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Letters to the Editor

Preserve affirmative action

Angela Hooks September 14th, 2012

Evidence shows that, on average, women earn nearly $10,000 less per year than their male counterparts in Oklahoma. It shows that the number of black and Hispanic students attending poorly resourced, low-performing schools is nearly double that of white students in Oklahoma.

And these disparities are actually improvements.

Affirmative action programs were created to help decrease these inequities, as well as others, and combat discrimination against women and minorities. These programs have helped establish women’s clinics, domestic violence programs, breast cancer screening programs, higher education funding for minorities interested in medical and engineering fields, and for girls and women interested in technology and science fields. They have helped qualified students attend higher education institutions and qualified minorities and women find employment.

And instead of focusing on more ways to improve these disparities and create equal opportunity, Oklahoma elected officials are attacking the use of affirmative action with State Question 759, which sets out to prohibit state affirmative action programs in schools, employment, and state contracts. SQ 759 claims that affirmative action gives “preferred treatment based on race, color or gender” and a recent editorial in The Oklahoman goes as far as to refer to affirmative action programs as acts of reverse discrimination.

But this reasoning for the need to prohibit affirmative action fails to take into account the conditions that necessitated its creation. Affirmative action programs set out to increase the representation of minorities and women in the areas of education, employment and state contracts.

They set out to ensure neutrality when jobs are hiring, when schools are accepting. These programs do not set out to provide preferential treatment.

And procedures are in place to ensure that affirmative actions do not result in preferential treatment. Oklahoma has the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to monitor such programs in the workplace.

Universities and colleges have equal opportunity offices, multicultural divisions, and people working to guarantee equal opportunity to all persons.

Prohibiting affirmative action programs in Oklahoma is a step in the wrong direction. By voting no on SQ 759 in November, Oklahoma has the opportunity to continue to improve disparities affecting minorities and women, and combat discrimination.

—Angela Hooks, Bethany

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