Affirmative action policies are intended to give rights and privileges to groups that were formerly discriminated against based on their race, nationality, or gender. The first serious attempt to eliminate all types of social inequality in the U.S was made by John F. Kennedy, who signed “Executive Order No. 10925” on 6 March 1961 (Collins, Sharon, and Dodson 16). This established a legal basis for employees’ fair treatment in the workplace regardless of their skin color, origin, religion, or sex. However, the law did not seek to make employers blind to the latter characteristics; rather, they should be considered but not as the main factors for the managers when hiring employees/personnel. A similar example of this can be found in the United Kingdom, where hiring someone only because he/she is of minority status is illegal, which was enforced by the “Equality Act 2010”.
However, with the evolution of the understanding of what affirmative action policies should be and the appearance of such things as enrollment or employment quotas, this topic has become increasingly controversial. Some people view these policies as socially necessary to restore historical justice, while others consider them socially unnecessary and even harmful. Therefore, on the one hand, affirmative action is a good method to eliminate discrimination at faster rates, whereas, on the other hand, it may also be called ‘reverse discrimination. Indeed, while the main idea is to avoid favoritism and injustice, affirmative action may actually do the opposite, as there are groups that are discriminated against because they are not considered minorities. Thus, in order to clarify why those issues exist, it is necessary to analyze the moral basis of the current affirmative action approach. Also, it is crucial to show why affirmative action-related policies should be handled with great conscience.
The Reasons Behind Public Controversy
The difficulty in resolving the conflict between various groups regarding the question of whether affirmative action is necessary is based on the nature of the problem itself. From the ethical perspective, neither discrimination of white people for the interests of minority groups nor idleness in fighting against racism is approvable. Yet, although it seems theoretically possible, in practice, the attempt to restore justice in the workplace and university often leads to abusing the rights of the ‘dominant’ group. In this regard, Michele noted, “the impossibility objection asserts that it is simply impossible to resolve these kinds of moral differences.” (358) For this reason, diverse groups in society develop various types of opinions on whether affirmative action has been an acceptable development in this day in age.
A few bodies of humanity which have refused to accept affirmative action have caused great desolation among other members of society because of their race, religion, nationality, or gender. The deprecation of its members has caused a split in the community as well. For example, in the last few years, whites and African Americans have had disputes over the issue of racism in America over police brutality. This has generated over one to two-sided arguments over this issue broadcasted across the nation. As a result, our generation has not been this split since the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896.
The Necessity of Conscious Actions
Based on previous analysis, it is fair to claim that if people intend to erase or ‘get rid of discrimination at all, then using a reverse style is not an effective solution. It is clear that such an approach leads to escalations and conflicts between different groups based on their different identities. When minorities get more chances to get employed or get into a university of the individual’s choice, based solely on the fact that they are minorities, it looks as if another form of injustice has occurred. Thus, Lippert-Rasmussen suggests asking ourselves, “what makes affirmative action morally (un)justified?” (10). This is a reasonable question as it invites us to thoroughly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action and deeply reflect on the implications and consequences of the current policies in this sphere. Without a doubt, the benefits of affirmative action include prioritizing diversity among all races, and promoting social mobility regardless of their income or social status. Nevertheless, despite the fact that affirmative action has good intentions to provide minority groups with equal access to various institutions, policymakers should be cautious to avoid another form of discrimination.
Moreover, the effectiveness of affirmative action has not been fully investigated and truly studied, giving the sense that it is used out of assumptions and stereotypes in different situations. Holzer, Harry, and David noted, “Although the debate over affirmative action is both high-profile and high-intensity, neither side’s position is based on a well-established set of research findings” (1). When there is a lack of data about the effects of affirmative action, then it is hard to assume that there is no interest in it at all. Therefore, there should be more research findings on this topic to avoid the negative actions of simply replacing one type of social injustice with another.
In conclusion, it was shown that affirmative action is a highly debatable topic, although the majority probably supports its main implication. In this regard, the main problem that arises is the ‘reverse discrimination that appears as a consequence of certain policies. As a result, people are generally divided into two camps: those who support affirmative action policies and those who do not. Yet, most of today’s arguments are predominantly based on people’s presumptions and personal in-group, religious, and moral values. For this reason, further top-level management steps necessitate more research which would help to decide why and whether we should still practice affirmative action around the country and beyond. Analysis, data, and other methods to find the endings to this research are endless to seek within these high-profile communities where disagreement may be happening. However, people still lack knowledge about the impact of various political and legislative decisions. It is still not fully clear what is the influence of these policies on both members of minority groups and other U.S. citizens. Therefore, in order to ensure that affirmative action policies bring the maximum benefits for the whole society, it is necessary that all the stakeholders involved seek to support the evidence-based change.
Collins, Sharon M., and Dodson, Michelle S. Challenging the Status Quo: Diversity, Democracy, and Equality in the 21st Century. Brill, 2018.
Lippert-Rasmussen, Kasper. Making Sense of Affirmative Action. Oxford University Press, 2020.
Holzer, Harry, and David Neumark. “Assessing Affirmative Action.” National Bureau of Economic Research, 1999. Working paper.
Santoro, Doris A., et al. “Living with Moral Disagreement: The Enduring Controversy about Affirmative Action.” Educational Theory, vol. 69, 2019, pp. 355–370. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, EBSCOhost.