Monday, June 23, 2003

Affirmate action? BORING!

Well, I guess not really. It's just that at this point in our college careers we've all heard and read and written and said so much about the topic that it seems impossible that on this day one of us suddenly would be able to offer a new insight or perspective on the issue. I know I certainly can't. Neither can the very intelligent and well-written Paul Bruno (screw permalinks), but at least he does his darndest to iron out all his thoughts on the matter in one posting. It's lengthy, but worth reading. He brings up all the reasoning that I undertake when trying to weigh the options. Ultimately, however, I absolutely cannot support affirmative action. But I also do not think that affirmative action with race-based admission criteria or even quotas are "reversely" racist, or even necessarily discriminatory.

I especially do not think it is unfair (and you might even say I think it is very fair) to offer additional resources and opportunities to individuals who, because of unfortunate economic status or poor parenting, have not been given the same chance in life as those with middle-class incomes and parents with middle-class values. Notice I didn't say anything about ethnicity? BUT it just so happens that poverty and single-parent homes and drug abuse are tragically disproportionate in African American and Hispanic (and Cambodian American and Laotian American and etcetera) communities. It also just so happens that because a good number of people within the middle and upper-class associate poverty and crime and ignorance with African Americans and Hispanics that these people might unwittingly and unintentionally make evaluations of others based on ethnicity. These evaluations may never even be acted upon in an educational or institutional setting, but to pretend that even educated, liberal, intelligent white people are entirely non-prejudiced would be silly.

But I think it is equally silly to assume that affirmative action in its current state is going to "fix" our problems. If anything, it will perpetuate the racist but prevalent assumtion that an African American's success can only be aceived with the help of whitey. Affirmative action lets biggoted folks devalue the accomplishments of minorities. It lets white students look around in a lecture hall, see a few black students sitting among them, and ask themselves, "Are these people the reason my friend didn't get into Cal?" I of course think the aforesuggested attitudes about affirmative action are stupid, but I think there are answers to the ethnic disparities in higher education that would not lead to so much unfair bitterness and suspicion.

My answer is primary education. Not many people here at Cal today weren't privy to an enriched primary educational environment. This doesn't mean that we all went to really good elementary or middle schools. (Jesus, I sure didn't. I grew up in the same part of Long Beach as Snoop, for god's sake.) (Wow, two blasphemes in the same parenthetical aside.) But if we didn't go to great primary schools, we most likely had very active parents who strongly valued education, which is in itself an asset that can help overcome incompetant teachers or text books that refer to the "distant future when man will walk on the moon."

My point is that instead of diverting resources to fighting for affirmative action in higher education, these resources should go toward free pre-schools (like Head Start, for example), materials designed to encourage greater parent participation, after-school programs (like midnight basketball), and dozens of other programs in poor communities that give the children living there a better opportunity to excel in middle and high school. I say we should dump billions of dollars (yes, billions) into improving inner-city schools and offering easy and free drug rehabilitation to parents and giving poor children every opportunity to succeed. Billions of dollars and millions of man-hours over the course of a few years. Fuck the military, there are more important venues into which to pump money and time. Sure, it's a big cost. But imprisoning pot dealers and hiring juvenile officers is pretty expensive, too. It would be a long process, but we could help improve our "steadily declining morals" in American society, reduce crime (and the monetary costs thereof), and create more productive community members. Most importantly, we could give poor (and therefore predominantly black and hispanic) students educational opportunities similar to those of Joe M.C. (Middle Class) White Guy. In which case, in theory, we wouldn't need affirmative action.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play a match of tennis. (No, seriously. My buddy Eric just invited me.)


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