Affirm Affirmative Action
Alexis Amaye-Obu
November/December 1999

How sadly ironic it is to experience life in this loving U. S. of A. I love my country I do, and the star spangled banner has made both an imprint and permanent scar in my heart; and I bet, without a doubt, that many others may feel the same way. There is a man on a conquest to rid America of Affirmative Action. This man, surprisingly is a black man, a black man that went to school because of Affirmative Action. A man who has already succeeded in California and Washington, and is here in Florida. Ward Connerly is on a quest that can jeopardize the rest of my life, and the lives of many more to come, if he succeeds. Once America has freed herself from the subconscious racism inbedded in our minds, then and only then can Affirmative Action be taken away.

Take my case for example, I'm a smart, black, poor woman, all things against my control. Without Affirmative Action I will have not only a hard time paying for school, but a hard time staying there without worries of how my next semester will be financed. It is true that in many cases Affirmative Action has been abused, like rich Cuban families getting more money for their children, but cases like mine, and many other unfortunate students, Affirmative Action is the only way we will have a chance to go to college. When I ask for preservation of Affirmative Action, I ask for a chance to show people, no matter how they look at my color, that I can and will do it. If Mr. Connerly takes this chance from me, then I am left in a society that not only doesn't care for its colored citizens, but is making no effort to help them either. In my opinion, Affirmative Action is a god-send for people like me who can't afford school but have the adequate grades to get there. If you take away that, then you are asking me to become a failure.

Many Americans don't know the truth about Affirmative Action, most think it is a "easy way" for "lazy" blacks to get ahead in school and the work place because of past wrongs of this great country. Bill Clinton said that "Affirmative action is an effort to develop a systematic approach to open the doors of education, employment and business development opportunities to qualified individuals who happen to be members of groups that have experienced long-standing and persistent discrimination..." Qualified individuals include African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans and women of all shades in between.

The purpose for Affirmative Action, in my observation, is to open doors to people still discriminated against. The point is, that there are still businesses, employers, and workers who are prejudiced one way or the other, and half the time not willing to admit or accept it. We all have race demons in our closets, and none of us are free of them. With Affirmative Action those demons are be silenced by law, and those individuals that are prejudiced are made to hire minorities, no matter what they do or say. So what do these individuals do in retaliation? They get a black man, pay him enough money to start out, and send him on an Uncle Tom quest to end the program that got him where he is today. Affirmative Action is intended for minorities qualified for positions they would have been initially denied because of 'uncontrollable circumstance.' Despite popular belief, Affirmative Action isn't about setting quotas as if they were, as one student said,"cattle" but giving everybody at least a fair chance.

Now, say Ward Connerly does succeed, say he does end Affirmative Action in Florida. The following will be done:

That is just in the schools, not including employment or public contracting. I am sending out a plea to all students, registered voters, educators. African Americans, Hispanic Americans. Native Americans. Asian Americans, and women. I am sending out a plea to all of those that believe in the American dream that is about to be robbed from my future, and the futures of many generations to come. I am sending out this plea to those who believe in equal opportunity, something that has to be achieved by government regulation because civil people can't do it themselves. I am sending out a plea to all those who are reading, don't let Ward Connerly rob our diverse country of its diversity. America isn't ready yet for a color-blind society, and until we are, programs like Affirmative Action must be sustained.

From a student perspective, we don't have the problems with race our elders do, we don't worry as much about the color of someone else's skin. We love our fellow man, and truly believe that all men were created equal. So when we get that chance to regulate this government, maybe then can that American sense of the dream be restored to the life of all individuals that call themselves Americans. I am not only speaking for Affirmative Action from an American sense, but from personal experience that has shown me that without aid, the chances of me being treated fairly are slim to none.

Alexis Amaye-Obu is president of the Youth NAACP Chapter of Alachua County. She is a senior at Gainesville High School.

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