Understanding Affirmative Action In The Workplace

It’s hard to move about society, the American one in particular, without encountering affirmative action in the workplace. Affirmative action within the workplace is essentially a means of trying to rectify any wrongs done to minority groups in the past by giving an advantage over the whites in America. Starting out in admission policies in schools, affirmative action now makes it possible for minority groups to participate in avenues where they are not allowed before or were at an unfair disadvantage before. Now, affirmative action is the entire opposite of how things were used to be done. Now, it’s all about consciously giving the minority groups a clear advantage over the white Americans. But should this really be the case?

Many are of the belief that affirmative action in the workplace is in itself based upon a policy of discrimination, although most of the people affected by affirmative action today had no role in any of the discrimination that affirmative action is looking to address. For a lot of people, hiring an individual or accepting an application should solely be based upon the individual’s merit. This would make it unfair then to give anyone an advantage over the other, no matter who was benefiting. It is also argued that if society in America was ever to live up to its best capability, then it would be natural that those who would be getting jobs are the ones most qualified to do them. Otherwise, you’re looking at a society that is undermining itself.

What affirmative action in the workplace reminds people is that two wrongs will not make a right. Won’t it make people develop better self-esteem if they have to work for what they want to receive? Also, won’t standing on your own merits make people respect you more? If you would follow this train of thought though, it would seem that society will be better off without affirmative action. Not to mention that doing without affirmative action will help dissipate any kind of resentment that white people will have against the minority groups. Since if that happens, affirmative action will be causing what it was exactly trying to put to rest. This is one of the reasons why there are those who want to make do without affirmative action and encourage people instead to stand up on their own without any help from anyone. Because if one was to ask for help from society, surely whatever help will be dispensed will be at the expense of others.

In the end though, reasons for keeping affirmative action in the workplace are so much more valid than the ones against it. Change in a society is hard to initiate, most especially on the topic of fairness, that’s why a firmer hand in the guise of government aid is needed under certain circumstances. It wasn’t so long ago that slavery was abolished in America. Back then, surely there were those who thought that freeing the slaves was absurd. But it did happen and now everyone is enjoying their freedom. The same could be said about affirmative action in the workplace. It will have its negative side now but eventually people with see that all it really aimed to do was level the playing field for everyone by giving those who need it just a little bit more prodding than the rest.



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Pros And Cons of Affirmative Action 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...


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One Response to “Understanding Affirmative Action In The Workplace”

  1. Affirmative Action (AA) policies are policies in which support is affirmed for people who belong to a specified group – (Open Polytechnic of New Zealand – Module 2 p.24). In the workplace, weak affirmative action sees preference given to a candidate from the socially less-advantaged group over a candidate of equal ability. Strong affirmative action is applied to give preference to the same person (representative of the socially less-advantaged group) over a candidate not from a socially disadvantaged group, having considered they are both able to do the job at hand and even if the other candidate is more able.

    Your article, for the most part, highlights the harm caused to society and individuals when AA policies are used to “rectify any wrongs done to minority groups.” Individual rights are sacrificed to the collective benefit of society. However, these points, in your view, are usurped by the “reasons for keeping AA in the workplace” because “change (fairness) in society is hard to initiate.” Expanding further, government is to use a “firmer hand” to “prod” those that need it through the implementation of AA policies.

    AA in the United States was born out of the civil rights movement and saw laws made between 1961-1968 about non-discriminative hiring and opportunities for previously discriminated against groups. In attempts to equal the playing field, people have been classified primarily based on “race, creed, colour or national origin” – U.S. Executive Order 10925 – 1961. Historical accounts of the white race’s advantages due to discriminative acts toward mainly African-Americans is the basis for AA policies.

    Since AA was written into legislation, the AA approach has met opposition, mainly on the basis of individual and civil rights being abused and preferential treatment has come to be viewed as disrcriminative in itself. Notably, the states of California, Michigan and Washington have passed constitutional amendments banning AA within their respective states. The strongest opposition to AA policies can be found in the belief and concern that such policies vindicate actions of reverse discrimination.

    Businesses and institutions have been known to implement quotas and goals to measure their AA compliance. Tom L. Beauchamp advocates the use of quotas and goals as it benefits a business to do so because it removes discrimination. AA in his view, is the mechanism to “improve the workforce” and maintain a “bias-free corporate environment” – Goals and Quotas in Hiring and Promotion, Reading 2.4. His assumption is on the basis that discrimination will occur without AA. Whether this is on a voluntary or regulatory basis, quotas have came to negatively represent the desired outcomes of AA policies and are commonly seen as contributing to inefficient businesses and social disharmony.

    Potential employees, subject to AA hiring policies, have expressed considerable ill-feeling as a result of AA’s discriminative nature. These applicants and opponents to AA believe that merit is the primary basis on which one should be considered for employment. These individuals and groups highlight a flaw in the traditional AA methodologies. For example, consider two job applicants applying for a job. Both are equally skilled but can be differentiated because one is white and one is black. The black applicant comes from a good family upbringing and attended a good school and college and achieved well academically. The white applicant came from a troubled home, a rough neighbourhood and achieved well in education as a result of hard work. AA policy grants preferential treatment to the black applicant but has inadequately distinguished who is more disadvantaged in the social context. Although this may not be representative of society because it is one example, it explicitly shows why AA is not a suffiecient measure for socially removing discrimination.

    AA, by nature, empowers the collective at the expense of the individual. Given power by a movement with the collective in mind, AA can be viewed simply as policies that give opportunities to previously discriminated against minorities. As a collective, these minorities suffered an injustice at some stage in history; slavery, segregation and human rights abuses. Essential to advocate’s of AA entire argument, is the assumption that members of an ethnic group share a collective identity: each shares in the successes and failures of the others. Is a man guilty of another man’s failures by association of race or are a man’s failures his and his alone? Affirmative action policies effectively maintain that there is no individual, only a group, and that the group’s shared achievements and faults are carried by its members. But how can we hope to progress beyond judging individuals based on race if the alleged solution to racism detaches merits and demerits from individuals and lumps one’s moral status with a group’s average?

    Unfortunately, encouraging businesses to evaluate applicants based on their respective ethnicity operates on an the premise that today’s white generation must pay for the sins of white generations past, by giving today’s black generation what black generations past were denied. The very idea of punishing an innocent individual for the crimes of other guilty individuals, under any other circumstances would be deemed as unjust.
    The most effective tool to any culture’s race-consciousness is not affirmative action but rather a reorienting of our minds toward judging others based on their values, desires, and accomplishments. Every person has a unique, independent intellect capable of success and shortcomings. The black candidate and white candidate from the previous example ought to be judged on what they bring to the company in terms of skills and merit. When race is thought to define values and character, when ancestry is criteria for an individual’s worth, not one’s thoughts and actions, racism wins. Affirmative action is merely a symptom of the problem of racism not the solution to racism.

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