That affirmative action is a problem that has widely been agreed by most sociologists and related researchers. The modalities of finding alternatives to affirmative action in the USA, however, pose different questions regarding its viability. This paper aims to conclude the discussion about the problem of affirmative action by highlighting disadvantages of the alternatives raised in part two. Every alternative intervention is highlighted and the possible drawbacks of that intervention exemplified. This discussion is essential to both the USA and the world as the USA sets the moral benchmarks for most of the world. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the issue of racism is sensitive in the USA owing to the extreme diversity of American citizens.
Legal Ban on Color-Conscious Affirmative Action
The universal ban of affirmative action in the USA can happen in two main forms such as referenda or a Supreme Court ruling. This would have several negative implications. Firstly, using referenda as was seen with several states in the late 1990s did not uphold the spirit of protecting the rights of minorities. The referendum is a democratic process where the majority has its way. If the referendum is to be used as a yardstick of the rightness of a maxim, then the marginalized minority will have no space in the liberal country that USA is. Taking a decisive vote is retrogresses the nation centuries back when decisions had to be made to end slavery. The blacks would certainly not support such a move, at least not this time. The accompanying political fever would hurt both the economy and the social setup of America; it poses a potential racial standoff. According to sociologists, most blacks in the USA seek to know their origin and are deeply aware of the historical unfairness of the past. It is essential that the current generation be left to pass away before color-blind motions can be universalized (Kahlenberg, Potter, & Century Foundation, 2012). Moreover, the USA is the world's benchmark on issues of human rights and morality. Outlawing affirmative action would trigger the same move from other countries in the America and Europe. Therefore, this poses a global ethical and human rights dilemma to the world's superpower.
A Supreme Court ruling would be the soberest approach to a legal ban of affirmative action. The legal ban would mean that all race-based interventions in the country be illegalized and, hence, stopped. This would have far-reaching economic and political effects. Firstly, outlawing affirmative action implicitly outlaws at least thirty black organizations working for the emancipation of the Afro-American. These non-profit organizations have a global donor network that sponsors black students to college and alleviates poverty where the government has not reached.
Demanding that these organizations should be color-blind is in itself affirmative action for the whites. It would mean that the donor network which is particularly attracted to these organizations for their being black would withhold their donations since their objective is to reach the black child. Besides, in the interests of the nation as a whole, each group needs to be allowed to do everything possible to empower their members socially and economically. This relieves the federal and state governments the expenditures which go into alleviating poverty and disease among marginalized communities. Application of color-blind solutions to issues that are color-conscious fails the test of logic.
In addition, the color-blind affirmative action is a constitutional nightmare for the USA. It is for a reason that the color-conscious issues addressed in the constitution would now have to be solved in a color-blind manner. The Framers intended there be a color-conscious constitution. During the declaration of independence, the constitution outlined "all men are created equal." In the Framers' context, all men included all whites alone, blacks excluded. Whites were granted universal suffrage at independence while blacks were gradually granted this right in the latter 20th century. During the American Reconstruction, the Congress introduced the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments into the Framers' Constitution (Crosby, 2004). Even then, the Congress was not in favor of total non-discrimination. Instead, it voted for equal protection, an ambiguous clause that would later be manipulated by the Supreme Court against the blacks. In the case, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court upheld the Louisiana law which required the segregation of races in public trains.
The head of the debate of a color-blind constitution has ensued vividly in recent judicial rulings too. In the case, Bakke v. The University of California, for instance, there ensued a tug of war among the jury: five judges opined that a race-conscious admissions program could stand the maxim of the Equal Protection Clause. They were, however, overruled by a slight majority of the bench through a judicial vote. The five justices include Justice Powell, Justice Brennan, Justice Marshall, and Justice Blackmun. Justice Marshall highlighted the hypocrisy of the color-blind argument. He stated that the constitution had upheld pervasive forms of discrimination against the Negro for at least two centuries and had now become the greatest barrier to the remedy of these injustices (Bakke & California, 1978). It was agreed that through affirmative action could not persist in perpetuity, it was not the right time to outlaw it.
In another case, United States v. Paradise, the Supreme Court upheld that the temporary one-black-one-white promotional program in Alabama was indeed constitutional. This ruling was initially passed by the district court in the remedy of the blatant racial discrimination spanning four decades carried out by the Alabama Department of Public Safety. In upholding this ruling, Justice Brennan and Justice O'Connor conflicted. While the former agreed to the temporary color conscious promotion, the latter disagreed on the premise that it was not the only alternative the department had (Crosby, 2004). It is worth mentioning that the Supreme Court has not overruled the case that race can be a conclusive factor in the determination of civil or education quotas. This leaves an open window, a legal vacuum somewhat, for judges in every case. Outlawing affirmative action is premature. Most legal and political analysts indicate that it is not until 2050 that the USA will be ripe for color-blind interventions.
Economic Color-Blind Affirmative Action
The critics of race-based affirmative action propose a color-blind affirmative action. This intervention seeks to address the socioeconomic inequality in the society without regard to the color of the beneficiary. As such, preference is accorded to those people, especially children and students, who have a low socioeconomic standing in society only. Such an approach is faulty on several grounds.
Firstly, color-blind affirmative action swims in the false assumption that America has grown out of all historical racial injustices. It is logical to argue that the injustices meted on the fathers of blacks have played a role in inhibiting their development in the past and presently. According to socioeconomic statistics, there is a huge gap between the average black and white person in the USA. The following statistics confirm that race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status are intimately intertwined in the USA:
- Percent of African American children that live in poverty are three hundred higher than their Caucasian counterparts;
- The unemployment rate among African Americans is two times that of Caucasian Americans. Employed Afro-Americans earn 70% of the average Caucasian;
- According to 2005 statistics, Afro-Americans have the second highest school dropout rate after the Latinos;
- Minority children are exposed to drug and substance abuse. Afro-Americans are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia compared to Caucasians of equal socioeconomic standing (United States Commission on Civil Rights, 2003).
These statistics point to the fact that indeed, race plays a role in the economic condition of the minorities in the American society. A color-blind intervention overlooks this fact and is, therefore, erroneous. The fact that a few blacks have made significant strides in society does not necessarily mean that the situation in the other majority has significantly improved.
The argument for race/color-blind intervention is laden with logical irony: to outdo racism, we have to look into the race. Thus, it is impossible to solve the current problem of racial disadvantages without addressing the underlying cause: race (Orfield et al., 1998). To narrow down the problem of inequality to socioeconomic standing alone, irrespective of race is a cover-up for the underlying cause of the socioeconomic disadvantage.
In addition, statistics has proven that a laissez-faire approach to college admissions achieves a higher objective than the color-blind approach. Under the laissez-faire admission, the college admits only those students who exceed a certain set threshold of expected performance levels. In the figure below, it is shown those students who lie above the laissez-faire line who will be admitted. If the college does not meet the desired racial combination in the admissions, then a select group of the minority race can be selected from slightly below the laissez-faire line and admitted to the school. This is known as color-conscious affirmative action.
Under the color-blind approach to college admissions, the college is prohibited from any race-based considerations during admissions (Fryer et al., 2003). Where class closely correlates to race, the school adopts a class-based color-blind admissions strategy. More weight is, thus, placed on the entry grades of the students as opposed to the scores in the standardized test scores. The students above the color-blind line are admitted; those below the line are not admitted. The graph below represents both cases visually.
Inferring from the graph, the color-blind approach to admissions is suboptimal. It is for a reason that it leaves out students in the A region and admits students in the B region. The laissez-faire approach, on the other hand, admits students in the A region and leaves out those in the B region. Hence, students from the region A have higher scores in the standardized aptitude tests. Color-blind admissions, therefore, complicate the problem they are supposed to be solving. The color-conscious affirmative action is better for the college and the minority students themselves. Admitting many lower cadre students into the college is a demoralizer to the top performers and encourages the low performers to continue in the same.
Moreover, an argument exists that color-blind affirmative action is actually affirmative action for the whites. This argument does hold some water. While the law (in theory) has stacked cards in favor of blacks for about half a century, the whites have had the law in their favor since time immemorial: for over 200 years since independence and over 400 years since the discovery of the Americas. Still, there isn't discrimination that can be quantified against the whites to necessitate the abolition of affirmative action (Harry & David, 2009).
Additionally, considering the amount of injustice that blacks have undergone in the past, it is essential that color-conscious affirmative action continues to thrive. The great Afro-Americans today are the fruits of the affirmative action of the twentieth century. It is not necessary that economic affirmative action should be done void of racial affirmative action; the two are not mutually exclusive. Blacks have definitely taken long strides in the emancipation of their position in society, nevertheless, there is a lot of issues to be done.
In very stiff competitions, such as those in the Ivy League Schools, it is essential to consider satisfactory performance by a minority, even if it doesn't meet the exact threshold. It is for a reason that there are many factors that go into the academic success of a student. A black candidate may miss the admission cutoff by a point, something which may be contributed by their socioeconomic or racial background. Take, for instance, a student whose parents never went beyond eighth grade, but have an income above average. That student lacks the external motivation to pursue education but may be internally motivated to excel no matter the circumstances.
The problem of affirmative action in the USA is an "evil" that the nation has to live with; on the overall, it achieves more good than bad. As highlighted in part one and two, the racial affirmative action is a problem that has potentially viable solutions. However, at the time of writing this paper, it is not appropriate that color-conscious affirmative active be done away with. According to change management theory, affirmative action is in its normative phase. It should be allowed to accomplish its objective after which it shall be repealed in favor of color-blind solutions. It can be carried out alongside the color-conscious affirmative action. Abolishing affirmative action, however, could have irreversible effects on the social and economic well-being of the beneficiaries of the policy today.
The challenges highlighted are not meant to disregard color-blind solutions as completely unfeasible. On the contrary, they indicate that implementation of such solutions at this point in time would raise certain crucial questions and problems. In trying to solve the problem of color-conscious affirmative action, the solution developed must not create another social problem. As aforementioned, time is not yet right for such action by the Supreme Court or the Congress to implement color-blind solutions, especially to the education sector.
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