States of America, there has always been an affirmative action policy in existence. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes Affirmative Action as “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women: or “a similar effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons.” Using both of these definitions, it is safe to say that affirmative action has been in existence for one group since this country was created—white males.
It was white European males who set out to explore the “New World.” The women for the most part, were left behind or not given prominent roles in this expedition. Upon arrival in America, white men were outnumbered by Native Americans, thus they were in the minority. Through military might and the unintentional spread of disease, the European explorers created a system where they would soon dominate on decimate the majority population in America, all in the pursuit of freedoms that they did not enjoy back in Europe
Once the dominance of white European males was established in America, a system was put in place that denied access to education for anyone who was not a white male of a certain stature. White women, enslaved Africans (considered then to be three-fifths of a man), and Native Americans were denied for at least 300 years the opportunity of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” If this is not what Merriam-Webster defines as “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups” than I cannot think of a better example.
It is for this simple reason that every racial group and women lag behind white men in areas such as salaries, corporate and political leadership. Now that white people are no longer in the majority of America (a position attained by slaughtering the original majority population, the Native Americans), there is a backlash by some members of this community to lash out at affirmative action.
We should rejoice at the notion that groups in this country that have been denied equal opportunities for centuries are utilizing legal recourse to help right centuries worth of wrong as opposed to the violent, racist, sexist, and militaristic means utilized in years past to assert and maintain dominance. It is sad that some still fail to realize that this country is better when everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue his or her greatness. Until we can create a society where everyone can pursue their destiny without obstruction, affirmative action will be necessary in the Divided States of America.
From my studies at Princeton and Harvard to Georgetown and the University of Maryland, when I walk on campus and take classes with people of diverse backgrounds, I often remind myself that just over fifty years ago, the majority of us in my class would not be allowed to be there. I think about what this country would stand to lose if colleges did not take race, class, gender, religion, region, and more into consideration in their admissions process. If some believe that I am not qualified to sit in my class because of my race, why is it safe to assume that every white person who occupies a classroom seat is qualified because of his or her race? This backwards thinking is what led white European enslavers, rapists, and genocide practitioners (those we affectionately label as “explorers”) to set up a system where only they could reap the benefits of what this great country has to offer. It is almost 2013. We should have developed the capacity and compassion for our fellow man and woman to know better but the struggle continues.