By Klaire Tan:
Graphic by George Hwang:
In 1996, Californians approved Proposition 209, which amended the state constitution to prohibit the discrimination and preferential treatment known as affirmative action policies. These policies promote the inclusion of the historically excluded in areas of employment, education and business. However, while affirmative action policies seem to be a noble attempt at leveling the playing field for the supposed “underdogs,” they tend to promote reverse discrimination instead. Though affirmative action proponents are now bringing their campaign to overturn Prop 209 to the federal court, Prop 209 should remain intact because it eliminates all discrimination in public entities, taking the step towards equality which affirmative action failed to do.
Though affirmative action began as an attempt to right wrongdoings and promote civil rights for all, policies became misguided in the late 1970s. Quotas for hiring minority applications and reverse discrimination began as a result of these policies. Race wound up determining the fate of a student’s application to a university or job position. In the 1978 case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Allan Bakke, a qualified white applicant, was rejected by UC Davis’s School of Medicine, while lesser qualified applicants of minority status were accepted. This preferential selection is a mockery of the equality which affirmative action aspires to achieve.
Affirmative action is now a contradiction of the American dream. Though our country advocates diversity, our country also champions the idea that success should be purely determined by one’s merit. The preferential treatment shown by the UCs toward minorities in the mentioned 1978 case is proof that affirmative action undermines our national philosophy. Affirmative action also perpetuates the idea that women and minorities are incapable of equal accomplishment without an extra boost. Not every member of a minority is disadvantaged; needy individuals exist in every race, gender and ethnicity.
Backers of affirmative action claim that Prop 209 has eliminated programs which promote equal opportunities for minorities and women. However, under Prop 209, programs shall remain so long as they are fair and indiscriminatory. America will thus return to affirmative action’s original ideals of simply abolishing discrimination.
Affirmative action policies have strayed off course but still endorse a noble cause. They simply need reform, which Prop 209 provides. Affirmative action proponents should now focus on unprejudiced reforms such as Prop 209 instead of the discriminatory policies of the past which fail to contribute to equality.