Affirmative action is meant to be an attempt at equality throughout society. It
supposedly proposes that each person receives equal opportunities in the classroom
as well as the work force. Not only would this apply to minorities but to women
as well. Every sector in America would be equal and unprejudiced – or so proponents
say. On the other hand, adopting affirmative action would force many employers to
replace hard-working employees with those of less qualification simply due to their
gender or ethnic background. Many people feel that affirmative action would be very beneficial to our society. They have many thought-inspiring arguments. Some claim that we owe blacks for what we took from them in the past. We gave them a setback in our economic system, and affirmative action would be our way of reimbursing them for time and opportunities they lost out on (Norman 50). But where should the line be drawn; how much do we do to repay people – in this case blacks – for past wrongs? Is it enough to give them equal rights, or will we give them extra opportunities to make up for those
we took away? It has been argued that the black sector in America, in general, is
lower in class due to their environment prior to the Civil War, but the black people
of today are not those who lived then. Each person today – no matter their gender,
origin, race, belief, or whatever difference has the same opportunities as everyone
else. In my opinion no one needs any special favors to get ahead. In this paper I will discuss some of the problems with affirmative action. These include disgruntled employees, reverse discrimination, and the negative effect on our economic status. People who are for affirmative action have many possible positive outcomes as a result of this law passing, some of which have already been implicated. The first subject I will discuss is diversity in the work place, including women and minorities.
Proponents of affirmative action attempt to show that diversity in the work force
has brought with it improved skills and new insights (Carlton 20). I agree that
diversity could encourage the majority to learn more about minorities by forcing
them to work side by side. On the other hand, it could also create tension due to
the fact that the minorities may replace those who have held a particular job for
a long period of time. There would be a feeling of loyalty among those previously
employed, and it would only be natural for them to become bitter and resent the minority
worker who took the already filled positions simply due to their race or gender.
Instead of creating a more unified society, as some would suggest, it is more likely
that affirmative action could create more divisions among employees and people in
general. Statistics have shown that affirmative action has found jobs for a large number
of minorities and women. In 1995, sixty percent of the work force was made up of
minorities and women. That was an increase from the 1979 estimate of forty percent.
In the same way, women’s wages increased 119 percent from 1979 to 1982 (Carlton
22). There still remains the question: how much longer should we attempt to right
our wrongs? If minorities make up sixty percent of today’s work force, will we keep
going until it becomes eighty percent, or ninety? The answer is most likely not. It appears that affirmative action has fulfilled its purpose and has now outlasted its usefulness and should be done away with. Finding jobs for minorities and women was a step in the right direction, but affirmative action was a rather controversial – perhaps
even unconstitutional – way to do it. I have no problem with a qualified woman or minority getting a job. However the key word is qualified, and I do have a problem with it if they are given the job based only on what they are and not what they can do. I have applied for many jobs, only a few of which I had been accepted for employment. Each one of the rejections was a sign to me that maybe I wasn’t qualified for that particular job. All it did was make me try harder at my next interview. In my opinion it would make me feel worse if I got a job knowing there were far more qualified people ahead of me who didn’t get the job or lost it because of me. It makes no sense to fire a perfectly qualified person and then hire a new employee who is not as qualified. The Supreme Court, on July 12, 1995, criticized affirmative action saying it was not morally justifiable and could amount to unconstitutional reverse discrimination and harm for those it was seeking to advance. In addition to the problems it could cause in the workplace, affirmative action is also reverse discrimination. Next I will talk about the ways affirmative action reversibly discriminates against white males.
We spend so much time trying to find equality and unity between whites and those people of other colors. What about minorities among whites? Should the Irish-Americans receive benefits like affirmative action if they are a minority to German-
Americans? I am Italian, and if I came to the U.S. to look for a job sixty years ago I would have been called a variety of names and would have been discriminated against just as much as the next black man. However I have no desire to get a handout because of what happened sixty years ago. Basing whether a person receives a job on their race seems a lot like discrimination, which is what we are trying to eliminate in the first place. It is also discrimination to take jobs and opportunities from white males, who happen to be the majority. It is referred to as reverse discrimination, and while followers of affirmative action say it does not exist, it obviously does (Norman 51). To give a percentage of jobs to the minority, the majority will have to give a percentage of their jobs up. It is generally accepted that discrimination is wrong, and that should include biases against the majority – not just the minorities. Aside from the personal stab it is to the individual who is getting fired, it is also a stab at our economy and production possibilities. My next topic is the negative effect affirmative action has on our economy.
Not only does affirmative action have a negative effect on the social aspects of
our country, but it also greatly affects our economic status. By replacing well-qualified
employees who happen to be the majority with minorities who may be less qualified is not good for business. If you put it in prospective, you slow down production when you need to cater to the lack of ability in a new employee. To me it would not make good business sense to replace a part that does not need to be fixed. Those in favor claim that affirmative action would increase competition, therefore raising the level of skill among employees (Norman 49). In opposition of that claim, how can the majority population work under the conditions that they could get fired at any moment, regardless of their
skill on the job. In psychology there is a fitting term called learned helplessness. It says that if a person is not rewarded for their work , he will eventually learn that doing above average work is not getting him any farther that doing average work, so he will lower his level of skill. He will stop trying as hard because he will eventually learn that he does not need higher levels of skill because it will not benefit him anymore than if he had a lower level of skill. If the minority worker gets a job with a lower amount of skills, why can’t the majority? If everyone could do their best all the time, it would be a different story. “Survival of the fittest”, no one seems to know what this means anymore. The people that made this country, including everyone’s parents and grandparents, would be disgusted at the way people expect something for nothing. No matter if you are white, mexican, black or asian you need to work for what you get. If you want a job you need to work at it, and if you do not get the job the first time maybe you should work harder and try again. However sadly enough, that is not the way of the world today.
Affirmative action has some very convincing arguments by some very convinced proponents. This is obvious through the fact that it has been implemented and followed in the past. Though it has proved successful in doing the job it was created to do, affirmative action has unfortunately had side effects as well. One of which is that minorities and women hold a higher percentage of jobs than in the past, but white men have lost jobs. In addition to losing jobs, white students have been denied entrance to schools. People and the population as a whole have developed biases. Our society and economy as a whole have declined. On the surface affirmative action sounds and looks good. How could giving people an opportunity to work and learn to get along be a bad
idea? But after looking deeper into this concept, it seems that the scale of benefits are still not evenly spread amongst the community. After looking at all the negative outcomes, the choice should be clear. This is obviously not the right plan to help our social and economic system and we should stop using it until we can find a better choice.
Abner, Lacy. Discrimination behind a mask. Lighthouse publishing co. Boston, 1996
Carlton, Melinda. Affirmative Action and Affirming Diversity. Public Management.
Norman, Jim. Politics of the nineties: Americas Verdict on Affirmative Action
is Decidedly Mixed. USA Today. June/July 1997: 49-52.
Internet website. www.washingtonpost.com