Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

A Study on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Affirmative Action

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This paper will study and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action hiring practices on municipal police and fire departments in the United States.

To start, we shall first define affirmative action.  Affirmative action refers to policies intended to promote access to education or employment aimed at a historically socio-politically non-dominant group, typically, minorities or women.

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Motivation for affirmative action policies is to redress the effects of past discrimination and to encourage public institutions such as universities, hospitals and police forces to be more representative of the population.  This is commonly achieved through targeted recruitment programmes, by preferential treatment given to applicants from socio-politically disadvantaged groups and in some cases through the use of quotas.

Opponents of affirmative action policies argue that it is based on collectivism and merely another form of discrimination because it can result in qualified applicants being denied entry to higher education or employment because they belong to a particular social group, usually the historically socio-politically dominant group; typically majority races and men. (Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 2007)

Affirmative Action is also defined as the 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. When those steps involve preferential selection—selection on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity—affirmative action generates intense controversy. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007)

Simply put, affirmative action means taking positive steps to recruit, employ, train, and promote workers who traditionally have been discriminated against in the job market. (Pellissippi State Technical Community College, 2007)

In the United States, affirmative action is a policy or a program of increasing the representation of certain designated groups allegedly seeking to redress discrimination or bias through active measures, as in education and employment. It is usually achieved through the use of discrimination and preferential treatment for those groups. Proponents of affirmative action generally advocate it either as a means to address past or present discrimination or to enhance racial, ethnic, gender, or other diversity.

However, opponents of affirmative action contend that affirmative action programs are discriminatory in that they promote under-qualified individuals over higher qualified individuals based on race and ethnicity.   Affirmative action in the United States mostly applies at transition points—times when individuals are changing their employment, housing or enrollment.

Those most affected thus include working age adults who hope to improve their lot through a change in obtaining housing, employment or the pursuit of educational opportunity.  This arrangement has the greatest impact on young people, while maintaining the status and position of established members of society. (Diversification of U.S. Medical Schools via Affirmative Action Implementation, 2003)

The roots of affirmative action can be traced back to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act where legislation redefined public and private behavior. The act states that to discriminate in private is legal, but anything regarding business or public discrimination is illegal.  There are two instances when opposing affirmative action might seem the wrong thing to do.

Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, and has been contested on constitutional grounds.  But despite this, we still have many advantages to list.  To further understand the topic on affirmative action hiring practices in municipal offices and fire departments, we shall list and discuss also the advantages or benefits of affirmative action hiring practices in the United States, those advantages that will only apply on hiring in municipal offices and fire departments.

A Study on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Affirmative Action essay

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