Why affirmative action causes people to overlook economic inequality

Maggie Kroeger, Opinion Editor

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In recent years, affirmative action has soley been based on the color of one’s skin. On the PSAT, students check a box describing the race they identify as, placing themselves into a category that may or may not be a factor in interest from colleges.

Students hear a lot about affirmative action and the positive and negative outcomes of it. In recent years however, race has proved not to be biological, but rather described more as a social construct that society has created from the beginning of time. The day Christopher Columbus set foot on North American soil, there has been a precedence that people with the lighter color of skin are the dominant race, although race has nothing to do with their dominance at all. The dominance comes from the residing belief that one race has more power over another simply because of skin color and not because of the forceful domination that occured hundreds of years ago.

America today is run by a president whom some would call a white supremacist, giving momentum and representation to the white privilege that still exists, even though so much social progress has been made.

The current state of the nation feels to some, including myself, like a regression of societal justice. Why do people of a lighter skin color build a dominance over minorities? Simple: because they are the majority. There’s strength in numbers, as my mom always said, and colonists from Europe had just that, even in the 1600’s. Just because white Europeans stomped on land (that wasn’t even technically theirs to take in the first place) and brought over millions of people to dominate all other cultures that already resided on the continent, doesn’t mean there should be a built-in superiority complex for the rest of time.

America loves to focus on their own construct of a racial divide, when really it was self created. While diversity does enrich work and educational experiences, racial diversity should not be the only category of that is considered.

Geographical location, gender, economic status and religious beliefs are all forms of diversity, even though, in my opinion, they are much less valued in the spotlight than race. While the discussion of racial divides grow and actual racial divides are beginning to shrink, the economic divide grows exponentially larger, but is somehow less discussed. Maybe the reason that kids who live in ethnic areas are in poverty isn’t because the area is more dominated by a minority, but rather that the opportunity for success is substantially based on economic standing and less available to students than in an average middle class area.

According to author Richard D. Khalenberg, this economic segregation that has arose in recent years “affects so much in life—your access to transportation, employment opportunities, decent health care and most important, good schools.”

Personally, I come from a family in what could be described as in “good standing,” but I also qualify for nearly no financial aid. I am not a minority, my family makes enough money to where colleges think I can afford their programs, and I have no military connections. The only hope I have is good grades and even better essays.

But with the skyrocketing tuition fees and ignorance of economic classes by colleges, I still probably won’t even be able to afford my dream school of Creighton University. Tuition alone is almost $40,000, not including room and board or supplies. Affirmative action may ensure that some people of minorities, although they may be even more “privileged” than I am, will be granted admission to colleges like Creighton, while economic standing is almost completely ignored. I am not saying that affirmative action is not helpful and inclusive to many people nationwide, but I am saying that it may not be inclusive or helpful enough.

I don’t believe that race should become ignored and that the various cultures present in America should not be celebrated, because they should be. People should not forget their roots or a part of who they are just because they now live in America, but white Americans should also not separate them and treat them as a different kind of American. Similarly, America also needs to recognize the growing class gap and not be treated differently because of it once they do, because I think that is one of the largest fears in acknowledging economic standing. But the truth at hand is that there is an economic inequality that needs to be addressed, or the gap will continue to grow and grow until the middle is completely gone. The rising economic gap should finally be acknowledged by American society, and especially by universities hoping to increase their amount of overall (not just racial) diversity on campus.

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