Society is built off a hierarchy, whether that is through economic status or social status, we all have a place in it. This poses a problem and begs the question if there is fairness within our social network. In this report I will introduce the concept of affirmative action, who it has affected society within the workforce and education systems, explain the positives and negatives of affirmative action, and finally analyze what would happen if affirmative action did not exist.
What is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative action is a policy that intended to integrate the minority group in order to “[revert] discrimination” (Holzer and Neumark 13). This, in a way, diffused the lines of social boundaries among people of ethnic backgrounds to maintain an equal playing field. Affirmative action was an attempt to retaliate against racial and ethnic discrimination, especially discrimination against African Americans. It was then first used under the executive order of former President John F. Kennedy in 1961 for the purpose of ensuring that the people are treated equally without regard of their ethnic background (AAED). Former President John F. Kennedy intended affirmative action not only to target individuals of color, but regardless of their gender, social status, etc. At first, this policy initially “focused on improving opportunities for african americans in employment and education” in an attempt to bring equality among the white and blacks, becoming the byproduct of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement (NCSL). The sequence of events that took place within the oppression of african americans and other minorities that would later come became the recipe of creating the policy of affirmative action.
Who is Affected by it?
In today’s society, affirmative action technically affect everyone in someway. But in terms of being affected in a beneficial manner, it mainly targets the minority group like african americans, latinos, asians. But affirmative action does not only help those of color, women of different ethnicity are also affected. Statistics reveal that “6 million women overall had advances at their job that would not have been possible without affirmative action” (Massie). This is significant as it implies that without the policy of affirmative action, there was a possibility that about 6 million would be unemployed or would not have advance in their field of work.
Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action
Throughout the decades, affirmative action has thrived and benefitted many individuals into a more fair society. Starting with the positives of affirmative action, the most obvious benefit of this policy is that it aids those that are disadvantaged and creates an opportunity to advance in school and work environments (Ayres). This policy opens the possibility for many social environments not to be predominantly white, thus creating and promoting a diverse environment. Another positive effect of affirmative action is that it would facilitate and compensate for centuries of oppression against minorities (Ayres). From the enslavement of african americans and native americans or the japanese internment camps used against the japanese-americans, many would see affirmative action as a way to make up for history’s worth of discrimination and segregation.
Although affirmative action provides opportunities and aid in alleviating for the less fortunate, this policy is also not advocated by everyone. There are many that believe that affirmative action also brings up problems into society. Protestors of affirmative action believe it is doing the opposite of what it was intended to “[serving] as a reverse discrimination” (Ayres). Many are convinced that affirmative action is actually hurting those who are qualified for the task by not being picked over a minority or other ethnic group. Another negative effect of affirmative action is the possibility of reinforcing stereotypes (Ayres). This could be possible among many school or workplace environment as individuals may see minorities do not fit the respective environment. Another article addresses how over 90,000 employees filed employment discrimination complaints towards the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009 (Gaile). This implies that although minorities were given the opportunity to be provided work, it does not guarantee the dissipation of racial and ethnic differences.
As a result it would, in turn, create and hinder working and schooling institutions. One academic paper accentuates affirmative action would force employers to lower working standards, with the possible consequence that continuous poor performance by the preferred workers will only result in reinforce negative prejudices (Coate and Loury 1221). It is suggesting that by choosing applicant through the process of affirmative action, companies and businesses would be cornered to change their standards. This would indirectly result in a less selective process and ultimately hurt the labor market.
A World With no Affirmative Action
The policy of affirmative action has certainly affected and shifted society’s social boundaries in ways that are both beneficial and hindering. But it is worth to dwell on the idea of a society that do not use affirmative action. In one study, “New York Times” presented statistics illustrating the state of California approving the statewide ban of affirmative action and the decline of enrollment rates among hispanics and blacks, with less than five percent of hispanics and less than one percent (“How Minorities Have Fared”). With the absence of affirmative action it is clear that the enrollment of minorities will decline, leaving the white population overrepresented. Furthermore, another article it pointed out states that were “post-affirmative action” showed a decline of minority applicants by about twenty-three percent. The repeal of affirmative action resulted in the minority applicants to be neglected and therefore affecting the balance of an already underrepresented social group.
Affirmative action opens the door not to dissipate inequality but more to promote fairness. Although the main function of affirmative action is to blur the lines of social barriers, it does not certainly mean equality and diversity cannot be side-effects of affirmative action. Affirmative action also functions in a way that gives voice to the underrepresented. But affirmative action alone cannot solve the many social differences that occur. Historically, The Brown v. Board of Education decision, that outlawed school segregation, in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 along with affirmative action policies were not enough to integrate African Americans and other minorities into the mainstream social infrastructure. Policies alike even today are not sufficient in maintaining equality and equity, and so, affirmative action paves the way of opening a broader spectrum of more acceptance within social differences.
Ayres, Crystal. “20 Principal Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action.” Green Garage, 19 Aug. 2015, greengarageblog.org/20-principal-pros-and-cons-of-affirmative-action.
Bautsch, Brenda, and Suzanne Hultin. Affirmative Action | Overview, http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/affirmative-action-overview.aspx.
Coate, Stephen; Loury, Glenn C. “Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?” The American Review, Vol. 83, No. 5. (Dec 1993), pp. 1220-1240.
Gaille, Brandon. “25 Important Statistics on Affirmative Action in the Workplace.” BrandonGaille.com, 23 May 2017, brandongaille.com/24-important-statistics-on-affirmative-action-in-the-workplace/.
“History of Affirmative Action | American Association for Access Equity and Diversity.” AAAED, http://www.aaaed.org/aaaed/history_of_affirmative_action.asp.
Holzer, Harry; Neumark, David. “ASSESSING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.” NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH. August 1999, NBER Working Paper No. 7323
“How Minorities Have Fared in States With Affirmative Action Bans.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 June 2013, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/24/us/affirmative-action-bans.html.
Kiesel, Laura. “What Happens When There’s No Affirmative Action.” TheStreet, 11 Feb. 2014, http://www.thestreet.com/story/12321563/1/what-happens-when-theres-no-affirmative-action.html.Massie, Victoria M. “White Women Benefit Most from Affirmative Action – and Are among Its Fiercest Opponents.” Vox, Vox, 23 June 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/5/25/11682950/fisher-supreme-court-white-women-affirmative-action.