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The first concept of affirmative action was presented by President Kennedy in a 1961 executive order. His order stated that government contractors should voluntarily support affirmative action efforts by recruiting, hiring and promoting minorities (Moreno 5). Higher education did not become the focus of affirmative action until the 1973 case Adams vs. Richardson. In this case the Department of Heath, Education and Welfare Published guidelines ordering a unitary higher education system. The goal of these guidelines was to ensure that the proportion of black high school graduates equaled the proportion of white graduates entering state institutions of higher learning (Moreno 6).
This in itself is the problem that black conservatives see in implementing raced based uniform admissions policies. They feel that this system is not only demeaning to African Americans, but that school desegregation laws are based on a theory of black inferiority (Magelli 2). Shelby Steel, a Stanford University Professor and black conservative thinks that the federal government should focus on fixing old public school systems instead of giving minorities a leg up later in life when it is often too late to undo the damage inflicted by poor public schooling during childhood (Magelli 11). This is a valid point especially in many urban areas where underpaid teachers teach from outdated school books. But what is the answer? Would everything be fine if,,like the black conservatives feel,, the federal government removed itself from the situation (Magelli 3)? We need only to look at our own neighborhoods to answer that question.
A 2000 census report confirms that we continue to live in a segregated society. This study used an index that ranged from 0 to 100, where 0 indicated blacks and whites are evenly distributed in neighborhoods and 100 means that blacks and whites share no neighborhood in common.
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So the fact that we still live in a segregated society nearly 140 years after the Civil War shows us that what we donft need is a hands off approach on racial issues from the federal government. What we need is more governmental intervention. In 2000 researchers working for the Department of Urban Development concluded that discrimination persists in both housing rental and sales markets of large metropolitan areas nationwide (Massey 5). This is not a problem capitol nor is it a problem of will or desire; this is a problem of segregation which exists in our neighborhoods and schools alike.
Another Idea held by black conservatives is that the issue of affirmative action has been clouded by race. Many black conservatives feel that a system of equality based on class rather than race would create a more accepted program. William Julius Wilson, a Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Chicago feels that any economic empowerment program for black youths should follow race neutral policies that draw the support of everyone, not just minorities. Wilson thinks that these programs would work to bring different races together (Magelli 23). We are all divided by class in the U.S. and Professor Wilson may have a point, but how valid is it? To find that out we must ask ourselves what kind of education we want.
In a 2002 paper, gOn the importance of Diversity in Higher Education,h the American Council on Education states that a diverse student body is essential in providing a high-quality education. This paper was also endorsed by 65 other higher education associations and also states that they gbelieve so strongly that racial and ethnic diversity should be one factor among the many considered in admission and hiring (Moreno 21).h
In fact, this position has been upheld in the only two cases involving student affirmative action issues presented to the Supreme Court. In Defunis v. Odegaard (1974), the Court upheld a lower courtfs ruling that the admissions policies at the University of Washington Law School served a number of interests for the state of Washington in promoting integration in public education (Moreno 9). Then in 1978 the Supreme Court overturned a lower courtfs ruling to the unconstitutionality of the University of California, Davis Medical Schoolfs program of race conscience admission in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (Moreno 11).
According to a 12 year longitudinal study, class can not be substituted for race without having substantial effects on campus diversity. The study further states that if a university wanted to achieve diversity using a class based system it would have to reserve six times the seats for low income students that it now reserves for minority students. Another study found that the beneficiaries of a class based admission system would be low income whites and Asians, thereby doing little to maintain the diversity desired (Moreno 24).
We are members of America, the home of the brave and the land of the opinionated. So we should not disregard the opinions of the black conservatives. Many things that they say have some truth to them and should be implemented in our country. We should put more focus on our primary and secondary schools for instance. But to completely eradicate the programs that great men and women of the past worked and fought so hard to bring about seems a bit much for me.
Megalli, Mark. gThe High Priests of the Black Academic Right.h The Journal of Blacks
in Higher Education, No 9 (Autumn 1995). 7 Sep. 2003
Moreno, Pamela. gA History of Affirmative Action Law and Its Relation to College
Admission.h Journal of College Admission no179 (Spring 2003). 7 Sep 2003
Massey, Douglas S. gThe Race Case.h American Prospect v. 14 no3 (Mar. 2003).
7 Sep 2003 <http://80- firstsearch.oclc.org.ezproxy.umuc.edu/WebZ