Affirmative Action: Question and a small rant

Hey all.

I attend University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and it has been a shocking experience. An anti-affirmative action group in the school organized a speaker by the name of David Horowitz who pretty much blamed blacks for Affirmative Action.:mad:
As an African American male, this is somewhat disheartening. Blacks aren’t the only ones who benefit from Affirmative Action. Hispanics, Asian-Americans, caucasian females, Native Americans and many others benefit from Affirmative Action.
Why is it that African-Americans are the ones who are scape-goated as the main benefactors of Affirmative Action? Someone please tell me that. :confused:
Also, was Affirmative Action abolished in California? Looking at Berkley’s webpage: less than a thousand African-Americans were admitted as undergraduates.

I am in no way saying that Affirmative Action should be for EVERY institution. However, I believe that institutions that wish to harbor a diverse cultural environment should be able to do so without reprieve.

First, noboy is to “blame” for affirmative action. I believe, though I may be wrong, it was created by the Supreme court as a remedy for past discrimination against blacks. If it wasn’t created by the Court, it was suggested TO them as a remedy.

I thought it was based on Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” thing? (Or was that the other president?) Oh boy, I know I got it wrong!

But nevermind my weak grasp on history! :smiley:
So let me get this straight.

Affirmative Action was created for African-Americans, yet it includes non-blacks as minorities? If this is correct. Why? Would it not be better to have it specifically benefit African-Americans?

My main gripe is that blacks are scapegoated for the perpetuation of Affirmative Action. (Just like welfare but that’s an entirely new can of worms!) Has anyone noticed this trend or is it just me?

  • Honesty

I have personally never noticed that particular (and inaccurate) characterization of affirmative action.

But blacks, being the largest minority besides women which are targeted by affirmative action (as I understand it), are obviously going to be a focus for such anti-AA schemes. No?

Personally, I think blacks are “scapegoated” both because they are the most highly visible recipients, in the eyes of the general (white) public, and because they were the group who were first envisioned when it was originally developed. Although other ethnic groups may receive as much consideration “per capita”, since blacks are either more numerous or more visible, that’s who people associate with Affirmative Action. It may well be innacurate, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen in their minds.

Personally, I can’t make up my mind on Affirmative Action. Waking up one day I’ll be fully and completely against it, since race bias is a bad thing, no matter what. The next day I’ll think to myself, “300 years of getting screwed… Yeah, right… 30 years is gonna do the trick.”

Here’s a history of Affirmative Action from the National Archives, part of a Report to the President (Clinton)

Of course, you people are all responsible for it! How in the world do you think that 280,000,000 Americans could be complelled to put up with this if not from the force of that noted majority group, the blacks, with 35,500,000 people including a disproportionate number of the nation’s poorest among those people.

Horowitz makes his living by making outrageous statements. The publicity sells his books and guarantees speaking fees.

The first use of the phrase Affirmative Action was in President Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, creating the EEOC. It instructed the commission to use “affirmative action” to ensure fairness in hiring practices.

In 1965, President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 in conjunction with Congressionally enacted laws on fairness in hiring that directed Government agencies to take “affirmative action” to seek out qualified minority-owned or operated businesses in order to provide them the opportunity to bid on government contracts from which they would previously been excluded. This was (as far as I know) the earliest use of the phrase Affirmative Action in its current sense. Two or three years later, the Order was expanded to include sex discrimination as a target for Affirmative Action redress.
At the same time that Johnson was issuing his order, several private corporations voluntarily introduced internal measures to promote the seeking out of qualified minority candidates to fill new positions.

In the early 1970s, several courts responded to specific lawsuits (usually against unions or municipal services departments such as firefighters and police) in which a pattern of discrimination was alleged by ordering the defendents to hire specific numbers of minority applicants in order to offset previous discrimination. Since there were not always sufficient minority applicants available to fill those quotas, there were several cases of standards being lowered to find enough people to fill the quotas. At this time, the phrase Affirmative Action got attached to the system of quotas that were applied to those “remedies” and the intertwining association of “quotas” with “Affirmative Action” has continued to this day.

At about the same time, various universities, having tried “open admission” policies and seen them fail, began setting their own quotas on applicants in order to preserve “diversity.” By 1978 (fewer than 10 years after the first “quota” case) the Supreme Court severely limited the use of quotas in deciding for Bakke. While barring “quotas,” the Court did not strike down the concept of Affirmative Action, itself. leaving that concept (however ill-defined) alone.

A couple of years ago, California passed a referendum outlawing any quotas in hiring or student enrollment.

Horowitz’s charge that blacks are “responsible” for AA is absurd, but it gets more publicity than simply blaming Liberals.

We fight the battle of the fairness, utility, workability, and purpose of AA on this Forum on a regular basis.

A search on the “word” AA will turn up several dozen threads you can peruse.

For an AA timeline, check out the one at .

There is an article here;

Makes some interesting points in there.

Wow, tomndebb , thank you very much for your post. The links you gave your very very helpful!!
I read your link Sweet Willy and it seemed to reinforced my viewpoint that Affirmative Action is somehow synonymous iwth African Americans. :confused:

– Honesty

The reason that affirmative action is primarily associated with blacks is that historically they have benfitted the most from affirmative action and black people have been some of the most vocal proponents of that policy. In recent years as the percentage of hispanics has overtaken that of blacks more and more hispanics have benefited. Historically affirmative action in the college admissions have hurt other minorities such as asians and jews. I do not think women benefit from affirmative action in college admissions though they are the primary beneficiary in other types.
Institutions that wish to create a diverse enviroment should be free to do so unless they are government institutions. The government should treat everyone equally and not discriminate based on race.

In case people are not aware of how AA works at the Uof M, students are given points based on certain criteria and then the students with the most points get in. A perfect GPA is worth 80 points, a perfect SAT score is worth 12, having a parent who is an alumnus is worth 4, an outstanding essay is worth 1, and being a minority is worth 20.

Citation? Particularly in regard to Asians?

Cite for this “formula”? Are the points for GPA and SAT score proportioned to actual score for people who score less than perfect?

Given that historically “performance predictors” such as high school GPA and SAT score have been less accurate for minorities than for whites (performance predictions based solely on GPA and SAT are more likely to underpredict the college performance of minorities than they are for whites), it makes a lot of sense to use an “add-back” to account for this negative bias. And that doesn’t even account for the University’s positive interest in a “diverse academic community”. So I don’t really have a problem with them giving minorities a boost in the game; it partially makes up for the continual smacking down they got on the way there.

I don’t have a cite handy, but for the University of California system, when it was still doing AA, the effective SAT cutoff for Asian applicants was higher than it was for white applicants. IIRC, UC has discontinued its formula-based AA program, by force of a referendum approved in the last general election.

False, white women have historically gained the most from general affirmative action.

True enough, of course this may be as much due to the fact that some of the most vocal early opponents of AA policies were the Jim Crow supporters.

I rather see it as no accident that much of the visceral opposition (as opposed to more thoughtful opposition which I can agree with to certain extent in re pure quota plays) shares the tidied up rhetoric of post-Civil Rights racial separatists. There are, in my mind, a lot of unexamined prejudices among some opponents of AA (obsessions with blacks and ‘merit’, ignoring merit issues in re other forms of non-merit based hiring and admissions. Can we say selective judgement?)

I believe the record is unclear on that. In some areas “AA” associated policies in college admissions, like Cali, may have held down numbers. In other areas, such as the East Coast, I don’t think that is true at all. Moreover, in re the Cali (U of Cali) issue, as I recall ‘whites’ have begun to benefit from balancing policies which appear –if I recall the news reports correctly—to have excluded some Asian applicants, so let us not rip an effect out of context.

In re Jews, I’m not sure if Jews can be reliably teased out of larger ‘White’ America in re impact of admissions – other than Jews have historically been stronger college goers than say perhaps Italian Americans. And then we have the differential impact of gender, i.e. Jewish women versus men.

I think you are incorrect on the first point, but can’t recall precisely. Perhaps Tom has data.

On the last item, it strikes me that insofar as public colleges have a valuable role in forming a well-balanced educated public, that tweaking admissions policies to ensure some representation from multiple segments of society, by income and ethnicity, serves a valuable role. From a purely business standpoint, I find that employees who’ve gone through a ‘diverse’ education are more flexible in dealing with our workforce. That is valuable to me from a number of standpoints. (a) one doesn’t have to worry as much about non-merit based attitudes --knee-jerk ideas that [insert group here] are ‘unfit’ for a certain job/function etc (b) more likely to be able to think outside of a narrow set of experiences. As I work for a multinational with operations that are global, these are valuable tools.

I might add that I find it interesting few object to ‘legacy’ admissions (alum children) as I noted in my almost purely Ivy education that the real non-meritorious admissions were largely in the realm of legacies. People dumb as a post. (I include good friends of mine in that, unfortunately, including one who is presently grooming to be head of a major corp. God save them when Dad retires.)

I’ll second the request for proof - especially regarding the ‘jews’ comment. I work w/governmental forms all the time that request data for statistical analysis (ie ‘what ethnicity’ questions) and have never seen one asking or offering ‘jew’ as an alternative.

The argument that I had always heard was that because Asians supposedly tend to be admitted into universities in larger numbers than their representation in the population that affirmative action has the same effect towards them as it does towards whites : increasing the enrollment of other minorities at their expense.

From :

“The University of California, Berkeley’s affirmative action program for blacks captures the essence of a zero-sum game. Blacks are admitted with considerably lower average SAT scores (952) than the typical white (1232) and Asian student (1254) (Sowell 1993: 144). Between UCLA and UC Berkeley, more than 2,000 white and Asian straight A students are turned away in order to provide spaces for black and Hispanic students (Lynch 1989: 163). The admissions gains by blacks are exactly matched by admissions losses by white and Asian students. Thus, any preferential treatment program results in a zero-sum game almost by definition.”

Indeed. It seems that a lot of people who oppose AA on the grounds that AA interferes with the ability of schools to make admissions decisions on “merit” are the same ones who insist that nondiscrimination laws interfere with the abilities of employers to make hiring and firing decisions on “merit” and indeed that the government must let them hire and fire whoever they want without any review at all. If they were so damned certain that their decisions had merit they wouldn’t be bothered by having to explain the merit.

I suspect that in these sorts of people, race is a major component of merit.

Also :

Though, as Collounsbury has pointed out, I haven’t seen anything that suggests that affirmative action in areas other than the West Coast or admissions negatively affect Asians.

Hmm, interesting that you are at UofM and griping about AA as an african American.

I personally know a white female whom the AA policy worked against. She has extremely high SAT scores and perfect GPA. She was rejected on the grounds that she was a white female. This is according to the admittance advisor at UM. So if you’re a freshman, you probably took her slot. Feel proud.

Personally, I think that AA is crap. I’m very sorry that minorities were discriminated against at some time in the past, but I do not understand why I (or anyone) should be penalized for actions taken by someone’s ancestors!

–==the sax man==–

Here is a cite for the scoring system, it is a transcript of a 60 minutes program.
Here is a cite of one study of the admissions process for the University of California and its affects on Asian Americans students.
here is a relevant passage:

Here is an article in which affirmative action is discussed at Cal-Berkeley which shows has a simulation of a race neutral admissions process that has the percentage of Asian students rising by 7%.

The statement about Jews was about how they used to have quotas in many major universities for Jews because it was thought they were overrepresented at elite colleges. Thus there was a kind of affirmative action for the goyim.