In recent times, virtually every great political leader has recognized the truth of affirmative action. But, what is affirmative action one might ask? According to Merriam-Webster"s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition: "an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women."
In the United States, these minority groups include African Americans, Asian Americans, Hipic Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Alaskan Natives, and immigrants. In general, affirmative action is intended to benefit groups that are thought to have suffered from discrimination. However, critics argue that some groups benefit from affirmative action because of their political influence. In this essay, I will show that quotas and mandatory preferences not only violate our rights as individual citizens, but also are unnecessary, and why they should be abolished.
The term affirmative action was first used in an order issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 that required businesses with U.S. government contracts to treat their employees without regard to race, ethnic origin, religion, or gender. However, later on the government asked the businesses to consider the race and gender of their employees to ensure that the mix of people on their staffs reflected the mix in the local work force. In addition, a fixed share of federal contracts were set aside for businesses owned by women or minorities.
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Many state and local governments, as well as numerous businesses and schools, created their own affirmative-action programs. Since the 1970's, controversy over affirmative action has developed. People disaccord about how to achieve the goal of nondiscrimination. Even though, some claim temporary preferences are necessary to achieve equality, others believe quotas, mandatory preferences, and other affirmative action policies unfairly affect the right of individuals to be treated according to their abilities. People also disagree about which groups are entitled to affirmative action and for how long (LaNoue).
The reasons used by proponents like redressing past injustice and educational diversity are not proper and they harm the society instead of helping it to prosper (Puddington 70-83). Affirmative action in the United States is meant to provide jobs for blacks in formerly closed fields. Correcting a past injustice is admirable, but requiring an employer to provide black faces in order to fill a quota is unfair both to employers and to employees. It puts productivity at risk, as well as the self-esteem and potential for personal growth for those who are being helped (Almasi 4).
Proponents also consider that educational diversity is an important reason behind affirmative action and giving preferences to minority students in schools is a way of achieving it. But the preferences remove from bad schools any incentive to improve, since their students are guaranteed places in good colleges irrespective of their own standards (O"Sullivan 22). In fact, to bring onto college campuses students whose academic abilities have been severely damaged by the conditions in which they have been forced to learn would be a recipe for failure (Carter 438). All these students need is a training to be successful in the real world and not just a push, favor, or preference that will force them into being a failure later on.
The proponents suggest changing the race-based affirmative action into the class-based affirmative action that would not arouse any hostility. But it makes very little sense in an area of admission to colleges, universities, and professional schools. We already have a huge and expensive system of federal loans to make it possible for those without parental or their own income to get higher education. One can imagine covering all costs for higher education for everyone, it would be immense.
The only effect of preference on ground of class could be to increase the number of poor whites and Asians in institutions of higher education, and to reduce the number of blacks (Glazer 444-45). Class-based program would only serve the most disadvantaged Americans. But this solution is not as simple as it may sound. A form of reverse discrimination would still occur, and there would be "victims" who are "passed over" regardless of how well they qualified for the school or job (Guernsey 95). Therefore, class-based affirmative action would not help all the minorities in achieving a higher education.
As one climbs toward professional success, at some point the preferences must fall away entirely. When the student has shown what he or she can do, the rationale for a preference at the next level is slimmer. So, an even slighter affirmative action preference for professional school admission, while possibly justified on similar grounds, is less important, and a little bit harder to defend, than a program at the college level (Carter 440). Also, a person who has good college achievement does not need to depend on any favor in order to be successful in future.
...affirmative action has always been what might be called iconographic public policy – policy that ostensibly exists to solve a social problem but actually, functions as an icon for the self-image people hope to gain by supporting the policy (Steele 441).
In the quote, Steele means that affirmative action appears to solve the inequality, but instead it makes people see how unequal they actually are. The deleteriousness of an iconographic social policy is that one cannot be against it without appearing to be against what it intends to represent. The white man who opposes affirmative action looks like a racist and the black looks like an Uncle Tom. This kind of policies cause to last indefinitely by hiding behind what they represent.(442).
The central idea of compensation behind the affirmative action is no longer justifiable. Many people have realized that even though affirmative action has been successful and beneficiary in the past, but today it has completely lost it purpose to compensate the hurt ones and instead has raised racial tensions. It had many adverse affects on the society over last few decades and people have seen enough of them to finally raise their voice against it. One example of this could be the public poll in which 54 percent of the respondents favored the affirmative action as being good for the country. But when affirmative action was outlined as "mandatory preferences," 75 percent of them resisted it. The reason behind this reaction is that people consider quotas as an infringement of the ideal that people should be judged as individuals, not as members of a group (Rottenberg 435).
In 1995, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a federal program requiring preference based on a person's race is unconstitutional unless the preference is designed to make up for specific instances of past discrimination. This meant that affirmative action could no longer be used to counteract racial discrimination by society as a whole, but must be aimed at eliminating specific problems. In 1989, the court had made a similar decision regarding state and local programs. In addition, a federal court in March 1996 ruled against a race-based admissions policy at the University of Texas Law School (LaNoue).
Undoubtedly, through different court decisions and public outrage one can see why preference is wrong, intrinsically unjust, ethically confuse. It is moreover socially counterproductive: damaging to those who practice it, injurious to the society in which it breeds, and above all cruelly hurtful to the minorities who were to have helped by it (Cohen 459). No sound principles, constitutional or moral justify discriminating by race or sex to achieve some predetermined numerical distribution of goods. The defense of preferences fails because it contradicts the equal treatment of individual persons that fair process demand (457). Time has come for us to take a good look at the notion of affirmative action. We can stop it from increasing racial tensions, barriers, unconstitutional favors, and hostility or we can wait, not take action against it and suffer its destructive consequences in future. It is a choice we have to make right now before it is too late.
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