Affirmative Action: Solution or Confusion?
Affirmative action is a plan designed to end discrimination by guaranteeing
minorities will be hired, regardless of race or gender. While our country hires
such groups based upon these guarantees, the qualifications of such people are
occasionally overlooked. Many believe that affirmative action is a very
effective plan; however, the population which opposes such action frequently
includes people of various minorities, as well as many others who have been
wronged by this plan In several cases, this plan causes minorities to be
perceived as being under-qualified when hired; in addition, it also causes a new
minority, the white male. Our government must acknowledge the fact that
affirmative action is not putting an end to discrimination; in all actuality,
this plan has succeeded in creating new minorities, and more reasons for
discrimination. Affirmative action frequently causes qualified employees to be
looked down upon because some believe them to be “affirmative action hires”.
Two of my female relatives are currently on the police force; as a result, I
have encountered many discriminatory comments pertaining to their positions.
The first remark I usually receive suggests that they were hired for their
position solely based on gender. Another comment which I usually receive is,
“Well, being a woman probably didn’t hurt their resume.” Both of my relatives
are very good at their jobs; one was even on the popular television show, Cops.
Neither of them are “wimps”, yet most males look down upon them as being hired
because of affirmative action. This type of criticism is received by many
minorities holding good jobs, whether they are qualified or not. To quote
William Reynolds, assistant attorney general in the civil rights division:
In many cases, affirmative action takes away from legitimate
minority success. People look at the black banker
downtown who has made it on his own and say, “He got his
job because of affirmative action.” Or, an employer hires a
few talented minority people who would have succeeded
anyway and says, “Those are my affirmative-action hires.”
In this particular case, affirmative action may, or may not, have been the
reason for hiring, yet that is what most perceive. People of any race or gender
should be able to hold a job where their colleagues respect them as equals, not
as “affirmative-action hires”.
My cousin, Christine, has also added to my knowledge on how well affirmative
action works at the hospital where she works. One of the administrators
happened to be a black male–who was very qualified for his position–yet most
of the staff accused him of being promoted because of his race. This affected
his morality to such an extent that he resigned shortly after his promotion.
Another black female–who was hired because of her race and gender–is not
qualified for her position, yet is esteemed by her colleagues for her
accomplishments. It seems that minorities are accepted to a certain extent,
until they become someone’s boss. It is also a scary situation when a person
has an under-qualified surgeon performing surgery on them because of affirmative
Affirmative action insists that the employer must “avoid the kind of
unnecessary escalation of criteria for selection and promotion which has
sometimes been used to keep certain classes of people from entering the
mainstream of our economic life” (Berry 19). This aspect of the plan creates
more openings for minorities; however, it also suggests that the standards
should be maintained at a low to guarantee these openings. In my opinion, if
the standards for any position are raised, the productivity and accuracy of the
country will rise accordingly. When the policy of affirmative action is to
almost lower the standards of our society, this sacrifices quality for the sake
of equality. Roy Wilkins, a former Executive Director of the NAACP, stated to
Our association has never been in favor of a quota system.
We believe the quota system is unfair whether it is used for
or against blacks…We feel people ought to be hired because
of their ability, irrespective of their color…We want
equality, equality of opportunity and employment on the
basis of ability. (qtd. in Reynolds 26)
If the people which affirmative action was made for are against most of it’s
principles–and the white male loses jobs because of it–why is the majority so
supportive of this plan?
One of the most powerful arguments for affirmative action is based upon claims
from minorities who believe that they deserve a certain amount of compensation
because of the past discrimination which they have received. Diana Axelson,
chairperson of the Department of Philosophy of Spelman College, states this in
her essay, “Affirmative Action Compensates for Past Discrimination”, by claiming,
“The first form of compensation which seems appropriate is compensations…for
injuries they themselves have received as a result of individualized or
institutionalized racism and sexism” (33). In my opinion, the blame of past
wrongs should not be put upon the employer, nor should something which happened
in the past be a factor in hiring practices. To quote Michael Levin, professor
Other past wrongs have left their traces-acts of theft,
despoliation, fraud, anti-Semitism-yet society has no
organized policy of rectifying those wrongs. It surely seems
that if the consequences of one kind of wrong should not be
allowed to unfold, neither should those of any other. (40)
Although society may sympathize with past wrongs, it is not any employer’s
obligation to compensate these people; further, it would be a great injustice to
society’s majority to ignore them in order to accomplish this.
Affirmative action is a successful plan in theory, but hiring a certain
percentage of minorities–qualified or unqualified–has turned into a larger
problem than what already existed. In all actuality, the hiring requirements of
affirmative action have caused the white male to become a minority because they
cannot be hired unless the required percentage of minorities are already
employed. A more effective method of hiring fairly, without discrimination, may
be a faceless and nameless interview. If perspective employees could send in
their resumes, be assigned a number, fill out a written interview, and be hired
entirely based on their qualifications, this would solve many of the problems.
Using this method to hire and promote would guarantee the most qualified people
would be hired, and there could be no accusations of choosing a person solely on
their race or gender. We live in a country where a certain percent of the work
force is hired based entirely on their race or gender, not their qualifications.
It is quite obvious that affirmative action does not fulfill the intended
purpose; contrary to its objective, this plan has only created more
discrimination than could ever be imagined.