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Youth / OPINION : ‘Affirmative Action in ‘90s Isn’t Affirmative’

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As a senior in political science at Cal State L.A., I applied for a summer congressional internship in Washington. To my dismay, I was informed by the director of the program at my school that I could not apply for the position because I was white. He apologetically explained to me that this internship was limited to members of minority groups. He refused to even accept my application.

My initial reaction was disbelief and anger. I couldn’t understand how a university in the ‘90s could overtly tell a student that he is barred from submitting an application because of his skin color. School officials informed me that my exclusion was not their policy, but that of the Washington Center, which oversees the internship program.

I think it is important to note here that I’m not a skinhead, a radical right-wing conservative or a Rush Limbaugh fan. I’m simply a college student trying to get an education.

I am certainly understanding of the plight of many minority groups and share many of their concerns. But the practice of barring certain applicants from applying for a position based on race seems almost an impossible one to defend. It is somewhat disconcerting that this liberal movement, the same movement in which so many fought so hard to reverse discriminatory practices, is now partly responsible for breeding and defending this new kind of bias.

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Looking at Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I don’t think the intention of the affirmative action legislation was to create these types of policies. If applicants for positions had equal qualifications under affirmative action the employer had to hire or promote the minority applicant. Today the practice of affirmative action seems to have changed. Today some white males are barred from even submitting applications to compare their qualifications with others. Affirmative action has changed to some other type of action and I no longer think it’s an affirmative one.

Students and others are silently suffering from these increasingly common practices, such as the 5,000 white applicants barred from taking the Los Angeles Fire Department’s written exam in February. I fear that the silent complacency that seems to exist will aggravate existing racial tensions.

It seems if you question these discriminatory policies and practices, as I have, there will be those who will not hesitate to call you a racist. Many will claim that you’re against the advancement of minorities and want to limit their success. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. But the threat of those accusations is so real and so frightening that many are too afraid to even raise the issue.

I do not know the answers, but I do know it is time for discourse and frank discussion on these volatile issues. If this kind of bias were practiced against any minority, I would be one of the first ones calling for change. Unfortunately, all I hear is silence.

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