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Importance of history in affirmative action.

Our education system is based on the ideal that best and the brightest gets the best education and opportunities. This translates into the opposition for affirmative action, as racial prioritization in selection will deny some of the more 'qualified' students their chances of getting the best education they can. While most people agree that the American history plagued with racism has created unequal opportunities in the past, they argue that racism is mostly a thing of past. It's a common to hear people say, "I'm not a racist, nor are my parents, so why do I have to pay for a slavery that happened more than a century ago?". On the other hand, even some liberal minded people seem to think that the situation of minorities today is partly due to their own fault, "it's just that they are not trying hard enough". Hence the question is, almost 40 years after the civil rights movement (ok, 37 years), do we really need to talk about the historical facts that brought about the inequality in the USA? Isn't 40 years enough time to wither off much of the negative effects of racism?

Lets sum up the history that led us up here.

Racial oppression before the end of WWII

Any analysis of historical effects of inequality has to start with slavery. While the white majority advanced through the new world, slavery kept African Americans out of access to any education (or any other opportunity, for that matter) for two centuries. The inhumane oppression of minorities continued for another century in the form of Jim Crow laws after eliminating slavery. While "Jim Crow" laws refer to the de jure segregationist laws in the south, similar laws existed in north and west targeting both black and Asian minorities. Northern states had similar segregationist laws banning blacks from entering to the state, voting, assembling and even testifying against a white in court. For instance Indiana passed a law in 1851 banning blacks entering the northern states and prohibiting whites the employment of those. In California, the minorities faced discrimination at the end of the gold rush era. Both Chinese and Mexicans were targeted in taxing foreign miners and were forbidden from obtaining citizenship, and the racial oppression was evident in many court rulings against Asian and Mexican miners in this era. At the height of these tensions, with the incidents starting from the Chinese massacre in 1871, most Chinese workers and merchants were the targets of physical violence, driving them out of their homes to the newly forming 'China towns'. These ethnic enclaves offered little chance of economic success, as they had to take menial low paying jobs and were not allowed to work outside of the given area. Similar measures were taken later, at the beginning of the great depression, to prevent Mexican Americans and from accessing the scarce economic opportunities. The racial discrimination thus created a vast inequality in access to better paying jobs, and hence economic success of the minorities. Data below shows the disparity in education and socio-economic index (SEI) between the minorities clearly. It should be noted that the Chinese and Japanese are taken as one group, and with Japanese immigrants, who were doing relatively well before the internment in 1942, changes the statistics for this group. Understanding these racial inequalities in early 1940s help better understand the ever widening inequality after the end of WWII.

Years of schooling
Occupational SEI
Native African American
Native Mexican American
Native American (Native Indian)
Native Chinese/Japanese American
US Population
Native White

New middle class social order

The mass rearrangement of the social order in America after the end of the world war II created the conditions for the strong structural racism that persists today. Being the only industrial country in the world that left standing on its feet after the WWII, USA quickly captured the world market through its vast industrial production machine, that was transformed from its original purpose of wartime production. United states became the worlds super power, both economically and politically. Sudden expansion of the US economy was felt positively by people across the income spectrum through the high paying blue collar jobs and the new deal social services. The labor force became increasingly unionized, and they successively won many battles and the workplace standards, wages and benefits of the unionized workers increased dramatically, while G.I bill gave many war veterans access to higher education. All these changes gave most Americans access to middle class


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