Column: Keep preferences in perspective

By Matt Simmons

Conservatives on campus have been complaining a lot about the University’s affirmative action policy recently. Leo Buchignani of the Orange and Blue Observer called affirmative action racist because it “takes the spot away from a well-qualified white man and gives his spot away to an unqualified African American.” I am not the biggest supporter of affirmative action, but I do not understand the widespread hostile opposition against it.

It takes a lot of arrogance for people to say that spots are taken away from white people. A lot of people talk about how their friends where denied admission here and their spots were given to less qualified minorities. What makes these people believe that they and their friends have some preordained destiny to be admitted here? Every student, including minorities, faces the possibility of rejection. Students that are rejected should stop whining and just apply to the next school.

Why is it that racial preferences have been attacked so vehemently while other types of preferences are deemed acceptable? Nobody seems to mind that preferences are given to veterans, legacies and athletes. These students are given preferences because schools feel that their presence improves the status of the school. On the same vein, if schools honestly feel that a substantial minority population on campus enhances the academic environment, as stated numerous times by the University, they should be able to create such a student body. How is it right for schools to give preferences to athletes for entertainment and tradition, but wrong for them to recruit and create a student body that reflects the diverse nature of the workforce in the 21st century?

Most of the conservatives attacking affirmative action are not really concerned with its effects on our meritocracy; if so, they would be up in arms over other types of preferences. The truth is that they are simply hostile towards policies advancing minority interest because they do not want to lose their privileges. The people spearheading the attack on affirmative action are the same people that opposed school integration, voting rights and hate crime legislation.

Just listen to Buchignani’s rambling. He claims that blacks are “behind socially” because of hip-hop culture and the breakdown of the family, which is a gross overgeneralization without any factual basis. While critics of affirmative action are so quick to point to the problems in the black community, they refuse to acknowledge the role that the government has played in facilitating and perpetuating many of the adverse conditions that blacks face today. Blacks were subject to segregation in the schools under the sham of the “separate but equal” doctrine. Black families were denied a chance to own a home, the most conventional source of wealth for Americans, and were forced into the ghettos and public housing districts due to government’s unwillingness to regulate against discriminatory lending practices. And many young black men have been disproportionately put behind bars because of excessive drug laws that discriminate against them.

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I know the Orange and Blue Observer will continue to protest. They will probably have an affirmative action bake sale and offer food to racial minorities at a discounted rate. I have a couple of suggestions for them to make the next one more accurate. The sale should last for ten hours. For the first nine and a half hours, only white people should be able to buy food while minorities must go the whole time without eating. For the last half hour, minorities should receive a slight discount while whites can still buy the food at normal prices. Only then would the bake sale represent the history of racial discrimination in the U.S.

The so-called injustice bought by affirmative action is miniscule compared to the injustice it was designed to remedy. The next time you see an affirmative action bake sale or protest, remember it reflects a simplistic conservative interpretation, not the truth.

Matt Simmons is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected].