At one time or another, we all have to fill out some type of application that asks us to state our ethnicity. Some think nothing of the question and quickly check it off and go on to the next one. Others choose the “other” option to state their unique individual heritage. Many check it off knowing that their ethnicity is the key to being on equal footing with the rest of society and having the opportunity to further themselves.
Affirmative action has been converted into a political football game by many, and a source of hostility and resentment for others. However, these people fail to recognize that, in the long run, affirmative action will produce a more educated, professional and productive society and, for most, it is the only glimmer of hope for advancement.
Most minorities have families in which education and high professional goals were not the first priority. Many have to cope with the struggle of getting food on the table everyday and money to pay the rent every month.
For them, an education is not an option. It is a luxury that cannot be afforded and that is too time-consuming to consider. The support and drive for a child to go to college is minimal because the parents cannot relate with what the child is going through.
Many can identify with this. I am a member of this group. My father’s education stopped in the third grade because he had to go to work at the age of 8, building stone fences to help support his family. Meanwhile, my mother finished sixth grade with honors, but could not further her education because of lack of funds and the fact that she was a woman.
Both are very hard workers, however their children are their only hope for owning their own home, not worrying monthly for the rent and getting medical care when they need it and not just when they can afford it.
Applying for college was a process my parents saw as tedious, but positive. They have been very supportive. When college brochures and letters began to arrive, they hoped college was something I could take part in.
Many colleges have implemented programs especially geared to specific minorities. These are not only helpful in the transition to a college atmosphere, but also offer the support that many families cannot give.
I once had a cousin tell me that by applying for college, all I was doing was wasting my time and putting my future husband in debt, since the fate of all women is to stay in the home. I am not the only one who has heard these kinds of statements. Many minorities have had to deal with this. Their drive to prove these comments false and themselves worthy of an education are enough to show that they deserve the right to advance their education.
College is not only an institution for someone to learn academics, but also to fine-tune their people skills, learn how to deal with people and appreciate people’s differences.
This skill is necessary, especially in such a diverse world. By sending minorities to school, racial tensions are eased and understood. Through accounts telling the history of racism and actions of people to overcome it, some people might become enlightened for a change.
Not only do minorities benefit by going to college, but so does the rest of the student body. Other students become accustomed to dealing with people of other cultures. This will prepare them for the “real world” where bumping into someone from another background is inevitable.
The measure is also progressive in ending racism issues. Many are quick to state that ignorance leads to racist acts. Minorities need to have the opportunity to take classes in history, anthropology and conflict resolution, so they can take back their newly-found knowledge to their communities.
Affirmative action is not a measure to give people of color special privileges, but is one step in the evolution of a society with no color lines.