The government policy, Affirmative Action, which goes by different names in other countries (sometimes referred to as “positive discrimination”), is created to promote equality among minority groups in the US and to protect them from racist injustice and hate crimes. Generally, it means giving preferential treatment to minorities in employment, businesses and admission to universities. It was also originally developed to correct years of discrimination and to give boosts to disadvantaged groups. With the diversity of our society today, it seems that the programs coming with the policy have been successful. However, many people already think that it is no longer necessary and that it would lead to problems more than it has solved. While they claim that this move would generate positive results, there are always two sides to every story. So, let us take a closer look at the pros and cons of Affirmative Action.
List of Pros of Affirmative Action
1. It ensures diversity is in place.
This policy is a way to make sure that diversity is achieved and maintained in workplaces and schools, thus helping create tolerant communities as it exposes individuals to various ideas and cultures that are different from their own.
Diversity is desirable and will not always occur if left to chance. The ability to interact with other nationalities and races should be part of the education process, which can alleviate problems experienced by many students who live very segregated lives. Normally, opinions of other groups of people are based on stereotypes, but interaction would allow students to learn that members opposite races are people too, more or less just like themselves.
Since most people desire diversity, it is important to make sure colleges and universities will represent a wide range of backgrounds, but without Affirmative Action, this diversity is much less likely to occur. It will even be possible that schools become segregated like the ones in the past. Elite schools might once again become increasingly dominated by students from majority groups. Take note that diversity is so important, and we cannot leave it to chance.
2. It helps disadvantaged individuals with advancing.
Affirmative Action has helped disadvantaged people coming from other parts of the country, where there are not very many opportunities for them, to be able to advance where they otherwise could not. Simply put, the policy gives everyone an equal playing field.
3. It offers a boost to disadvantaged students.
Students who started at a disadvantage need a boost, and this policy has made it happen. Generally speaking, these involved mostly minority students. Usually coming from lower-income families, they would have lesser opportunities to attend private schools, unlike white students. However, we should take note that sincere and hard-working minority students are every bit as capable as white students, but because of the disadvantages they experience, they were not having the same paper qualifications. Now Affirmative Action makes sure to even the playing field a bit for these students.
4. It promotes equality for all races.
This policy was designed as a means of helping to compensate for the fact that because of many years of oppression, some races are being “held back in the race”. Again, the policy makes sure this does not happen.
5. It breaks stereotypes regarding color.
Without Affirmative Action, some stereotypes may never be broken. For many years, black people were considered less capable than whites, and it took the implementation of the policy to give these people the chance to show they are every bit as capable. This and other stereotypes have started to change and will continue to change with the help of this policy.
6. It promotes more work and study.
Affirmative Action has drawn people to areas of work and study that they may never consider otherwise. Whether it is women being brought into technology fields, men being brought into nursing or minorities being brought into the Ivy League schools, it is still important to bring all people to all educational or career paths.
7. It is needed to compensate minorities for centuries of slavery or oppression.
During the first several centuries in the US, white people were seen enslaving and oppressing Native Americans, black people and other minorities. These minority groups had their lands taken, had given decades of unpaid labor, subjected to brutal punishments and denied most of the Constitution’s fundamental rights. Now, Affirmative Action is implemented to also provide a way to compensate their descendants for the wrong-doings suffered by their ancestors.
8. It lets minority students get into advanced education.
Students with ethnic minority backgrounds need a helping hand to enjoy privileges that are generally ignored by other races. With the policies behind Affirmative Action, all deprived students are encouraged to enter an advanced educational system.
9. It assures equality in the workplace.
When implemented inside the workplace, this policy will be the most effective way to ensure the candidates from ethnic groups are provided with the chance to prove themselves as having efficient capabilities as the candidates from other races.
10. It offers protection from hatred.
Though nothing can shield every individual from all the hatred they would encounter in life, Affirmative Action can at least help tremendously by enforcing strict and even harsh punishments on anyone who is found guilty of personal assault due to race, gender or sexual orientation. The law makes many people think twice before committing an act that is filled with hatred or violence.
List of Cons of Affirmative Action
1. It can serve as a reverse discrimination.
Primarily, Affirmative Action was designed to end unfair treatment and discrimination of anyone based on color, but it in effect, it has done the opposite. White people who are more qualified and are working harder can be passed over strictly because of their color. Contrary to the usual stereotypes, many groups under the minorities have fallen into the middle or upper class, while many white people are now living in poverty.
Looking at the way things are set up now, a poverty-stricken white student who uses hard work and discipline to become the best could unfortunately be passed over by a rich minority student who is not putting much effort at all. This definitely does not justify the past discrimination against certain minority groups. All people should always be equal under the country’s laws and should always be treated accordingly.
2. It destroys the idea of a meritocracy.
Based on its current set-up, Affirmative Action has put race as the dominant factor in employee recruitment and school admission procedures, where it is believed that the best people for certain positions should be put there, regardless of color and race.
3. It can still reinforce stereotypes and racism.
People who are given a position solely based on the stipulations of this policy are often not qualified, and the idea that all people under that race are all not qualified is perpetuated. Plus, Affirmative Action presupposes that all people having the same color of skin are from the lower class, therefore needing help. As we can see here, this reinforces stereotypes and even permanently embeds them into the country’s system.
4. It can generate unfavorable results for businesses and schools.
As previously stated, workers and students, who are put into a position through this policy, are often not fully ready for the task. This can be bad not only for the business or school, but also for these workers and students themselves, as self-esteem will be lowered. Take into consideration an AA Minor League baseball player to be suddenly asked to bat cleanup in the majors or a high school science fair contestant to be suddenly asked to take a job for rocket science at NASA. Of course, there is possibility that they will be successful, but it is more likely that they are just being over their heads. Also, educational institutions, such as Yale and Harvard, employ high SAT and GPA requirements, and forcing them to lower standards to achieve a minority quota can make it difficult for some students to keep up.
This does not imply that minority students are less capable, but points out that those students who do not meet these requirements are probably not prepared to take on challenges they are not qualified to face. In fact, the far-lower graduation rate of minorities can prove that they are too often going to schools that do not match their abilities.
5. It can lower the accountability standards that are needed to push employees and students to perform better.
Though some workers and students are self-motivated, an extra push or incentive is needed for most people to do their best. By setting lower hiring or school admission standards, the level of accountability is also lowered. It is important to reward discipline, hard work and achievement, to not do it simply because a student is a member of a certain race, nor punish him because he is not.
6. It has a flaw with regards to diversity.
Simply having different people at a workplace or university does not necessarily mean diversity of opinion is achieved. Remember that people with the same color do not necessarily have the same opinion or even culture.
7. It would help lead a truly color-blind society.
When you are applying for a job or filling out a college application, are you often asked about things, such as skin, hair and eye color, as well as height? Probably, never—unless, it is for an athletic or modeling position. This is because these details do not have any effect on your ability to do a job or succeed at school. There is no association between these details and discipline, intelligence, ambition, character and other essentials, rendering such information useless.
8. It demeans true minority achievement.
A good example of this is the success labeled as result of Affirmative Action, instead of ability and hard work. Taking into consideration influential figures, such as Barack Obama, Condi Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell and Herman Cain, do you think they have gotten to where they are now through such a policy, or hard work?
All of them achieved success through hard work, and because they are articulate and bright. The same thing can be said of minority lawyers, doctors, business leaders and other professionals. Their achievements are too often demeaned by other people who believe they got their positions through preferential treatment. As a result, minority groups would then work harder to earn respect.
9. It can be condescending to minorities.
This is true when people say minority groups need Affirmative Action to succeed. By giving preferential treatment to these individuals in recruitment or school admission, you might be misunderstood saying, “You are incapable or too stupid to achieve it on your own, so let me help you.” It can be insulting or condescending to mean that minorities cannot achieve their objectives with their abilities or hard work.
10. It is difficult to remove, even after discrimination issues have been eliminated.
Times change, where society will learn and grow, and racism can dissolve over time. Even race extortionists had admitted that the US is already worlds ahead of where it was in the 1960s. Discrimination has become a thing of the past in almost all areas of the country. But still, a lot of Affirmative Action policies are remaining in place, even when the majority of citizens would agree that they are no longer necessary.
Unfortunately, legislators are moving slowly and are haggling over everything. It is really difficult for them to get multiple branches of the government and hundreds of people to agree on anything. Plus, the agenda of politicians often do not match of those of the people, and special interest groups and corruption can influence government officials into inaction.
The government, as a whole, maintains a position somewhere in the middle with regards to issue on keeping or removing Affirmative Action. The policy still remains supported by the federal government and is legal everywhere in the country, except for Texas and California where other policies have been adopted. On your end, do you think the policy is still viable based on the pros and cons listed above?
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.