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Author Topic: Affirmative Action  (Read 2146 times)

kslaw

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Affirmative Action
« on: July 14, 2004, 12:31:04 PM »
I was reading the discussion from last week, and felt the urge to voice my opinion on this.

First of all, I'm white, female, and middle class. I consider my upbringing to be relatively priviledged. Far from wealthy, but access to a decent education and a safe environment.

For many years, I was against affirmative action. For many of the same reasons others are: that race should not make up for lower scores. Recently, I've been engaged in a number of discussions on the topic, and my views have changed radically.

From 1641 to 1865, approximately 95% of the blacks in this country were slaves. By the time the last slaves were freed, it had been several years since they had been promised freedom; several years since the famous "all men are created equal" speech. By the time they were freed, they had good reason to be skeptical and distrustful of white men and their promises and rhetoric.

From the time they were freed until 1954, they were treated as second class citizens. The life they lived was nothing like the life they were promised back in 1865. Though they were no longer legally anyone's property, it was still perfectly acceptable to rape, torture and murder them. They were denied access to the opportunities whites had, the same opportunities they had once believed they would have. They could now take jobs, but were not expected to be paid a decent wage. They were harassed and tortured by the  people who felt the jobs should've belonged to them. As of 1911, men were still writing books and making movies declaring blacks to be inferior.

When our grandparents were born, it was a very hostile environment for black people. Isn't it natural then, that those black people would teach their children to fear the white man? It's a survival instinct, they had to. They had to teach their kids that the white men could not be trusted, because to teach their kids otherwise would be poor parenting.

And their kids grew up with that fear, skepticism, distrust. Isn't that the natural reaction to that environment? Those children born in the forties had children in the sixties, and taught their children, too, to be wary. Though that distrust will fade with each generation IF WE GIVE NO REASON TO MAINTAIN IT, it will take more than two generations for it to disappear completely.

Look at current society, accept that the wariness still exists among today's blacks because they are only a generation or two away from those who did not enjoy the legal equality. There are still people who are racist. Not as many as there once was, but enough to cause the wariness to remain.

Because of that distrust, other actions with innocent intent are likely to be construed as racist. For example, my husband and I are the only ones on the block not invited to neighborhood parties. because we're white, we laugh about it. If we were black, we would likely think it was our differentiating factor (of being the only black ones) that resulted in our different treatment (being the only ones not invited to the party).

where does affirmative action come in? as a society, it is in our best interests to continue to see progress in the area of race relations. Besides being morally right, it will also benefit as all by alleviating the division, leading to more cooperative relationships, and in the end, creating a better society, advancing technology, etc.

As future lawyers, we all play an important role in this. our government and legal structure is set up in such a way to encourage the sharing of diverse ideas, the addressing of varying needs, and finding compromise or solutions to best meet the needs of all the people. since lawyers fill most of the roles in the legal system (lawyers, judges, lawmakers), it is important that as a community, our members are diverse, able to speak for a variety of populations, and willing to seek out and understand the other perspectives.

the bottom line: we need black lawyers and lawmakers. we need the best and brightest among those interested in legal careers. If the test scores and GPAs of the best and brightest don't measure up exactly to the test scores and GPAs of non-minority groups, it does not detract from the point that we need those people in our law school classes. Especially when you figure in the reasons those test scores and GPAs may be lower have a lot to do with the condition of black America. we know that black people have the same abilities, and given the same opportunities, can perform at the same level as white people. but we also know that black people are more likely to have less favorable conditions.

the history of black oppression is not 100+ year old. the legal oppression of blacks lasted until 1954. those grandparents and parents had less, thus less to pass onto their children and grandchildren. the wealth that accumulated among white families was not there for black families. the opportunities, the focus on education. black communities (thanks to white flight, etc, as recent as the 70s and 80s) had less money, since black families had less money. they had fewer teachers willing to work there. the school districts, relying on local taxes, couldn't afford decent materials or facilities, and still can't.

As long as these conditions still exist, where the living conditions and educational opportunities for black children are not equal that for white children, then we NEED more black lawyers and lawmakers. we need them there to help address the problem, help create the laws, help fight for the justices, and whatever it takes to get them into law school, we need to support. it's right, fair, and in everyone's best interest.

Engilaw

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2004, 01:10:43 PM »
Although I am no proponent of AA, I do have to chime in here. 

A lot of people argue that the main idea behind AA is to benefit those with lack of accessibility to a quality education earlier in life.  These struggling educational surroundings are usually attributed to the economic lower classes.  I feel that although many URM's fill up this demographic, that if any preferential treatment should be given at all, especially in respect to poor early education, it should be given on a economic class basis alone, not upon race.  It seems to me that the argument that any URM deserves to be beneficiaries of AA simply because a significant percentage of lower class people are URM's is an error in logic.  It is unfair if someone of equal means, scores, and quality to be admitted over another candidate when the deciding factor is skin color.

Basically, my argument is that AA in practice is flawed.  The idea is there, but the implementation needs work.  It's hard to grow up being taught not to look at skin color, to assume all people are equal, and to then be subject to the subtle racism that is AA.   I agree there should be programs to help those with weaker educational backgrounds that were beyond their control, but to assume that all URM's that apply to a given school/job had this educational deficit is just plain stereotyping. 

kslaw

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2004, 01:20:15 PM »
I should know better than to post something like that without revising it, I wasn't very clear.

What I was trying to say is that the point of Affirmative Action is not to make up for the past. It's to create a better future. It's not to say that we should give special priority to folks who didn't have the educational opportunities in the past.

It's to bring into this field people who will help fix the problem down the road.

Races are underrepresented because of the history of that race.

Affirmative action is not meant to reward individuals, or make up for the past. It's meant to fix the problem of underrepresentation.

The other stuff...the history stuff, is just our way of understanding why the race is underrepresented so that we can figure out how to fix it.

WULaw

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2004, 01:30:32 PM »
Although I am no proponent of AA, I do have to chime in here. 

A lot of people argue that the main idea behind AA is to benefit those with lack of accessibility to a quality education earlier in life.  These struggling educational surroundings are usually attributed to the economic lower classes.  I feel that although many URM's fill up this demographic, that if any preferential treatment should be given at all, especially in respect to poor early education, it should be given on a economic class basis alone, not upon race.  It seems to me that the argument that any URM deserves to be beneficiaries of AA simply because a significant percentage of lower class people are URM's is an error in logic.  It is unfair if someone of equal means, scores, and quality to be admitted over another candidate when the deciding factor is skin color.

Basically, my argument is that AA in practice is flawed.  The idea is there, but the implementation needs work.  It's hard to grow up being taught not to look at skin color, to assume all people are equal, and to then be subject to the subtle racism that is AA.   I agree there should be programs to help those with weaker educational backgrounds that were beyond their control, but to assume that all URM's that apply to a given school/job had this educational deficit is just plain stereotyping. 

Class-based AA will never happen.  At first I wondered why black organizations (NAACP, etc.) refused to even consider a compromise like the one you suggest.  I mean, they could put the whole affirmative action debate to bed for once and for all if they adopted the class-based AA.  But if you think about it the reason is pretty obvious: the main benificieries of racial preferences are upper-middle class and wealthy blacks.  If you have class-based AA, you'll immediately shrink the pool of blacks eligible for AA.

I support the idea of class-based AA.  But it will never happen, which is why AA has got to go.  Discrimination on the basis of race is wrong.  Period! 

And by the way, it also happens to violate the 14th Amendment, regardless of what the Supremes say (don't  forget some of the shameful decisions of the mid-19th century).  I mean, the majority claimed racial diversity trumps equal protection under the law.  I don't remember seeing the "diversity clause" anywhere.

Ginatio

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2004, 01:49:25 PM »
doesn't the 14th Amendment technically only apply to States and State laws? Considering that the case before the Court was about a state university, you could argue that the 14th Amendment applies, but UofM's policies aren't state law or state enforced, and also, the "abridg[ing] the privileges or immunities" clause in the 14th Amendment is pretty nebulous... I think the Court was well within its jurisdiction given that their job is to interpret and enforce the Constitution...

as for AA being directed to fixing the problem of underrepresentation... have you considered that maybe the end doesn't entirely justify the means? although AA in practice gives an immediate boost to minority representation at law schools, in the long run it should be abolished for a more proactive approach (i.e., promoting access to education and resources at a k-12 stage, rather than at a collegiate or professional school stage)

Moogle

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2004, 01:50:55 PM »
I agree with Engilaw, AA should be based on economic circumstances alone and not be associated with race.  Not all blacks are poor, and not all caucasians are rich.  I am not black nor hispanic, but I went to the crappiest HS in the slums area of my city, I graduated with a 92% avg. and I did not study one day, it's not cause I'm smart but that my school sucked so much.  As a result, I totally bombed my first year.  But, a lot of students who went to private school did amazing in their first year University, I'm talking about a 4.0 sessional GPA!  It is b/c poor people cannot afford to send their children to private schools that their kids begin at a different starting point than their counterparts who did receive a great HS education.  In fact, if you threw away my first year GPA, my CGPA would currently be circa 3.8 right now, and I would have a decent shot at HYS.   
When in doubt on the LSAT, always choose F as the answer.

WULaw

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2004, 02:16:45 PM »
doesn't the 14th Amendment technically only apply to States and State laws? Considering that the case before the Court was about a state university, you could argue that the 14th Amendment applies, but UofM's policies aren't state law or state enforced, and also, the "abridg[ing] the privileges or immunities" clause in the 14th Amendment is pretty nebulous... I think the Court was well within its jurisdiction given that their job is to interpret and enforce the Constitution...


But UofM is a state-funded institution.  I mean, you won't see a case like this with Harvard or that school Bob Jones U., because they are private schools.  Using your logic, how could the Supreme court desegregate public schools.

The fact is, we have a Supreme Court tht is making *&^% up at will.  Justice Breyer has already been quoting the EU constitution in some of his decisions, which is outrageous.  As a person starting law school this fall, I realize that I will have to respect Supreme Court decisions and act accordingly.  But that does not mean they are right.

WULaw

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2004, 02:53:08 PM »
I just want to further add to why class-based AA will not happen.  Most conservatives oppose it because it would continue hit their main constituency: people with money.  Sure some conservatives have offered it a way to divide the pro-AA side.  But most don't really want it any more than they want the current system.

Liberals won't support it because it is opposed by NAACP, etc.

Meanwhile, the vast majority that would support it as way to correct the contradictions of the current system (e.g., fighting racism with racism) get screwed. 

Again, great idea, it just has too many well-placed opponents.

jacy85

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2004, 02:56:26 PM »
as for AA being directed to fixing the problem of underrepresentation... have you considered that maybe the end doesn't entirely justify the means? although AA in practice gives an immediate boost to minority representation at law schools, in the long run it should be abolished for a more proactive approach (i.e., promoting access to education and resources at a k-12 stage, rather than at a collegiate or professional school stage)

I would also support a class based system.  It would address the cause more adequately than the current system.  However, I agree with Ginato on this point regarding earlier attention in schools.  A lot of URMs that actually do come from poorer areas benefit from AA to get into college, and then many don't last more than a year since their high schools were unable to adequately prepare these students for the rigorous education they would be thrown into in college.  We need to desparately equalize our schooling system, and give more money and opportunity to younger childern, so by the time they reach college age, they have not only the will and determination but the necessary knowledge to do well in higher education.  

Miltra

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Re: Affirmative Action
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2004, 03:02:08 PM »
How many times do we have to have this discussion? It's like abortion--everyone already has a position and they aren't going to change it. 

But I guess we're all going to be lawyers because we like to argue, right? :)