The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of REPORTER.
Affirmative action is a well-known — and often criticized and misinterpreted — policy to provide minority groups with help in underrepresented areas. What usually qualifies people for consideration under affirmative action is matters of birth; “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” These are all basic, unchangeable human traits. Affirmative action is designed to help minorities who encounter hardship in their lives because of these unchangeable facts. So why limit the assistance from those who identify with LGBTQ groups?
The reasoning behind the current form of affirmative action is obvious. It acts as a counterbalance to the persisting socioeconomic impact from past exploitation of minorities. Discrimination and racism against blacks has been rampant in the United States from the start and hardly began diminishing until the 1960s and the forced dissolution of segregation. Mistreating minorities for so long forced poor circumstance onto families and the effects still persist to this day.
Similar circumstances were forced on women in the past. Women’s property rights were only just protected by the end of the 19th century and the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was only passed in 1920. Even today, reproductive rights are still highly debated. The traditional role of housewife raises girls to be nothing more than caretakers and the destruction of that stereotype is still incomplete. For both women and blacks, it’s a slow process to equal representation.
So why doesn’t this yet apply to LGBTQ identifiers? The discrimination involved is similar, restricting the rights that people require. Destructive stereotypes still persist and hate crimes, harassment and bullying are constantly occurring. Same-sex relations were considered illegal until 2003 and many states still have not removed associated laws. The only real difference that could be nitpicked upon is that sexual orientation is not a physical difference. In no way does that make the hardships of discrimination any less affecting.
Unfortunately, affirmative action draws plenty of criticism and complaints. A common fear is that it promotes under-qualified applicants ahead of non-minority students. Framed as another form of discrimination, it’s claimed that this can increase the tension between minority and majority groups. Recently, some college applicants have taken to claiming they were discriminated against because others got preferential treatment. Opponents also often claim that affirmative action creates hidden quotas in school and job admission procedures.
First, affirmative action cannot be about accepting unqualified minorities to jobs and schools over other applicants. Race can be considered as a small positive factor in prospective students but a Supreme Court ruling forbids schools from using actual scoring systems. Neither is affirmative action intended to be completely permanent. If society ever reaches a point that minority and majority groups do stand on equal footing in colleges and workplaces, the method has done its job. When there’s no lasting effect of injustice, there should be no need to have corrective policies.
The last decade has been excellent to the progression of LGBTQ rights, and the 2013 Supreme Court hearing may be another key step needed to fix injustices. The support so far has been tremendous, but even after the Supreme Court returns a verdict, there’s still more work to be done. The Supreme Court is also reviewing Fisher v. University of Texas, a case looking to restrict race based affirmative action. If this is crippled, it’s unlikely that support for wronged LGBTQ students can be similarly helped. The Supreme Court has proven to be receptive to public opinion. Our role should be to give these cases attention and keep them as high profile as possible through social media and any other forum we have. Changing your social media profile pictures may be a minor show of support, but it’s one of the few ways ‘slacktivism’ may actually do some good.