Affirmative action is an issue that has garnered a great deal of discussion in recent years. Ever since the inception of affirmative action in America, affiliated policies have been embroiled in controversy. In recent years one of the primary complaints about affirmative action policies is that they are no longer needed because segregation and other factors that made such policies necessary no longer exist. As such in some states and at some institutions affirmative action policies have been abandoned.
The purpose of this discussion is to explore the issue of affirmative action. The research will focus on the various opinions associated with affirmative action policies. The research will expose the advantages and disadvantages associated with affirmative action. The investigation will also focus on the ways in which affirmative action has changed the racial and gender compositions of institutions of higher learning and certain workplace environments.
Affirmative Action is described as "positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded ("Affirmative Action")." Affirmative action efforts first surfaced in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act which contained "affirmative action" as "a remedy federal courts could impose on violators of the Act. Likewise, after 1965 federal contractors had been subject to President Lyndon Johnson's Executive Order 11246, requiring them to take "affirmative action" to make sure they were not discriminating ("Affirmative Action")." The mandates established in 1964 and 1965 resulted in a march larger policy that came into law in 1972. The 1972 law set the precedent for the Affirmative Action Policies that are still in existence today.
Affirmative Action policies have long been controversial because of the nature of the perceived benefits they afford certain groups. The inception of Affirmative Action in the workplace and in education has been met with mixed opinions concerning the need for such policies. On the one hand, proponents of Affirmative Action assert that it is the only way to make the playing field level and reverse the damage done by past racism. On the other hand opponents of Affirmative Action assert that such policies are nothing more than reversed discrimination. Many opponents also argue that Affirmative Action policies violate the constitution of the United States.
What is the purpose of Affirmative Action?
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Affirmative Action?
What has the American Judicial system said about affirmative action policies?
What does the future hold for affirmative action policies?
Advantages of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action was created in an attempt to give people who had traditionally been discriminated against in education, business and the workplace an opportunity to have access to these fields. In many ways Affirmative action was also designed to ensure diversity in all of the aforementioned areas. In addition, legislatures felt that affirmative action policies were needed to ensure that minorities and women were represented in certain fields.
Making Education and corporate employment Accessible
According to Tien (1997) many institutions of higher learning have affirmative action programs in an effort to make education available to minorities who have demonstrated that they have a great deal of potential. In many instances these minorities have overcome extreme odds caused by institutionalized racism throughout several generations (Tolbert & Grummel, 2003). In some cases a student may be the first to graduate high school or the first to go on to college. The author further explains that in many instances minorities live in neighborhoods where illegal drugs are more accessible than education. Many inner city schools lack the tools that students need to excel. These tools include current textbooks and computers. In addition in some of the worst schools heaters and/or air conditioners do not work. As a result of all these factors people who are products of these schools and neighborhoods have a difficult time acquiring a quality education. The inability to receive a quality education is compounded by the fact that these individuals also encounter racism as they go out into society. This confluence of events can result in the presence of negative attitudes and behavior that is unacceptable and often criminal.
Making higher education accessible to underrepresented minorities exposes them to a new world and in turn can serve the purpose of making communities better for everyone. Without this type of access to education many underrepresented minorities might be restricted to their environments and make poor choices that impact the entire community.
The advantage of this is that over time American Universities and businesses have become more diverse. The author explains that the desire to assist promising students is just one of the benefits of affirmative action. The author points out that providing a collegiate environment in which diversity exist among faculty, students and staff is actually one of the most daunting challenges that universities face. However, this is also a necessary element that should be present. The author explains that students from all backgrounds are given an advantage when their learning environment is diverse. This is one of the primary arguments for affirmative action; it is a policy that not only encourages but also enforces diversity. In fact the author argues that an education is not complete without the presence of diversity.
"I believe students on campuses that lack diversity can gain just a limited, theoretical understanding of the challenges and opportunities in a highly diverse nation. A lecture on Toni Morrison's novels or the theater of Luis Valdez is not enough. No career or profession will be untouched by the rapid socio-
demographic change. For instance, consider how America's diversity will affect those in U.S. colleges and universities. Education students will teach many youngsters born in different countries. Medical students will treat many patients with beliefs and attitudes about medicine that differ from the Western outlook.
Students of engineering and business will work for major corporations, where they will be expected to design, develop, and market products that sell not just in the U.S., but in markets around the world. Law students will represent clients whose experience with the judicial system in their neighborhoods and barrios is distinctive from the way middle America regards the law (Tien, 1997)."
Affirmative action is equitable
In addition to diversity many proponents of affirmative action simple beleve that such policies are fair. According to Crosby et al. many of those who support affirmative action believe that it often unfairly scrutinized when compared to other policies that also show preferential treatment to certain types of students, namely athletes and legacy admits. The authors explain that "Universities, for example, create elaborate rationalizations for why legacy children are three to four times as likely as are other candidates to be granted admission… Further, some university athletes have benefited from special admissions criteria, even though evidence has shown that universities may not profit from athletics program... Similarly, in employment settings, personnel decisions are often based on habit & #8230;or business exigencies…rather than on merit (Crosby et al., 2006)."
The author points out that those that are for affirmative action don't simply base their argument on the idea that the policy is no less fair than the aforementioned policy. Instead they assert that they are two basic principles that the fairness argument is based upon. These principles are as follows:
1. Sexism and Racism are still serious issues in society. The authors point out that studies have shown that both racism and sexism continue to be major problems in America. Although women are no longer underrepresented at institutions of higher learning. Women are underrepresented in the workforce. There is an increased level of discrimination for women who are mothers (Crosby et al., 2006).
2. Affirmative action allows for a more efficient and effective way of decreasing discrimination than other possibilities (Crosby et al., 2006).
Still others simply argue that affirmative action is fair because it is the only way to right past wrongs and to improve upon the inequalities that still exist. These individuals argue that women and racial minorities were purposefully excluded from access to institutions of higher learning and certain professions for centuries. As a result there many areas in which very few minorities are present. In addition exclusion from educational opportunities and certain job positions destroyed the ability of many to make a decent living. As a result many minorities continue to live below the poverty line in crime invested neighborhoods. This has created a scenario in which schools people are stuck in cycles of underperforming schools and little hope for economic success. Affirmative action therefore provides these individuals with the opportunities that have been afforded others for centuries. Without such policies it would be quite difficult for certain underrepresented minorities to gain access to the environments they need to be a part of to excel.
One of the primary disadvantages of affirmative action is the seemingly lower admissions and experience standards that underrepresented minorities seem to have when entering institutions of higher learning and the workforce. Opponents of affirmative…