A necessary remedy
The use of race-based preferences is not only appropriate but necessary in education and all other fields where racially discriminatory practices have unjustly made the playing field uneven.
Whites have received preferences in education, employment, housing, the courts and in just about every facet of life for more than 300 years. How, then, does the playing field become level just because we have finally decided to end such practices?
Race-based preferences, in certain specific instances can be a viable means by which to attempt to level the field.
Sen. Trent Lott's statements enabled intelligent Americans to see clearly that racism is alive and well. This is not just a Republican problem or a Democratic problem, but an American ill. We must end it.
Until we appropriately address the past, present and future consequences of racism, white supremacy, cultural degradation, economic exploitation, political subjugation and white preference, America will not have lived up to the principles of freedom, justice and equality.
Marvin "Doc" Cheatham
So long as de facto segregation exists, as it does in kindergarten through 12th grade in the schools in big cities throughout the United States, race-based preferences for college and graduate school admissions are appropriate.
They are appropriate because black students in the de facto segregated schools face psychological harms and social and educational disadvantages compared with students in schools with predominantly white populations.
The psychological harms caused by de facto segregation are evident from the past and present meaning of segregation - that whites consider blacks inferior or unworthy of associating with and that such attitudes are reflected in the dominant white culture.
The social disadvantage comes from the inability of minority students to associate with and relate to white colleagues.
The educational disadvantage from segregated schools comes from inadequate physical facilities, textbooks and equipment, a lack of trained and experienced teachers and a culture that causes many students not to see the value of education.
Thus for black students from de facto segregated schools to gain admission to college and graduate schools, they must be given preferences to overcome the racially based disadvantages wrought by segregated lower-grade schools.
And race-based preferences encourage the diversity necessary for black and white students to associate with one another and gain a better understanding of the role race plays in their lives.
Lawrence B. Coshnear
As a senior in high school, I am well aware of the difficulties in getting into college. But I am also aware of the many forms of prejudice universities use in the admissions process.
Athletes, for instance, are hardly ever as qualified academically as most of the applicants, but they bring in money, and are therefore given preference. Children of alumni have done nothing but have smart parents, yet they get an edge in the acceptance process, too.
Universities use preferences to attract students who will bring in more money. So why not give preferences that will make their community more well-rounded?
The writer is a senior at Pikesville High School.
If the use of affirmative action is appropriate anywhere, it is in education.
Society has an obligation to help those who have been wronged.
We need to help because it is the right thing to do and because it would make our society stronger.
James White Susanna White Annapolis
Anyone who studies American history knows that racism and classism have always been a big part of the American experience, and likely always will be.
But the way The Sun's question is framed would suggest that we all start from a level playing field, and it is simply a question of choosing what group we prefer.
However, whites have always been preferred in this country, and to fail to recognize this fact takes denial to a new level.
J. Russell Tyldesley
I think race-based preferences are appropriate in education and other fields.
The idea that everyone has an equal chance to succeed is a joke. And the way some minority children start out in life, some of them truly deserve a preference here and there.
I must admit that, as a white male, I would feel wronged if I were passed over in favor of someone with lower grades.
But as a society we make choices all the time that benefit the community as a whole while an individual loses out. We choose, for instance, to build roads and dams even though those whose land is taken for these projects suffer.
There often is some tension between what "I" need and what "we" need. This tension is not easily resolved.
But a case can certainly be made that "we" - as a college, a community, or a nation - benefit from diversity, and a college is certainly justified in using its admissions policy to enhance diversity.