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Discrimination against people of color began long ago while slavery still existed, and it took a Civil War between the Northern and Southern states to end slavery. In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights made slavery illegal in the United States. After the passage of this amendment, African Americans were no longer enslaved, but were still socially controlled by white. Three years later, the Fourteenth Amendment clarified that every person must receive equal protection by the law. Segregation was also a big issue in history, and during these times some of the greatest activists shone through, such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Many believe segregation by race in schools, neighborhoods, restaurants, and even busses, was against the Fourteenth Amendment. Minorities were given suffrage rights in the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed in 1870. For about sixty years after these amendments were put into place, we lived in a “separate but equal” world. “Separate but equal” meant that segregation was legal as long as facilities were just as good for blacks as they were for whites, which they often were not. There are still separatists today who push for the further separation of races in the United States, others believe the separation shelters Americans from diversity and are working toward eliminating these walls. Racial discrimination has a long history and it can be found in many forms still today, including using Native American names for school mascots, the development of and backlash against affirmative action, and police brutality to name a few.
Since the Civil Rights era, Native Americans have been aggravated with the use of racial slang for team names. One of the first instances was during the 1970's: several Native American students approached the President of Stanford University to explain the “mockery of Indian religious practices” that had been performed in the athletic events for over nineteen years by the Universities mascot; Prince Lightfoot. After much debate Stanford changed their mascot, which ultimately lead to many other schools being required to change their mascots. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse went through a similar debate, and changed their previous mascot, the Indians, to today's, the Eagles. Native Americans were disrespected during the formation of America and this lack of respect is still portrayed in our history books as well as our school symbols and names. In recent years, laws have been passed in an attempt to end discrimination against American Indians. This discrimination is seen as a violation of first amendment rights and anti-discrimination laws. Many people view school mascots and names as a way to represent pride and school spirit, rather than seeing the discrimination that these names hold. A school's reputation is a major way it draws people to its institution, and some believe that changing mascots could shift potential students to other schools. Another important aspect to be considered is alumni support; a change in mascot could result in less financial support from graduates of that university. Although some mascot and school names are not as bad as others, we must set a precedent by changing them all. There is still much political debate over which names must be changed.
Diversity on campus is a big local issue here in La Crosse. This year, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has its highest number of colored students in history, but it is still considerably less than middle class caucasian students enrolled. By eventually gaining a more diverse campus, students and faculty will become more aware of the diverse population that exists in America. UW-L is working toward a diverse community by establishing a design for diversity growth and access agenda. Under this plan the university will see more diversity with hopes of improving the campus environment. Many people, however, are opposed to this plan and do not want to pay for a more diverse campus with a raise in tuition to further affirmative action. Though there is some diversity on our campus, some feel as though it is a personal choice to go here and people should not bend the rules in order to allow an African American or any other Minority student to come to UW-L.
Affirmative action is a government program set up to help those who have been discriminated against, such as minorities and women. It usually means giving somewhat preferential treatment to minorities in certain instances, such as admittance to college or getting jobs. The policies were originally developed to correct decades of discrimination and to give minorities a boost. The diversity of our current society as opposed to that of 50 years ago indicates the programs have been successful; but now, there are many people who think the policies are no longer needed because minorities can now stand on their own. On the other hand, there are still many strong supporters of affirmative action as a necessary follow-up to the oppression that minority groups have suffered in America.
Since developed, affirmative action has created a lot of uproar from society. One example is a case recently argued in the Supreme Court concerning undergraduate admissions to the University of Michigan. The school had a policy of rating potential applicants on a point system; being a minority student earned you more than twice as many points as achieving a perfect SAT score. Three white students sued claiming the point scale was discriminating against them, but school officials replied that diversity is desirable and affirmative action is the only way to achieve true diversity. One of the major reasons this program is under ridicule is because many feel that it causes reverse discrimination. Those who oppose it say that affirmative action is designed to end discrimination and unfair treatment of employees and students based on color, but it has the opposite effect. Some believe that whites work harder and are more qualified but can be passed over strictly because they are white. Contrary to many stereotypes, many minorities fall into the middle or upper class, and many whites live in poverty. Those opposing affirmative action believe that the way things are set up now, a white student living in poverty who uses discipline and hard work to become the best they can be, can be passed over by a rich minority student who doesn't put in much effort at all. This attitude was shown in the Supreme Court case concerning admittance into Michigan University, which in the end, had a rather split verdict: the high Supreme Court decided that race can be used as a factor for college admission, yet, they also put importance on the fact that the amount race plays into admissions must be regulated, (“Split Ruling,” 4).
On the flip side, the advocates of affirmative action say minorities need a boost after being held down for so long. The first several centuries of the U.S.'s existence saw whites enslave and oppress blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities. Minorities gave decades of unpaid labor as African American slaves, American Indians had land taken from them, these and other groups were subject to brutal punishments, and were denied most of the fundamental rights provided by our Constitution. Affirmative action simply provides a way to compensate the descendants for the wrongs done to their ancestors. Minority students start out at a disadvantage in their college or job application process. Some come from lower income families and have less opportunity to go to private schools than white students and inner city youths live their childhoods in high crime, drug-infested areas. Sincere, hard-working minority students are every bit as capable as white students, but because of these disadvantages, they may not have the same paper qualifications. Supporters of affirmative action believe it evens the playing field a bit.
Another major issue concerning minorities discrimination is the United States legal system. There are several examples of police violence that have occurred, such as the Rodney King and Dudley George incidents, that have stirred up a lot of controversy and given proof that police discrimination is a problem. Another example occurred in the state of New Jersey when two troopers fired 11 shots into a van carrying four unarmed black males on the way to a basketball clinic. The police claimed that the van was trying to run them down and that they had them on radar speeding, however, the police had no radar and witnesses that said that the van was moving far too slow to be a threat. The police ended up getting off without penalty, (“NJ Shooting,” 2). Some people believe these events are occurring because police agenda is set by political elites, most of who are white. Most communities that suffer police discrimination and violence have little control of the economy, or political overseers of the police. Typically the people who do have these powers are the richer communities, with primarily white citizens.