Affirmative action refers to giving preferential treatment to a certain group of vulnerable individuals in admission to institutions of higher learning such as universities or in employment in private sector or the government (Tomasson, Crosby & Herzberger 11). This kind of preferential treatment has its advantages and disadvantages in both areas of employment and education where it is applied.
Pros of affirmative action in education and employment
Affirmative action promotes diversity which is desirable and may fail to occur if policies are lacking. Part of an individual learning process is interaction with other individuals of different races and nationalities (Kellough 70). Many students are subject to segregation up until they start college. Interaction in institutions like universities is enhanced by affirmative action as it allows minorities to mix with others. This creates realization that both groups are actually the same apart from their skin colour.
Provides boost to disadvantaged students
Affirmative action boosts minorities in areas where they would have suffered discrimination (Kellough 76). Discrimination starts at an early stage for students. For instance, discrimination starts during the college or job application processes. Minorities mainly come from lower income families that have less exposure to opportunities to attend private schools like their white counterparts. Some minority youths have been through a rough childhood characterized by high crime/violent neighborhoods. Sincere, minority students who practice hard work are equally capable as white students despite their past however they may lack the same qualifications. Affirmative action creates a level playing field for everyone despite your past.
Affirmative action creates opportunity
Through affirmative action, people are drawn to areas of study and work they may have otherwise been discriminated were it not for the appropriate affirmative policies (Boston 3). Minorities who are equally capable are able to explore opportunities in all fields regardless of their background which in turn creates equal opportunities for all. Affirmative action has created opportunities for instance; men can now venture into professions that were dominated by women i.e. Nursing, Women on the other hand have been able to venture into male dominated careers such as engineering. Creating opportunities is desirable in bringing people to new areas of study or work that may have been unavailable if the affirmative policies were not in place. By changing stereotypes, affirmative action has played a big role in creating opportunities (Boston 3).
Affirmative action breaks the worst stereotypes
For many decades blacks were not highly regarded as compared to whites. This dates back to slavery where blacks were considered less capable than whites thus forced to work under whites (Boston 66). It took affirmative action to empower blacks in order to help them show that they are as capable as their white counterparts. These and many other stereotypes have begun to change society as minorities get the opportunity to prove themselves over the years under a level playing field. Stereotyping will thus seize to exist in years to come with affirmative action.
Affirmative action compensates for past injustices and oppression
Affirmative action has provided for ways to compensate minorities for centuries of oppression and discrimination. A common past injustice in American society is slavery which for many years robbed black Americans opportunities to develop and grow like their white counterparts (Boston 66). For several centuries in the U.S.'s whites oppressed and enslaved blacks, Native Americans among other minorities groups. Minorities in the past gave decades of unpaid labor, brutal punishments and were denied almost all the fundamental rights that are provided for by the Constitution today. Affirmative action has simply provided compensation to past injustices and oppression suffered by minority groups over the years. Although the actual victims of this oppression may be long gone, affirmative action has provided a way to compensate the descendants of minorities for the wrongs done.
Cons of affirmative action in education and employment
Affirmative action in many cases may lower the standards of accountability that are needed to push students or employees to perform better (Doverspike, Taylor & Arthur 6). For instance a minority student can get into an institution like Harvard with a lower grade average instead of pushing themselves to achieve the required grade average. Although some employees and students may be self-motivated, the fact that they can get an advantage because of their race may encourage reluctance as most people have to push themselves to do their best. By setting lower admission standards, affirmative action thus lowers the accountability levels. Everyone should thus do their best to achieve their goals and employees/ students shouldn't be rewarded on basis of race nor be punished for the same.
Affirmative action can be condescending to minorities
It is condescending for an individual to say that they need affirmative action to be successful. Affirmative action can be interpreted to mean that minorities are less capable of achieving high standards on their own without preferential treatment (Iram 85). It is thus insulting to imply that minorities can't be able to achieve their goals through ability and hard work.
Affirmative action demeans true minority achievement
Not all minorities rely on affirmative action to succeed. For instance, individuals like Oprah Winfrey and Barrack Obama have achieved success through sheer determination and hard work because they were equally articulate and bright compared to their white counterparts. It's common knowledge that this individuals would feel offended if they achieved their goals through affirmative action because they worked hard to get what they have. The same can be applied to all other minority professionals. In many instances, their achievements are demeaned by hardliners who believe preferential treatment made them successful. Today's minorities are forced to work twice as hard to gain recognition and earn respect (Archer & Franicis 205).
Affirmative action is mainly applied to end discrimination or unfair treatment of students and employees based on their color but in some instances it may leads to discrimination. For instance hard working whites are favored more by affirmative action as they become more qualified and thus can be considered more quickly just because of their colour. Contrary to believe, many minorities may fall into upper class or middle class and some whites may live in poverty. Unfortunately, with affirmative action and the way in which policies are now, poverty-stricken white employees or students who practices discipline and hard work to achieve the best may be at a disadvantage as they policies only favor poor minorities. The poverty stricken white student or employee is therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to affirmative action.
Admission of ill equipped students
Affirmative action in some cases allows admission of students who are often ill-equipped to handle the colleges to which they have been admitted. There is a possibility of success in most of these situations, but the experience is overwhelming for such students and most of them can't cope. Many such students also drop out of college as the experience is too much for them to handle. This doesn't mean that these students are less capable, but coping to such environments limits their capability as they may sometimes feel they are less capable.
Affirmative action provide unfair advantage
Affirmative actions are very hard to remove, even after discrimination has been eliminated. For instance, after times changes and the society learns and grows, discrimination dissolves overtime even in extreme cases like racism. In most countries today, racism is a thing of the past however a number of affirmative action policies have remained in place, even in cases when majority of people agree that these policies are no longer needed (Gatens & Mackinnon 105).
Dennis Doverspike, Mary Anne Taylor & Winfred Arthur. Psychological Perspective on
Affirmative Action. New York: Novinka Books, 2006.
J. Edward Kellough. Understanding affirmative action. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown
University Press, cop, 2006.
Louise Archer & Becky Francis. Understanding minority ethnic achievement: race, gender, class
and 'success'. Taylor & Francis, 2007.
Moira Gatens & Alison Mackinnon. Gender and institutions: welfare, work, and citizenship.
Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Richard F. Tomasson, Faye J. Crosby & Sharon D. Herzberger. Affirmative action: the pros
and cons of policy and practice. United States: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.
Thomas D. Boston. Affirmative action and black entrepreneurship. Routledge, 1999.
Yaacov Iram. Education of Minorities and Peace Education. [S.l.]: Information Age Pub Inc.,