Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Affirmative Action is so Belittling

I got into an online discussion about affirmative action.  I have no idea how that happened exactly other than I mentioned that abortion (which was the topic of discussion) was actually detrimental to women's careers.  Essentially I said, women are forced to choose between family and work when abortion is used as legitimate form of birth control.  Instead of promoting better maternity care or child care, women are frowned upon if they have X number of children while entering competitive business fields.  It's also particularly bad for men too.  I've heard that men who take time off work from university settings to care for a sick child get all sorts of nasty comments.  In other words both genders are pressured to choose their careers.  Women just end up feeling more pressure to abort. 

Somehow this turned into a discussion about affirmative action.  And it was disgusting to watch.  Hears why...

1) We need affirmative action to uplift the underrepresented classes- As I pointed out, what affirmative action does is lift those who can already afford to go to college.  Studies have shown that it's socio-economic background that limits a person's access to college.  Race and gender have little to do with it.  It is true that the majority of those in poverty are minorities, but that's not what these admissions are focused on.  Instead you score extra points for how you were born, not how much money your parents can give you to go to school.  That doesn't sit well with me.  Do Obama's daughter's really need extra points over and above a white factory worker's son?

2) We need more role models of different groups-  I think it's nice to desire to have different role models, but....This is problematic because it's setting up a dichotomy of racial/ethnic/gender groups.  If we are truly interested in being color/gender blind, why aren't we acting like it?  Instead we're purposely pitting people against each other.  White males, realize for example, that some of their classmates are there because of their race, not their scholarship.  Recently in the world of academia, I had a friend go for a job interview.  He made the short list of three people:  2 males, 1 female.  Guess who got the job?  Now even if it was because she was more qualified, it still set up some animosity between him and his future colleague and the university.  He no longer views her simply based on merit; he's forced to consider her gender as well.  How's that for role models?

3) We need affirmative action to bring about diversity- I'm sorry but how does one's sex or skin color help with diversity exactly?  Shouldn't it be encouraged to have a diversity of ideas rather than a diversity of skin tones?  And really what happens when we based admissions on skin color rather than academic achievement and test scores, we have those who can hack it an Ivy League University and those who can't but got in because of color points.  How is that helping the University?  How is that fostering more progress in areas of say research?  Instructors spend more time attempting to get them up to speed or those students end up dropping out. 

4) But..but...but...oppression?-  What oppression?  Last time I checked women and people of color aren't barred from attending state-run universities.  Please explain to me exactly where it says you can't apply.  It was a problem in the past, but that's not the case today.  If anything, it's easier for a person of color or a woman to get into a top level school than a white male who has the same academic achievements and test scores. 

As a woman, I find the whole thing so infuriating.  I don't want to be hired because I'm a girl.  I want to be hired because I'm qualified and the best candidate.  Instead if I were to apply to teach at a university, I'm going to wonder if I'm being hired to create diversity of gender.  It's belittling to expect less academic achievements than a man.  I really don't understand why people want to keep encouraging this.  Affirmative action is only furthering hidden resentment. 

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