Affirmative Action – Correcting Past Wrongs or Adding to the Problem?

Throughout the 200 years of the United States of America’s existence, there have been many controversial issues. One of the most important that have arisen is affirmative action. The passage of the Equal Economic Opportunity Act of 1972 put affirmative action into effect in the USA. However, it has not accomplished what people believed it should. This social policy is wrong in today’s society.

A definition of affirmative action from the University of Rhode Island describes it as, “Specific actions in recruitment, hiring, upgrading and other areas designed and taken for the purpose of eliminating the present effects of past discrimination.” The social policy became a federal law years after the US Civil Rights Movement had subsided and men and women of all colors began to blend together. It was an attempt to right the wrong that had plagued the country for as long as it existed. During this and the previous era’s in society, blacks and women were not given much of a fair opportunity at being hired for jobs or being recruited to universities. Historically, white male’s had as many opportunities to succeed in every facet of a hiring or recruiting process, even if they never necessarily earned it. Clearly, affirmative action was at one point needed to correct wrongdoing which otherwise, would never have corrected themselves. However, some thirty years since, society has changed. Minorities, who are supposed to benefit from this policy, have grown in number and within this century will likely become the majority. Whenever that happens, this policy automatically becomes an ineffective example of history. But waiting until that time only puts off the inevitable.

Affirmative action has a good goal at heart but its means are only adding to the problem. Instead of correcting any social injustices, it creates new ones. For example, there is a single position within a business open for hiring. The process comes down to two applicants, a white-male who has the better resume and has scored higher on any testing. The black-male isn’t a big drop down and ultimately, he gets the job. The only reason being that the company will have to fulfill quota’s of minority employees. In this situation, the white-male lost the position wrongly only because of the color of his skin. Contrastly, the black-male gains the position because he is simply not Caucasian. Prior achievements or accomplishments become useless and that is wrong. This is reverse discrimination and will only help create a new generation of victims of society’s ills. Forcing businesses or universities into these types of situations does little to correct errors of generations past. This policy risks to show people that performing at their best is not, truly, in their best interests. If someone does their best and is just turned away because of quota’s, only to learn that someone else put in half the effort but received the position.

Discrimination will sadly always be apart of society with such a diverse make-up as the United States has. However, limiting it through education and federal funding, not force-feeding is the way to go. Using people as patsies to accomplish a perceived end does nothing but feed the problem and it would only continue.

Affirmative action became national headline news in the late-1990s after two (white) students applied for admission to the University of Michigan. Both were not accepted and later, brought lawsuits against the school because of its use of a points system for admission. Michigan’s system included a 150-point scale and 100-points guaranteed admission into the school. Michigan gave minority applicants a bonus 20-point push, due to nothing else but the fact that they were not well represented amongst the school’s student population. The student’s cases were brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the point system was “too mechanistic” and unconstitutional. According to the Court, the policy in effect at the school did not promote the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution which calls for equal protection. This case showed that the Supreme Court agreed, in at least this case, that affirmative action is a wrong policy that promotes unfairness, not equality.

One argument in favor of affirmative action says it gives opportunities to people in lower-classes who otherwise would never have them and would only end up failing in life. Do policies like these truly turn their world over and open up whole new doors? This type of belief only leads to generalizations about groups of people. It’s just demeaning towards minorities and sends messages that they can’t achieve these goals on their own. Knocking their self-confidence and/or self-worth is what the policy accomplishes. Giving minorities special rights is not equality. Equality is seeing people for who they are and
what they’ve accomplished. Taking into account issues such as family ties, religion, race or income is superficial and breeds racism and jealous feelings.

Materialism and greed have entered the forefront of society and issues such as education, though thought highly of, have taken a step back. Perhaps it’s because the overall quality of education in the United States has decreased. Affirmative action only feeds this phenomenon as people involved in the policy can tend to believe that achieving the ultimate in their field is not necessary. Instead, they can play their “minority-card” and accomplish just as much as someone else who may have worked harder. Thoughts along these lines do little to help fix the problems that existed in the past, such as little opportunities for minorities to climb the social ladder.

When affirmative action was first introduced into legislation, it was done so with the right intentions in mind. Over one hundred years worth of transgressions were planned on being corrected. However, as the decades passed by, the policy did not accomplish as much. For those reasons, affirmative action should be halted so society canbegin to work on an equal setting.

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