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Affirmative action refers to the policies which organizations and institutions actively engage to increase educational and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and marginalized groups in the United States. Affirmative action policies in the United States put much focus on education, employment and allocation of housing facilities by the government. The Department of Education has formulated affirmative admission policies to ensure that the under-represented or historically excluded groups are provided with the equal access to education and employment. The minority groups in the United States include Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos.
The history of affirmative action in the United States could be traced to the American Civil Rights Movement of 1960. The historic movement has relentlessly agitated for equal opportunities for women and members of minority groups in employment and education. The period following the Civil Rights Movement sparked off many debates on the effectiveness of the race-based affirmative action. The biggest question remains whether or not affirmative action in university admissions, hiring decisions, and workplace promotions should be based on race or class. This paper highlights the social and economic benefits of class-based affirmative action.
Affirmative Action: Race or Class?
I would advise the President of the United States to maintain the class-based affirmative action over race-based affirmative action. The race-conscious admissions in the U.S. institutions of higher education only serve to build or maintain levels of racial diversity in the selected campuses and some other institutions of higher education. They assume that the minority groups in the United States are all poor due to far reaching effects of slavery-related historical injustices. Therefore, an intervention, in the form of affirmative action, is still necessary to increase their access to education and employment in both the private and public sectors.
Although the application of race-blind admissions significantly increases the number of Hispanic and Black students in the institutions of higher education across the U.S., it excludes 31% of the total low-income white families. The poor white Americans are discriminated against in college admissions and employment simply because of their class. A study conducted by Walter Benn Michaels (2012) revealed that 90% of African Americans admitted at selective colleges and universities come from middle and upper economic classes. The study finding implies that consideration of race as the only proxy in student admission into the American institutions of higher education locks out larger masses of the low-income white and African American children in equal measure.
The system of racial preference in the admission of students ignores the prevailing economic disparities among the students (The New York Times 2012). The continuation of race-based affirmative action is increasing, blocking the disadvantaged white children from low-class from getting admissions in the institutions of higher education in the U.S. in favor of middle-class Blacks, Latinos and Hispanics. It is a sheer pity that the figures of white households languishing in abject poverty in the U.S. are steadily increasing despite their negative discrimination in the college admissions and employment opportunities. Today, the white households constitute 31% of the low-class populations against 14% in 1999. The remaining share of 69% collectively goes to Blacks, Hispanic and Latinos (United States Census Bureau 2014). It is projected that the figures are likely to hit 35% by 2017 unless the trending negative discrimination, perpetuated by race-based affirmative action, is mitigated in the college admissions and recruitment of employees.
The shocking figures of low-class white populations trapped in poverty circles due to high rates of unemployment and lack of opportunities for higher education demands for the adoption of class-based affirmative action. The new system will offer a lasting solution to the systemic failure of the race-based affirmative action to give priority to the white and Black children from poor economic backgrounds.
The class-based policies have got the potential to maintain the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics in the selected institutions of higher education and at the same time bring about the social and economic justice to the entire American population. According to the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the class-based affirmative policy opens more spots for the marginalized minority students and admission opportunities for children from poor backgrounds without considering their race. It will initiate admission policies to be adopted at the institutional levels, which would favor blacks and Hispanics in American colleges and universities.
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The systematic switch from the current race-based to class-based affirmative action will promote economic and racial justice. The proposed class-based affirmative action will rise above the limiting system of racial preferences to address disparities in higher education. It will also make employment opportunities accessible to the low-class Americans in the U.S. It is worth noting that most of the leading universities in the U.S. have adopted the class-based affirmative action in their admission of new students. The new integrated system of admission is applauded for its inherent ability to promote economic, ethnic and racial diversity devoid of racial preference.
Although the correlation between family income and race is strong, the race cannot function as a useful proxy for race in search of diversity. The race-based affirmative action is no longer effective in increasing opportunities for the marginalized groups in the United States. The population of white Americans deprived of higher education and employment is on the rise. Therefore, the class-based affirmative action is the only feasible and practical intervention policy. It will see the United States maintain the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics in the selected institutions of higher education while attaining social and economic justice among the American population.
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