With the school year starting in the recent weeks, affirmative action is on many people’s minds. Affirmative action is an action or policy favoring those who tend to surfer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education. It is also often known as positive discrimination. There are two different sides to the debate over whether or not this policy is beneficial to employment and university admittance for Americans.
What is Equal Opportunity?
Equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. The aim is that jobs should go to those “most qualified” – to the people who can preform a given task is the best way possible. They should not go to people for whimsical or irrelevant reasons, like as circumstances of birth, upbringing, relationship ties to power, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste, or involuntary personal aspects like disability, age, gender, or sexual orientation. It states that what is right is for all people is the opportunities for education or jobs should be presented and accessible to all those who are qualified evenly.
Reason for Affirmative Action
Affirmative action was created in order to help opportunity. The programs are meant to break down barriers that are visible and invisible. This by no means is a way for equal rights but it gives groups of discrimination more of an even playing field. The problem lies in that these different groups are not accurately represented in educational institutions and thus also in the work force. In order to attempt to help these groups have a better chance at placement in successful jobs different programs have been developed.
This quote demonstrates why there is a need for affirmative action
What Exactly is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative action policies are when an institution or organization actively engages in efforts to improve opportunities for excluded groups in American society. These policies often focus on opportunities having to do with employment and education. Pertaining to higher education, affirmative action refers to admission policies that provide equal access to education for those groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented, such as women and minorities. In the workplace, many companies prepare a written policy statement that affirms the organization’s commitment to fair employment practices, building diversity within its ranks and the company’s affirmative action plan. These are often implemented through fulfilling quotas.
Support of Affirmative Action
- It is not just an admittance policy for schools. It encourages people to apply to school that otherwise would not. Schools often give them the support they need to attend and succeed with school like financial aid and campus programs.
- People who do receive the benefits from affirmative action do report a higher quality of life through the opportunity pertaining to jobs and income.
- Diversity is important and having a diverse student population or work force can help people to better understand the world and different cultures.
- It is no lie that there has been oppression to different groups of people throughout time. Also, these groups often have lower socioeconomic status and are generally not exposed to the same opportunities as people with higher socioeconomic status.
Criticism of Affirmative Action
- It leads to reverse discrimination – discrimination actually based on race rather than academic excellence or skills.
- This could create a stigma around these groups for views that they did not earn where they are
- This lowers standards and can lead to less accountability. Because people are getting on based on race, not because they have the highest scores and grades it lowers what is needed to be accepted.
- It often is not helping lower class minority group, but middle to upper class minority groups
- It can continue to fuel racial prejudice
- Affirmative action may be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Likewise, the programs may be illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance. (http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/affirmative-action-overview.aspx)
In The News
Recently there has been very interesting legislation pertaining to affirmative action. The first of which is when California attempted to amend Proposition 209 early in 2014. In November 1996, California became the first state to ban affirmative action. The proposed action this year by Senator Ed Hernandez was a bill that would have let California voters reconsider the state’s 16-year-old ban on race-conscious college admissions. This bill was shot down largely in part by the Asian-American community and the three Asian-American senators who withdrew their support for the bill. This bill would limit many Asian-Americans admittance into the competitive California higher education system. Check out an article about the proposition here.
Then, earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Michigan ban on affirmative action through Proposal 2 in Schuett v. Coalition. They upheld the voter-approved ban on racial preferences in admissions at Michigan’s state-run universities. Michigan follows other states including California, Arizona and Florida in their ban of affirmative action. Here is an article detailing affirmative action bans in all eight current states.
Colorado is the only state in history where an anti-affirmative action initiative failed at the ballot. Voters narrowly rejected Amendment 46 in 2008. There was public backlash from many people in the community including college coaches and the Denver mayor, John Hickenlooper. Texas also proposed HB3492 which eliminates the automatic admission of students who qualify to certain public institutions of higher education and scholarships.
According to CivilRights.org there are three key questions about Affirmative Action.
- To what extent discrimination and bias persist, especially in a systemic way
- To what degree affirmative action programs have been effective in providing otherwise unavailable opportunities in education, employment, and business
- To what extent affirmative action programs appear to unduly benefit African Americans and other people of color at the expense of the white majority.
Affirmative action is a difficult subject to be able to say that it is right or wrong definitively. It is clear that it tends to be more difficult for minority groups to get into schools or jobs because of lack of resources and opportunities. I know that I had more resources than many people just by having the advantage of my parents both being college educated and invested in the success of my future. I was also able to live in an area with a good public school and other resources that helped me get into one of the best schools in the western United States.
But I have also seen how hard it is to be a middle class white male with college acceptance and getting scholarships and financial aid. I’ve seen many minority people at my school that received a lot more money than people who are smarter and more driven then them, but they’re white. It is racial biased against white people, and does creative feelings of unearned benefits. However, there needs to programs like these so students that are a lot smarter than those white people, who are minorities, can have the opportunity to receive the education and resources needed to allow them to succeed. Decreasing these programs can and will inhibit many minority students and people from getting the access and resources that are necisissary for them to be able to attend college.
Here is an infographic showing the repercussions of eliminating affirmative action programs
Affirmative action is a sticky situation, but I do believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to be the best they can be and accomplish incredible feats.