diversity could possibly see those efforts nulled.
To eliminate affirmative action, as of now, would inadvertently be decreasing the diversity in most universities as well as other areas in the workforce. For that reason, if we were to take such a step and end affirmative action, it should be much more gradual and start by taking a stronger commitment to bettering urban areas.
As it stands now, too many minority students living in urban areas are subject to inferior education and a lack of programs. It’s impossible to expect these students to compete with suburban students when it comes to admissions. To increase the available resources in urban areas would at the very least be a step in the direction.
Bettering education and community programs are crucial and could have many long term benefits. However, those benefits would obviously take decades to fully come to fruition, and to end affirmative action before urban areas have shown any sort of improvement would be brash.
The fact is, to end affirmative action would signify a huge step of maturation by the United States and its people. It would mean that we no longer need it, as true equality has been reached and the fear of discrimination no longer exists. Unfortunately, our country has yet to reach that ideal. We simply aren’t ready to take such a step and to do so now could have severe consequences. Diversity should be cherished, especially in universities, and to eliminate affirmative action would be a significant blow to it.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.