An alternative to Affirmative Action

Recently, the Senate Constitution Amendment 5 (SCA 5) was brought up in the state legislature in an attempt to overturn 1996’s Prop. 209, which prohibits our state government institutions from discriminating against/granting preferential treatment to any individual group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in employment, education, or contracting.

Prop. 209 was meant to follow the American ideals of equality and equal opportunity — the concept that one can even start at the bottom and still rise to the top, given the opportunity. However, many have come to believe that this system does not provide the boost needed to help underrepresented “races.” Why put “races” in quotation marks? Simply because race is not a biological concept — it is a social construct, created by people to differentiate themselves from others. There are no clear-cut, distinct categories of people with genetic markers. Race, I believe, is simply used to determine relations based on stereotypes and culture. And in this case, fighting racism with “selective favoritism” is no way to end inequality.

Instead of Affirmative Action, why not give preference based on economic standing? Currently, poor people as a group (including Caucasians) are passed over. Their economic status also hinders their education, especially when schools in these areas are not able to attract the best-qualified teachers. In order to make a change, this cycle should be broken. I feel that poor students who are motivated and need a helping hand, not a handout, are the ones who should be given preferences. With the odds stacked against them, it is amazing that some do as well as they do. Instead of grouping people based on race or ethnicity, we should classify them based on socioeconomic status. Affirmative Action should evolve into SES Action.

Additionally, we should put more money in reforming schools in low-income areas, so we can level the playing field between the haves and have-nots. The achievement gap in America can be closed with the improvement of these schools. Through information collected by the Education Trust, it has been revealed that students are greatly concerned about teachers who do not understand their own subject matter, principals who dismiss their concerns, and counselors who underestimate their potential. However, many educational pundits blame the achievement gap on the families of the children or the children themselves. I feel that if the schools can be reformed, and the students are given a better education, it would go a long way in providing a pathway for them to be a part of a prosperous and productive society.

Melinda Wang

11th Grade