By Bekah Paxton, Staff Writer

An affirmative action march in Washington, D.C. In a recent interview, President Obama said he continues to support affirmative action./PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

No matter how progressive it may seem, the United States still battles with racist tendencies. We often say or think that we are past all of the dark times of civil rights violations, but they remain today in more intrinsic, undermining ways.

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Regents of University of California v. Bakke, that the use of racial quotas in graduate university admissions was illegal. This, in theory, was intended to eliminate all racial discrimination in the graduate admission process, and set the precedent for other higher education institutions in the fight against racial profiling.

Later in 1995, Sandra Day O’Connor’s judicial record revealed her views that affirmative action was and is a form of racial discrimination, as she applied “strict scrutiny,” or top judicial priority, to any existing law that favored racial minorities. She later relented, upholding the practice in order to “achieve diversity” at the University of Michigan. Obama has retracted also, saying that judgment by race should be considered legitimate, as long as it is monitored by the court system. To me, these relapses since the 1978 ban say “good intentions” but scream “ineffectiveness.”

Are we truly going to reject racism as a nation if we still feel the need to manipulate and force “diversity” into our higher education programs? Should not the highest tier of learning be fostered by an environment which is created by the competition of knowledge and merit?

President Obama does make an interesting point. He stated in the most recent edition of The New Yorker that he believes his job as President is to ensure the equal opportunity of all children to a solid K-12 education so that they can compete for higher-level education effectively. I agree. However noble this goal is, when implemented it seems that even all publicly funded school systems are not equal, and realistically not all students have access to the exact same resources. This puts the idea of affirmative action in perspective.

“In perspective” does not mean justified, however. I personally believe that any intentional judgment made on the basis of race is indeed racism, and that rather cutting-edge education and knowledge grows from the competition of knowledge and the sharpest minds — whoever’s they may be.

The irony of the policy of affirmative action is that although it synthetically attempts to eliminate racial discrepancies in education, it only furthers a maintenance of racist tendencies in American society, as it bases college acceptances more on one’s background than it does on their own personal achievement and merit.

Justice O’Connor had deemed the lifetime of affirmative action to last no more than 25 years, just to jumpstart higher-education diversity and set equality into motion. Obama modified this statement, calling it a “ballpark figure,” saying that college admissions are not ready to be racially ‘blind’ yet. His statements in The New Yorker advocate for the continuation of affirmative action policies “in a careful way.” What he means by “careful” I am not so sure, but it sounds to me like more federal involvement in more colleges and universities, which could ultimately be dangerous.

His interview for the magazine is a bit confusing as he apparently grapples with this very difficult issue. Ultimately the president contends, “Most of the time the law’s principal job should be as a shield against discrimination, as opposed to a sword to advance a social agenda, because the law is a blunt instrument in these situations.” However, if the practice of affirmative action and racial quotas in college admissions is deemed fair play, this standard does not exactly the competition to be based on race-blind merit and academic motivation.

As a college student, I remember the laborious process of applying to numerous schools and the drawn-out, sometimes heartbreaking process of receiving answers from them. I hate to think that any person who works so hard to get into college and better themselves would be judged because of their race, whether the result is ultimately positive or negative.

Essentially, the maintenance of a system with affirmative action eliminates the drive for academic excellence and competition in students, and therefore does not strive to eliminate racism, but breeds it. If we truly want to stamp out racism in the U.S., I think it’s time we drop affirmative action.