Affirmative action has increasingly become a popular subject of debate. Not only does the phrase "affirmative action" mean different things to different people, but also there are different arguments for and against it. While many people tout the benefits of affirmative action programs, they have acted as a stumbling block for minorities and have essentially created a starker disparity in the struggle for equal opportunity between white people and other minority groups.
Benefits of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action (AA) refers to the social practice in which members of historically disadvantaged groups are given preferential treatment in an attempt by the United States to compensate for any harm that was caused to their ancestors in the past (Crock, 1995). For example, African-Americans receive special benefits because of the U.S. history of slavery.
President Lyndon B. Johnson originally created affirmative action programs in 1965 to correct discrimination that occurred in the past. At this time, affirmative action aimed to actively select African-American candidates for jobs, education, or promotions, and prevent discrimination in the hiring and promotion processes. Affirmative action was reached its peak in the 1970's as good-faith efforts to hire blacks failed to withstand a Title VII challenge of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result, employers were forced to actually hire or admit black applicants to rid themselves of the challenges of racial discrimination (Giraldo, 1995, p. 40-42). When hiring new employees, employers began choosing the best available black candidate even if the best candidate was not suitable for the job.
In many ways, affirmative action programs are beneficial. The United States government justifies affirmative-action programs as "the principal of compensatory justice. (Giraldo, p. 45)" This means that compensation must be awarded to an injured party if an injustice has occurred. Affirmative action requires employees to hire members of groups that were treated unjustly in the past in an effort to compensate for historical injustices. In this light, affirmative action programs create cultural awareness and enrich diversity.
The Downside of Affirmative Action Programs
Opponents of affirmative action programs argue that, in modern society, these programs harm minorities more than they help minorities. Some say it has actually reversed discrimination in the workplace. Opponents also say that affirmative action policies also lead to lower expectations and hiring standards, as employers make an effort to hire minorities, even if they are not qualified for the jobs.
One can also argue that affirmative action increases racial tension between whites and minorities. Racial quotas often create resentment and anger among white males, who are discriminated against in favor of minorities. Racial preferences even create problems for racial minorities, who feel that they are often looked down upon, as they were only hired because of their race. Many minorities may feel they got the job because of their race or gender and that others think the same, when in fact they actually were the best candidates for enrollment or job placement
Affirmative Action as Reverse Discrimination
Affirmative action is best defined as " a policy or program for correcting the effects of discrimination in the employment or education of members of certain groups (Reskin, 1998, p. 114-115)." However, when it was initiated, it was not meant to cause the hiring of unqualified workers, or an increase in problems for groups that it originally set out to help. One of the biggest problems created by affirmative action is reverse discrimination, which has resulted in unfair standards for higher education and the workforce. Opponents of affirmative action argue that it creates equal opportunity for workers and students. However, while it does benefit some individuals, it discriminates against others, mainly white males. Therefore, affirmative action uses reverse discrimination to solve the problem of discrimination.
In addition, it must be noted that quota systems and set-asides violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits exclusion from participation in, denial of benefits of, and discrimination under federally assisted programs on ground of race, color, or national origin. In many cases, employers are forced to find the best minority, rather than the best person, for a job or university admission. For example, Duke University requires each department at the university to hire at least one new African-American for a faculty position (Reskin, 1998). However, recent reports reveal that less than 4,000 blacks receive Ph.D.s in the United States…