The Affirmative Action Paradox. Preferential treatment for minorities discriminates against majority.



Nearly 80 years ago, at the age of 16, my grandfather, José, boarded a boat off the shore of Cuba and emigrated to the United States.

In Havana, José lived a life of true poverty. He left a home where he, the youngest child, was given the privilege of sleeping on an ironing board—the most comfortable item in the house. He got his haircuts for free inside the local prison, and he stole food so that he and his brothers would not starve.

In the United States, he served our country in World War II as a member of the air and sea rescue team. Upon returning home, he worked in a steel mill for forty-six years. At that point, he retired after such a hard-working life all starting back in Cuba.

Since José is Cuban, I am one-quarter Cuban, one-quarter Hispanic and, apparently, a one-quarter impoverished minority.

As a Hispanic, I am “graced” with affirmative action, i.e., positive discrimination. Why? The answer is simple. Twenty-first century America is a nation still striving to escape from the throes of racism. And so, escape it tries—albeit through counterintuitive means. This discrimination has been lawful since then-President John F. Kennedy’s signing of Executive Order 10925 on March 6, 1961, where the name affirmative action first appeared. In fact, this very executive order begins by stating that “discrimination because of race, creed, color or national origin is contrary to the Constitutional principles and policies of the United States.” How, then, can an executive order which is the basis for preferential treatment to minorities be preventing such discrimination? Simply put, it cannot—thus the paradox of affirmative action.

Sure, my grandpa grew up in unimaginable poverty in Havana. I fully appreciate that.  However, I am baffled when only I and other minorities are offered opportunities for tens of thousands of dollars just because of where our ancestors were born. While I certainly appreciate and utilize the help provided to me, I question my entitlement. Am I any different than someone whose ancestors came on the Mayflower?

These preferences are especially troubling when one looks at the majority’s perspective.  On Nov. 17, the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), Inc., filed a complaint against the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) for “intentionally and unconstitutionally discriminating against [prospective undergraduate students] on the basis of their race and ethnicity” in violation of the 14th Amendment.

On an academic index (a unit to compare applicants) in SFFA’s brief for all admitted students from 2006, generated by UNC, an academic index of 3.1 to 3.199 guaranteed 100 percent of African American admittance as opposed to only 42.2 percent of Caucasians and 43.1 percent Asian Americans. In 2006, a black student had an absolute guarantee of admittance to UNC with this index whereas Caucasian and Asian students with the exact same index had less than 50 percent chance for admittance. This statistic is unbelievable; an African American with this academic index had an absolute guarantee, no questions asked, to UNC while over half of Caucasian and Asian students with the exact same credentials were denied. This is America’s answer to end discrimination?

In a culture becoming extremely racially sensitive, affirmative action is a step back—not a step forward—in equality. Colleges should accept students based on merit, not ethnicity. Higher education institutions’ goal should mold our nation’s youth into high-potential professionals, not equalize past discrimination.

I am proud to be Cuban, to be Hispanic. In this case, this inequality in college preference helps me, and I am grateful for it. But, am I really going to be a better student because my ­grandpa was born in Cuba 93 years ago?

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Matt Del Busto at [email protected]