By Matthew DeFeo
In April, The Great Lakes State ignited a legal debacle by bringing up the question of Affirmative Action. Michigan universities can now choose to not use race as a method of accepting potential students, and the decision also opened up the opportunity for any other state to hold a vote and do the same. Honestly, I could not be happier.
Justice Anthony Kennedy says voters eliminated racial preferences and deemed them unwise. (AP Photo)
The institution of Affirmative Action was put in place originally to right past wrongs involving racial discrimination. In a time when the overwhelming majority of the workforce was white and male, accepting a quota of minority students in retrospect seems like it was a sensible option to give minorities a fair chance. Checked boxes next to specific races seemed to pave the way for equality.
Except for one issue — my race isn’t listed, and I know plenty of individuals who share the sentiment.
I am merely lumped in with “Caucasian,” and yet when I was young, I would sit at my grandfather’s feet and feel dismayed. My doldrums filled with stories of his inability to go to school without being called a “dago wop guinea” by his own teachers, as well as being chased around town as a young man by police officers who believed that he was up to no good because he was Italian.
According to the Library of Congress, our name belongs to the biggest mass lynching in American History. Eleven Italian Americans were hanged under the stereotypical suspicion that they were in the mafia. Yet, the government thinks they can cherry-pick which wrongs need to be ameliorated.
A more modern interpretation of Affirmative Action exists, citing diversity as a positive ideal to strive for in employment and academic contexts.
Diversity — now there is a fuzzy concept.
I would make the argument that an African American and a Caucasian who grew up in the same town, went to the same school and had the same level of income would have a fundamentally similar experience and would offer a somewhat similar view on life in an academic context.
So why is a student with a race that is in the minority automatically given certain spots to fill?
I like to think that I am diverse. My father’s family is from the Greater Naples area, and my mother is an immigrant from Sicily. I can speak the nationalized tongue of Italy, as well as my mother’s rustic southern dialect. I have met a myriad of Italians that come from different areas of Italy, speak a different dialect, have completely different food and grew up differently than I did.
If diversity is the issue, why not make decisions based on hair and eye color, height, weight and other factors that might also impact our experiences of life?
Diversity is an interesting ideal and I would agree that it is worth striving for. However, this process appears to work better if it is naturally implemented — i.e. funding the educational systems of inner cities to make them more competitive.
Turning down students who have the grades, public service and well roundedness to be accepted into a school because all of the non-minority seats are filled is discrimination. If every student accepted into an institution based on these criteria are white, then so be it — that would speak to a greater societal problem. Giving seats away for better representation is not the answer.