Affirmative action refers to policies that were created so that government contractors would not discriminate against any employees or applicants because of race, creed, colour or national origin. Soon after the policies took effect in the mid 20th century many pros and cons of affirmative action were raised and steps were taken to include gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and religion. Today it has broadened its scope from government to private contractors and educational institutions and is practiced in many other countries outside the US.
However with modern times the need for affirmative action has now been brought into question as more and more integration has happened in society over the past 5 decades. Issues being brought up by affirmative action critics have criticized the policy for preferring the minority group and discriminating against the majority. Meanwhile supporters of the policy, while affirming its uses against discrimination in the past, see no need for the policy as these issues have lessened or have ceased.
Such issues have questioned the need to amend or completely discontinue the policy, but as it is a very sensitive topic doing so is difficult if not impossible, especially with many pros and cons of affirmative action being raised all the time. Pros of affirmative action include:
- Allowing minority groups to break through social barriers which would otherwise stop them from entering certain professions, schools or work.
- Groups that have suffered years of oppression can consider affirmative action policies as a means of compensation for past transgressions.
- Encourages diversity and social integration in certain environments where the minority is looked down upon and wouldnt normally be accepted.
- Affirmative action policies continue to protect the minority groups from oppression and removal of the policy may allow discrimination and prejudice to resurface.
Given the above arguments it would appear that there is much to gain from affirmative action policies. However the need for the policy to continue is questioned as it labels the minority groups and allows a form of reverse discrimination. Anti affirmative action groups argue that:
- Affirmative action policies should be phased out when society becomes more integrated, however being a government policy, interest groups will most likely defend it even after the discrimination has ceased.
- Some institutions and companies adopting the practice of affirmative action policies lower the standards expected of minority groups encouraging discrimination and social profiling.
- In addition, Individuals accepted through lowered standards may be unable to perform to the extent required for their environment which may lead to failure or poor performance due to the mismatch.
- Affirmative action policies may encourage discrimination against the majority group as it gives preferential treatment to the minority group, thus impacting the selection of more qualified candidates in the presence of a minority candidate.
Given the above counter-arguments it would appear that continuing affirmative action policies can be counter-productive, but the sudden removal may reinstate the discrimination and abuse that it was designed to prevent. Hence this issue cannot be taken lightly. To continue affirmative action policies and adapt them to different environments needs careful planning in order to succeed and prevent abuse. We hope that the pros and cons of affirmative action listed above helped shed more light on this issue and give our readers a more solid ground on affirmative action.