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Affirmative Action Perpetuates a Colorized America

Few government policies are more counterproductive than affirmative action. Its origins trace back to the presidential terms of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, both of whom sought to curb discrimination and improve the lives of, namely, impoverished blacks. At the time, affirmative action served its purpose. Today, however, affirmative action is outdated and detrimental; it perpetuates a colorized America, an America of the past.

Most importantly, affirmative action discourages accountability among blacks. Proponents utilize blacks’ failures as a justification to increase our affirmative action efforts. And, black Americans’ successes are too often attributed not to one’s work ethic or ingenuity, but to affirmative action. Thus, it categorizes the black man as either a victim of societal racism or a product of this victimhood scheme. Either way, it classifies him firstly as the member of a race and a policy, and secondly, as a member of society.

Favoring color over competence is counterproductive, regardless of the intended beneficiaries’ race. Consider the following role‐reversed example: similar to other industries, the National Basketball Association is an industry in which capability supersedes color. It’s no secret that, generally, the NBA’s most talented players are African‐American. Why? It’s because coaches seek to assemble championship‐caliber teams, and therefore select players based on nothing more than talent.

Let’s pretend that David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, enacts a rule that mandates teams to replace its starting players with five, less skilled men of Caucasian descent. The result of such a rule would diminish the NBA’s aggregate talent, as management could no longer assemble their teams based on merit. Surely, less talented teams would garner less public interest. Consequently, ticket revenues would plummet, as would apparel and food sales. I’m not arguing blacks should stick to basketball and whites to the conference rooms. I’m simply questioning, at what point does the pursuit of diversity overshadow and subordinate excellence?

Nevertheless, Washington promotes affirmative action. According to the Wall Street Journal, African‐Americans comprise 17 percent of the federal government’s workforce, while they are roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population. Why, then, has Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13583, which promotes “Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce”? Blacks serve on our courts, including the highest court in our land. Blacks are also mayors of major American cities. Our U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, is a black American. Furthermore, so is our Commander in Chief. His inauguration unequivocally proves racism isn’t the issue that it once was. Marcus Garvey, a dedicated proponent of the Black Nationalism movement, shares my same sentiments. As does Bill Cosby, who doesn’t blame racist cops or judges, but parental neglect in the impoverished black community, as the primary reason for sustained poverty and incarceration rates. Even Justice Clarence Thomas concludes that it’s harmful to the black community.

Ultimately, it was Milton Freedman who stated, “Freedom to compete fairly for university admissions, jobs and contracts is central to all that America professes to be.” Furthermore, Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt that his children would be judged one day “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Well, what’s affirmative action? It’s an initiative that judges people by the color of their skin, thereby negating our nation’s pursuit of a post‐racial Promised Land.

Alex Gushner is a fourth-year economics major.

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22 Responses to Affirmative Action Perpetuates a Colorized America

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    February 22, 2012 at 4:34 am

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  2. Altif

    January 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    ^^ As are we

  3. BP23

    January 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Hopefully everyone realizes that this is not an ‘article’ it is a letter written by a UCSB student of no affiliation with the Nexus. It’s not journalism, it is simply a student exercising their right to free speech.

    • Asha Robin

      January 31, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      To submit a letter on a topic such as this and containing this type of information that is so one-sided almost seems to welcome backlash and criticism… Just because it’s an opinion and just because he’s not a journalist doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve to hear our sides of the argument. In addition, what does something like this being an ‘article’ or journalism have to do with anything? With the other crap that gets printed in the Daily Nexus I wouldn’t call a lot of the regular writers there ‘journalists’ either, but if you put your work out there — any type of literature that takes a stance or addresses something controversial — it is going to be responded to. Simple.

    • Erica Johnson

      January 31, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      it says at the bottom “A version of this article appeared on page 11 of January 11, 2011’s print edition of the Nexus.” it also says “Published on January 11, 2012” Even though it is categorized as letters to the editor could you give a brief explanation on what the difference is? ( just for clarification )

  4. Altif

    January 14, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Furthernore, Clarence Thomas is not a good example of anything related to Black Issues. During that whole fiasco in the 90s we saw which team he was playing for. Do us all a favor and take a couple more classes in the liberal arts department before you write another article concerning a social science ideology.

  5. Asha Robin

    January 13, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I personally feel that an article and opinions like this could only come from someone who has not witnessed first or even second-hand the plight of people of color and African-Americans in particular, in any and every possible arena of life. This is not to say that great strides have not been made, but having a Black president does not mean that affirmative action is no longer needed, or that the issue of race is antiquated and unrelated. I’m disgusted that myself and my peers — Nigerian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, African-American, Black, mixed-race, or whatever we choose to classify ourselves as — are working hard for ourselves and the University of California, and that all we get in return are fee increases and articles like this, thrust before our eyes, as if our work is for absolutely nothing. Self-reflection is much needed by anyone who shares this author’s beliefs… Who hurt you? Why you mad? There are people who are doing more than you and who probably have a higher GPA, more opportunities, and whether affirmative action helped them get there or not, they deserve it; end of story.

  6. Paul

    January 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    This article is uniformed at best and from the way it is written, it is obvious that the author suffers from a serve ignorance to, or denial of the current social realities of people of color in the United States. It presents arguments that I have heard recycled time and time again among affluent white men who took one too many economics classes ( and what a surprise it was to see that the author happens to be an econ major). However, what is most important here is not who is saying these arguments, but that fact that they still seem logical in some peoples’ minds.

    “Attorney General, Eric Holder, is a black American. Furthermore, so is our Commander in Chief. His inauguration unequivocally proves racism isn’t the issue that it once was.” In terms of serious generalizations and illogical statements made, this won the prize, although it had some good competition. This is the typical “Post-Racial America” argument which asserts that because a person of color now sits in the oval office, racism should be wiped away clean from our consciousness. However, being cognizant of racism is the most important tool we have in the battle to confront the legacies it left behind (like the overrepresentation of people of color in the justice system coinciding with their underrepresentation in higher education).

    “Thus, it categorizes the black man as either a victim of societal racism or a product of this victimhood scheme.” By “the black man,” I assume you are referring to the African-American community as a whole, right?? Just use that instead next time, it makes you sound less ignorant and more like you actually know what you are talking about.

    “As does Bill Cosby, who doesn’t blame racist cops or judges, but parental neglect in the impoverished black community, as the primary reason for sustained poverty and incarceration rates.” Quoting the most self-hating black man on late night television does very little in bringing any merit to your argument.


    • Alex

      January 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      You’re confusing Tracy Morgan with Bill Cosby. Now who’s the racist?

      • Alex

        January 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

        (Different Alex than the author)

  7. Erica Johnson

    January 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Also, I definitely agree with what CB said (Jan 13th) I hope you and your editors read it

  8. Erica Johnson

    January 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    I think that your understanding of affirmative action is off (and you do not put enough focus in one area so your criticism is too general and therefore weak). Having taken a few Psych classes I think affirmative action is a “check and balance” mechanism, checking and balancing implicit acts of prejudice in choosing candidates for schools. People tend to favor others who are more like themselves. I also think this article does not touch upon the fact that diversity is important because collaboration brings about different and innovative ideas, as well as interactions among peers to fight against IGNORANCE.

    I went to a predominantly white elementary school (myself and another being the only children of African descent), have been called a nigger and told not to play on the foursquare with a group of kids, have been misunderstood from time to time to be dirty because of my crazy hair, have been insulted by older white cops on a field-trip which my babysitters at the time (both caucasian and apparently did not know how to handle the situation) failed to speak up for me. I was 8, this was 11 years ago. Since then my parents have been nice about getting me into more diverse schools. My point being if UCSB wasn’t as diverse as it is (which to me its not) i would receive even more awkward glances from my peers every time some topic about “blacks” came up (which i already think is annoying because I’m a very open minded person.

    Your article is insulting to me. It totally discredits the hard work I’ve done to get into UCSB and the hard work I do to continue to stay. I’m sure others can relate. I also suggest you attack one specific area, go into details and back it up with some HARD evidence ( more research)….funny how you picked the NBA as an example (shitty one at that) knowing it is a sensitive area of black stereotyping, especially if you have no hard evidence from that example.

    SO PLEASE CRITICIZE SPECIFICALLY THOSE WHO ABUSE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, such as employers who chose a person for skin color over qualification when with just a little more effort I’m sure they can find a person of color with the same qualification. If they don’t qualify they don’t qualify, if they didn’t apply they didn’t apply and they can grow some balls stand behind that.

    • Erica Johnson

      January 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      Btw my anecdote was to point out that prejudice is still prevalent and i feel that (even though i used my schools for an example (since I am a newbee to the work force) it can reflect the work community. however after the first sentence of your second paragraph you made some good points.

  9. Altif

    January 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    ^^^ Thank You CB

  10. CB

    January 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    This article is misguided and poorly supported as already mentioned. It would be effective to mention in what sphere of society the writer is referring to in regards to the workings of affirmative action presently. He seems to be talking very generally,much of what he said is not written with any parameters and does not give readers enough background in order to create well informed opinions on the matter. In regards to education, at least in the University level, affirmative action is illegal as a result of the landmark case, Bakke V. University of California. He has no evidence on how and where affirmative action is being used currently. Fostering and pushing for diversity is not equivalent to affirmative action.If someone wrote an article about how damaging racism is to our society now, they could never get away with that without providing sufficient evidence, and they shouldn’t. There is much more to be said and redeemed about this article. In general, there is also something to be said about the products of this world class institution. Somehow people still get out of here uneducated and are allowed to enter into the work force. If someone wants to blow of some steam or rant about an issue they don’t seem to know much about save some quick, not thorough research, they should blog not publish an article in the school newspaper.

    • Shirl

      January 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      spot on

  11. Altif

    January 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    My question to you is that if you feel that affirmative action is giving opportunities to those who don’t deserve it based on talent, smarts, etc, then how do these same Black people excel in top notch universities, oftentimes beating out their white counterparts in regards to GPA; or is that also a conspiracy to oppress White America? In my opinion, affirmative action generally counterbalances white privilege. But thank you for this article, because now the world can see that clearly racism is alive and well today. Although you probably arent lynching Blacks, denying them equal access to opportunity still reeks of Jim Crow. If you truly believe that your helping the country by steadily trying to destabilize Black America, then maybe you’re the one who’s merit should be called into question.

    • Danny K.

      January 14, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Top notch ignorant white privilege spew exactly. This op-ed expresses the sentiments of cultural incompetence through a privilege white person. I agree with Altif, I’m glad that this was published because it sadly represents how uninformed students of UCSB can be.

  12. Issue

    January 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Hey Alex, Fuck you and the Nexus very much you sonsofbitches. Have a slow and painful trip to hell.

  13. Shirl

    January 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    This article is a slap in the face. Poorly written and poorly substantiated. You’re stating that Blacks are not competent based off of affirmative action? This is stupid obviously the role of affirmative action was to counteract discrimination within laws, education, jobs, housing, etc., meaning there are brilliant and qualified Blacks who were not and still aren’t being given access based off of the color of their skin.

  14. Joel

    January 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    You’re a dick. I hope you eat shit and die. I really do. That would make my day.

  15. Castorp

    January 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Its origins trace back to the presidential terms of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, both of whom sought to curb discrimination and improve the lives of, namely, impoverished blacks.

    You’re neglecting the role of that renowned liberal, Richard M. Nixon.

    From Wikipedia:

    “One of the United States’ first major applications of affirmative action, the Philadelphia Plan, was enacted by the Nixon administration in 1969. The Revised Philadelphia Plan was controversial for its use of strict quotas and timetables to combat the institutionalized discrimination in the hiring practices of Philadelphia’s skilled trade unions.”

    Divide and conquer is as old as the hills.

    Affirmative action has created a small well-off layer in the African American and other minority communities, fulfilling its purpose of dampening revolutionary aspirations. Meanwhile, the overwhelming masses are mired in a level of class oppression rivaling the era of American apartheid.