Affirmative Action





Affirmative Action

California alongside eight other states in the country has banned affirmative action policies in institutions of higher learning with far-ranging consequences. Historically, women and minority groups have been represented in various areas of life such as education, employment, among others. Affirmative action is the process by which institutions, governments, and other groups make efforts and policies to increase the representation of these underrepresented groups. The idea of affirmative action has always been a controversial one for multiple reasons. One such argument is that it favors one group which leads to others in the majority being disadvantaged. Affirmative action is an excellent way to increase equality for women and minorities in areas where they have been historically excluded or underrepresented. This policy gives these groups opportunities they may not have gotten otherwise, promoting equality and addressing bias and injustice against women and minorities.

The history of injustice and bias against women and minorities in the US dates far back, with efforts to address it made only fairly recently. Much of the injustice against African-Americans in the US dates back to slavery and segregation policies thereafter. African-Americans and other minority groups were not allowed to interact with white Americans in all areas of life such as places of residence, marriage, schools, public transport, churches, and hotels, among many others. Such unfair policies have always promoted the idea of inferiority among these groups. Women have also faced discrimination in the early twentieth century where they were not allowed to work, vote, or take part in any progressive community activities. When the time came for women and minority groups to join the rest of the population in culture, employment and education, they had, and still have, a lot of catching up to do. Affirmative action is an excellent way to aid them in this endeavor.

Affirmative action takes many forms in areas of underrepresentation. For example, in education, some schools take in a specific number of minority and female students who might not have gotten admission through regular competitive admissions programs. Affirmative action considers race, gender, and ethnicity to create fair policies for women and minority groups. Through these programs, disadvantaged students can also get funding in form of grants and scholarships to help financially struggling students through college. One argument in favor of affirmative action is that minority students remain underrepresented on college campuses across the country. The Center for American Progress reports that in 45 out of 50 flagship campuses, there is a significant disparity in enrolment for African-American students (Maxwell & Garcia, 1). Although college completion rates have improved significantly over the years, black and Latinx students are yet to achieve the same rates as their majority counterparts. Affirmative action reduces this disparity.

Affirmative action in education not only benefits female and minority students but all students as well. Students in racially diverse school environments enhance experiences through interaction and reduce racial biases, promote self-confidence and improve satisfaction. Such benefits also prepare students for diverse environments later on such as in employment where they can work with people from different cultures and backgrounds respectfully. Between 1979 and 2008, affirmative action has led to a 39% increase in black student enrolment (Arcidiacono et al. 488). Affirmative action also promotes equity in admissions for students who face historical barriers. Many minority students face exclusion, have lower familial wealth and fewer resources to help them get into college. In contrast, white, wealthier students have the advantage of legacy admissions from their family, attend schools with competitive extracurricular activities that give them an edge in college admission. These two groups of students do not have a level playing field applying to college. Minority students who do not have such advantages benefit greatly from affirmative action.

Multiple arguments have been brought forth against affirmative action, the most prominent being that it is a form of reverse discrimination. The main aim of affirmative action is to address discrimination that women and minority groups have faced. However, the process also creates a situation where students in a non-minority group lose out on opportunities, creating tension between the two groups (Balafoutas et al. 91). This argument is questionable, mainly because the main premise of discrimination is that a person is historically disadvantaged in some way. White, wealthier students cannot claim that affirmative action discriminates against them because the system is already designed to give them a priority.

Another argument against affirmative action is that it discourages meritocracy and demeans achievements. Qualified students with great potential miss out on opportunities that may be offered to students with lower qualifications based on affirmative action. Meritocracy encourages individuals to do their best so that they can get into a specific school or job, and affirmative action goes against this system. Additionally, affirmative action creates a situation where achievements by women and minorities are credited to affirmative action rather than personal effort. It suggests that they did not get there by merit but by discriminatory policies. These negative attitudes towards affirmative action defeat the whole idea of the policy. Affirmative action supports minorities who would not have gotten the same opportunities as everyone else, and they have to be qualified to get those opportunities.

In summary, affirmative action is crucial to bringing equity and justice to groups that have traditionally been excluded and discriminated against. Women and minorities continue to face many hurdles in major areas such as employment and education. For a fair, balanced, and progressive society, every individual must be afforded the same opportunities. Women and minorities have a long way to go to catch up with other majority groups, and affirmative action is one of the best ways to work towards equity and parity. Although affirmative action remains a sensitive topic with nine states banning it, the public needs to understand that the policy benefits society as a whole. The negative attitudes surrounding the issue should be open to debate and to create new ways of implementing affirmative action without promoting the idea of reverse discrimination. Women and minorities deserve the same opportunities as other privileged groups, which is why stakeholders should work together to counter these obstacles.

Works Cited

Arcidiacono, Peter, Michael Lovenheim, and Maria Zhu. “Affirmative action in undergraduate education.” Annu. Rev. Econ. 7.1 (2015): 487-518.

Balafoutas, Loukas, Brent J. Davis, and Matthias Sutter. “Affirmative action or just discrimination? A study on the endogenous emergence of quotas.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 127 (2016): 87-98.

Maxwell, Connor & Garcia, Sara. “5 Reasons to Support Affirmative Action in College Admissions.” Center for American Progress. 1 October 2019.