On Monday the United States paused to remember the ideals of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who died advocating freedom and justice for all. In the 34 years since his death, monumental strides have been made in the area of integration, but the debate on diversity still persists, although in different forms.
The spotlight currently rests on a court case filed against a University of Michigan affirmative action program regarding minority students. The program uses race as a factor when deciding which students to accept for admission. Those against the program argue that the university’s admission policy is unfair because applicants are not judged solely on their academic merit, but instead on their ability to check a minority box on the forms. As a result, applicants more qualified for positions in University of Michigan programs are denied admission in place of others simply because of the color of their skin.
President Bush weighed in on the controversial issue last week in a speech outlining the White House legal brief, siding against the current University of Michigan policy. By taking such a stand against affirmative action, Bush is setting himself up for harsh criticism by American minorities, but apparently he feels that the issue of equality is too important to leave unaddressed. However, one need not look farther than the famous and inspirational passage by the late Dr. King to find reason and justification for the White House backing of the court case speaking against affirmative action:
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live a life in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Dr. King’s message was that we should not discriminate against each other, whether white, black, red or spotted, but rather we should all be treated equally. The color of one’s skin should never be used as a ticket anywhere.
Refusing admission to a well-qualified candidate simply because he or she cannot check the minority box is not equal treatment. There should not be any boxes to check for race. Many in favor of such affirmative action policies such as the one currently under attack argue that such policies are an attempt to balance the scales of education which are unequal for minorities prior to the collegiate level. This argument has much merit on its own, but correcting flaws in education at the collegiate level is not the answer to America’s unbalanced education system. Improvement of elementary academic programs in urban and rural school districts is an essential ingredient to enduring academic success for America. Taking away a student’s rightful place in a program after that student has worked hard for that place simply because of his or her skin color is not a positive step toward academic equality.