Affirmative Action Right?
Affirmative action has been around for decades. Some believe it isn’t fair but others do. Those who believe and agree with affirmative action tend to say, “The principle of affirmative action is to promote societal equality through the preferential treatment of socioeconomically disadvantaged people” (Bidmead, Andrew pg 3). Others that disagree with it and find it unfair simply see it as another form of discrimination, giving one group extra advantages based upon nothing but their skin color (Cline, Austin pg 1). I believe that affirmative action is indeed fair because it gives minorities a better chance at having a successful career in their near future. “Affirmative action has been extremely controversial. Supporters maintain that it is the only way to overcome the effects of past discrimination and promote integration. Critics dismiss it as “reverse discrimination,” denying opportunities to qualified whites and men”. (Bakke pg. 2) The thing is, a lot of people really don’t know or understand exactly what affirmative action is. It’s a term that refers to many government policies that aim to increase the proportion of women, African-Americans, and other minorities in educational institutions and jobs historically dominated by white men.
The policies usually require institutions and employers to set goals for admitting or hiring minorities. The term “affirmative action” originated in the United States, and first appeared in President John F. Kennedy’s “Executive Order 10925” on March 6, 1961. This order included a stipulation that government contractors “take affirmative action to make certain that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without notice of their race, statement of belief, color, or national origin.” The intention of this executive order was to establish the government’s commitment to equal opportunity for all competent persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all. This executive order was outdated by “Executive Order 11246” in 1965. On September 24, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by those organizations getting federal contracts and subcontracts. In 1967, President Johnson amended the order to include sex on the list of attributes. Executive Order 11246 also requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to promote the full realization of equal opportunity for women and minorities. There are a lot of people who disagree with affirmative action for many reasons. Some say it is racist; it hurts employers and employees, and also hurts minorities. The next four paragraphs show the argument against it. Affirmative action refers to a compilation of policies intended to promote access to education and employment for minorities and women. In an attempt to guarantee these opportunities, government enforced and voluntary programs inflict a variety of racial criteria on public offices, universities and businesses. Fulfillment with these programs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and consultant fees as well as important opportunity costs when organizations are forced to make decisions based on race and gender instead of value. The evil of all affirmative action programs is that individuals are categorized by their race. This principle without doubt prolongs racism.
This is why a concern of appearing racist toward white males is very common in the United States compared to European counterparts, and why corporations urgently look to present themselves as non-discriminating. In addition careers may be crushed by unfair accusations of racism. (Daniel Golden, from the Wall Street Journal pg 1) There are areas affected by affirmative action policies. The first is employment opportunities which look for people who possess the least amount of skills. Some examples include food service workers, cashiers and factory workers. Such affirmative action policies make it more difficult for individuals from non-protected groups to be considered for a position. Another kind of employment opportunity seeks the best possible applicant for the job. This category includes engineering jobs, management and professorships. In order to keep away from the appearance of racism, consultancy groups may unwillingly employ an analyst who they know will not produce as many good ideas, hospitals may grudgingly employ a surgeon who they know will not be as effective in the ER, and universities will admit students who they know will not be as hard-working. (Daniel Golden, from the Wall Street Journal pg 1) Because employment opportunities are given to less experienced, there will be less opportunities awarded to the most qualified. Therefore, applicants who don’t belong to a legally protected group compete for fewer
positions and therefore face more exclusive standards for selection.
As high school graduates know, SAT and/or ACT scores and GPA requirements for admission to the most gung ho universities are apparently higher for students of East Asian or East Indian descent. (Daniel Golden, from the Wall Street Journal pg 2) A high school student with a below average academic record is likely to be a below average college student. As a result, students admitted through alternative recruiting programs often end up in remedial classes with mediocre academic performance. Affirmative action programs extend the stereotype of minority students finishing near the bottom of their class by encouraging enrollment in universities beyond an appropriate level of difficulty. According to a federal study, just 39% of enrolled black students finish their degrees compared to 54% of white students. Attending a university where the pace of learning is too difficult is just as counterproductive as attempting to lift too much weight at the gym. The insistence on relaxed admission standards for minority students insinuates that such students are incapable of succeeding without such programs.
This insult casts a permanent doubt on the real achievements of high-achieving minorities.(Daniel Golden, from the Wall Street Journal pg 2) Affirmative action has had its greatest success in city, state, and government jobs. Since the 1960’s, law enforcement witnessed an increase in minority applicants, and in jobs offered to minorities. This should be viewed as a very positive thing, because before affirmative action these jobs were almost completely not open to minorities and women. The arrival has been greatest in the area of government, state and city, because this type of work is easier for affirmative action to watch over and regulate. Affirmative action has experienced significantly less success of integration in big business. This is due to the fact that big businesses have been more opposed to affirmative action and it is harder to control. A good example of affirmative action struggling in a large business would be The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It is an organization that has gone a long way toward complying with the letter of affirmative action goals while becoming short, leaving many minority employees saying they suffer from second-class treatment, harassment and worse (Palmer). However, this is an area that most supporters of affirmative action expect to see a change for the better occur. This is saying minorities are being hired but they are not being treated fairly.
There are many people who don’t see affirmative action as a positive thing and want to see it get eliminated. One writer feels that; “Affirmative action remains the whipping post and rallying cry of many white males, even though there exists no statistical proof that blacks have taken jobs or lucrative career opportunities away from white men, or even interrupted their dominance in the workplace”, (Lowery, pg 148). These people need to realize that affirmative action hasn’t had a long enough time to solve a huge societal problem. Affirmative action is a compromise, it does not please everybody. Affirmative action is far from perfect. Many people feel that Affirmative Action uses reverse discrimination to solve the problem of discrimination. In that, it promotes the hiring of less skilled workers: the employers have to choose from the best available employee from the minorities, instead of having the possibility to choose simply the best available employee. This bothers employers as well as employees who do not qualify for Affirmative Action; the employers feel they ended up with a lesser quality worker.
This is yet another disadvantage of Affirmative Action, namely that now every employee from a minority that benefits from Affirmative Action bears a mark of not being the best pick, but only the best pick from a limited group, even if the person was selected for being the best available on the complete job marketplace. The bypassed employees feel tricked by the government or the minority. This could lead to claims of racism among the bypassed group, while Affirmative Action was introduced to reduce racism. Affirmative Action does provide people from certain minorities with a job they would not have gotten otherwise, that is what Affirmative Action was introduced for. But if, you think of the quality of this job, or the surrounding hostility towards the minority the employee is from, one could seriously doubt the fact that this employee is happy with this job. It is better than no job, but that’s it. We as a society must keep affirmative action and keep refining it. It is a small but significant way to reimburse victims of slavery, Jim Crow laws, immigration, and discrimination restrictions. It is also a means to guarantee that institutions such as Stanford will celebrate and foster that which they simply cannot avoid: diversity in a democratic society.
Affirmative action admissions policies seek to realign the balance of power and opportunity by doing what is, at heart, quite simple: affirmatively including the formerly excluded. (Charles J. Ogletree Jr) There are critics of affirmative action who claim it is no longer needed, or unfairly discriminates “in reverse” or “stigmatizes” admitted minority students. I disagree. (Charles J. Ogletree Jr) People, who claim affirmative action is no longer needed, believe that everything has been leveled. But they ignore alarming information. Last year, only 1,455 African Americans received PhDs in the United States. During the same year, 24,608 whites were awarded PhDs. The truth is that while America has made progress on racial issues, these changes are recent, susceptible to being reversed and in fact, nowhere near being completed.
The people who scream “reverse discrimination” base their views completely on a belief that minority test scores are too low. They fail to recognize that test scores and successful performance in college; have a relationship that is inexact. When we persist on test scores as an ultimate measure of merit, we leave out the students who have not had an access to good public education or to funds that pay for preparatory courses for those tests. We eliminate those who, given the opportunity, will display their ability. Affirmative action is making steady strides in diminishing the problem of racial inequality in America. Affirmative action is something we should all support, until better and more effective plans are proposed.