What Does it Mean to be Equal?

Photo Illustration by Ciara Williams

After Affirmative Action was rejected in Washington’s November elections, the state is left to face the future of diversity amongst college campuses

Affirmative Action was once an active initiative in Washington State. Created for the usage of colleges to improve opportunities for women and minorities; Affirmative Action was made with the intent of leveling the playing field for everyone in America. Washington State then banned this initiative in 1998 during a state vote.

Fast forward to today and Affirmative Action was reinstated in April of 2019 by our state legislatures. This caused an uproar within our community, as many found this to be an attack on everything this country stood for.

A petition was led by the Washington Asians for Equality, as an attempt to keep Affirmative Action banned in Washington State. “It would abolish the standard of equality for all, regardless of race, as required by I-200, and replace it with a system that uses different rules for people of different races,” states the petition.

Finally, the state settled with letting this decision be made by the people, as they included it in last November’s votes. Results came in, and Affirmative Action was rejected by Washington State citizens by a vote of 50.54% to 49.46%, reinstating the ban.

One of America’s most important values included making this country fair and equal for all who choose to live here. If freedom was America’s first goal in mind, then equality is arguably the second goal. But what does it mean to be equal?

Equality is the act of treating everyone equal to one another, regardless of upbringing, race, or systemic advantages. To me, this means also considering the disadvantages an individual in America may realistically face, and making it so despite these hardships, there’s still the possibility of having an equal chance in this country.

Others would argue that true equality would be to not consider these elements in a person, but instead place every individual on the same playing field as one and the same. I would say it is impossible to do this without first considering every individual’s disadvantages in life.

Photo Illustration by Ciara Williams

In an American system originally created to favor white men, this country has spent years trying to create a balance that is fair for every citizen here. However, it is difficult to make this balance when it still remains an issue to just be considered by those who run the system.

As a 22-year-old black woman, I understand the extra hindrances I must face in this country if I wish to get an education. I also understand the challenges I will face outside of college.

Affirmative Action was viewed as a way for minorities to be seen and considered in an educational environment, where diversity has been lacking for decades. Pierce College has been one of the most diverse colleges I’ve ever been to; a campus that has helped me best experience what it’s like to feel equal to the student next to me, regardless of who we are.

However, on my tour at Seattle’s University of Washington, I found that the only other black person I saw on campus that day was one other student on tour with me. Suddenly, I was made aware of my own race again, and how much more colleges could be doing for minorities with admissions alone.

Despite this, I’m not as confident believing Affirmative Action would actually solve any of these issues I face. I’m aware that the educational system is in need of improvements when it comes to admissions. But I have instead found that Affirmative Action may just be a double ended sword, rather than the shield it hoped to be.

Affirmative Action makes it so colleges have to take race into consideration. At first I saw no issue with this, until I started to think about it. This action would now make it where my race is the most defining part of my identity, and the real reason as to whether or not I’m accepted into a college. I can see immediately the problems that could come from this.

This Action actively puts races against one another, versus it currently just being an equal playing field. I would personally find it insulting if a college only accepted me because I am black, rather than because of my qualities. And I would hate to hear that someone else was denied just because of the race they were born with.

Diversity on college campuses is still an issue however. Minority groups still often make up only a third of the population of most college campuses. Affirmative Action may be counterproductive, but it’s intents were made out of wanting to increase educational opportunities for those who may otherwise not have them. The idea of Affirmative Action shouldn’t be scrapped, but instead improved upon in the near future.

A solution to this problem may not be clear yet, but we are on the right track.