Social inequality, an issue that has been debated many times throughout the years, has discrimination, racism and sexism. Since people have to deal with this every day, social inequality seems like it will never disappear. However, society believes that their answer to solving this problem has been created, which is Affirmative Action. The purpose of affirmative action is to acquire more diversity and to control the basis of racism in America. This idea is to represent equality for women and minorities who work and are attending universities. For example, when applying to universities, they always ask about your ethnicity, depending on what race you are, you have the upper hand of getting into the school. This is how Universities are trying to bring more diversity and affirmative action is a great idea. However, looking at the sociological attributes to the idea of affirmative action, it does not seem like it is the best way to handle social inequality. In order for affirmative action to truly be a success in society, there are three aspects that need to be analysis: functional analysis (functionalism), conflict theory, symbolic interactionism. Through these three aspects, the advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action will be shown.Order now
Pursuing this further, in the beginning, from the sociological perspective, affirmative action was approved in order to reprimand the African Americans who have suffered from discrimination through the years. Now this policy has spread to all minorities and are now seen as quotas where one minority has an advantage over another. That is why there are many people who do not agree with affirmative action. Certain groups can create an opportunity for themselves and only gain advantages that the people who were not discriminated could get in a lifetime. The only group that believes in this idea would be the functionalists. The policy of affirmative action is based on sociological premise that help people suffering from inequality. This function is supposed to create social equality, however most of the materials of affirmative action were written by non-sociologist.
As the policy is analyzed more, a sociologist, Johnson, has experimental evidence that “affirmative action may increase racial hostility and not help social inequality” (Sabbagh). This is where functional analysis becomes important in analyzing the idea of affirmative action. Functional analysis is functionalism or structure functionalism where it focuses on society as a whole unit made up of interrelated parts that work together. The functionalist believes that affirmative action is valuable to society and detrimental depending on the side effects. The reason why it is beneficial is because they believe that inequality is necessary for society’s existence. Affirmative action is made on the idea of creating social equality for the minorities based on society standards. Since inequality is still an issue in today’s society, especially in the workplace or in the universities, affirmative action is supposed to be the solution to assist the minorities.
For example, focusing on structural functionalism, the social norms is that women stay home and men work. However, due to affirmative action, women have a higher chance of being employed now than a couple of years ago. This goes for people who are minorities, but apparently the people who benefitted the most from affirmative action is white women. According to Times magazine “6 million women, the majority of whom white, jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise held but for affirmative action” (Kohn). This type of structure leads to more changes in the social norms and creates more opportunities for women.
Also, minorities applying for universities have an upper hand with affirmative action, especially for African Americans, Latinos and Native American. Affirmative action allows these minorities to be accepted into their dream school, because of their race. Since most universities want more diversity, they would deny a white person, in order to accept a minority. This explains latent functions. For latent function, affirmative action has been the practice of “reverse discrimination” (Tairo). Since affirmative action is based on equal opportunity, it tries to give more opportunity to the minorities, but now the Caucasian people are suffering from it. For instance, a junior college is giving an” equal opportunity to an employer and is seeking applications from black people and women, including black women” (Park). This is not equal opportunity, because it’s difficult for Caucasians to be selected for the position, which shows how it is reverse racism. So in order to prevent this ideology is to try to limit the negative latent function, especially since functionalist did not want this outcome. Functionalist believe reverse racism is caused by the unbalance in society, which is the result of affirmative action.
However, conflict theory is the one that describes the negative side effects of affirmative action. According to the conflict theory, it focuses on the majority being controlled by the people in power, which emphasizes social control. The conflict perspective believes certain individuals or groups obtain power in certain areas of society and eventually compete within their groups. This is the reason why the conflict theory is connected to affirmative action. Affirmative action, thought of as a solution for discrimination, only creates more social inequality. In addition, the white women are benefitting from affirmative action when it should have been focused on the minorities.
Going back to the women who are successful due to affirmative action, apparently in private sectors, the advancements of white women are larger than color people. The purpose of affirmative action is to assist the minorities, but white women are doing better than African American women. This seems unfair and defeats the purpose of affirmative action, by creating social inequality On the other hand, looking back at the process of admission to universities, they base the acceptance not on the grades, but the ethnicity of the applicants. If the applicant is “African-American, Latino or Native American”, they have a higher chance of being accepted in their dream school (Jost). However, if the applicant is White or Asian, most likely a minority will take their spot if they are not accepted. That is why there have been many issues with affirmative action. There have been cases where a white person believed he or she was not accepted due to his or her ethnicity. This takes away her rights as an individual because of the “group” she is in. This only shows that their freedom is taken away, because of government intrusion and it begins to promote reverse racism, especially for the whites and Asians.
For instance, Asian Americans who were not accepted, believe that their high academic achievements were replaced with someone who had less successful records. “Asian Americans experienced discrimination and hardships, so they believe they should be benefiting from affirmative action as well1” (Park). So affirmative action only causes problems and more discrimination only in a different way. The people who have the power, government, controls who gets the opportunities and that is basically affirmative action is in the eyes of the people who believe in the conflict theory. These theorists are completely against the idea of affirmative action, because it only creates more competition. People are still being discriminated against based on their race, instead of being judged as an individual. For the people who have been rejected from their dream school due to their race, feel objectified. That is why cases like Abigail Fisher, a woman who was” rejected from University Texas, are brought to the Supreme Court” (Sabbagh) Abigail Fisher felt like a victim of affirmative action. She felt discriminated against, because she felt that the University allowed less qualified students based on their race. In this type of situation, the people who have the power is the university, and they create an inequality situation, when they are thinking about trying to be more diverse.
On the other hand, conflict theorist sees that it helps women and men of all races, disabled veterans, physically and mentally handicapped or anyone who has been historically, politically, or socially disparaged. These theorists mean that racial classification is used to divide non-white people into competing categories in order to cut the power they have. Affirmative action is somehow cutting the numbers, because the minorities are being separated from the majority. In this instance, it would be the Asians and Caucasian. The Asians, the model minority, who has the abilities to be on top, are separated from the rest of the minorities in order to create complications. These complications are how Asian Americans become more hostile to the minorities, because of the policy of affirmative.
On the other hand, while functionalism and conflict theorist show the negative and positive sides of the affirmative action, there is still one more theoretical perspective that needs to be addressed, which is symbolic interactionism. For this perspective, affirmative action is becoming a situation of people’s assumptions. According to the definition, symbolic interactionism theory analyzes society by addressing the subjective meanings that people impose on objects, events, and behaviors. This could be seen as a way to show how people assume that minorities get the benefit of affirmative action. Once a person imposes their idea onto someone, it spreads on many people who begin to believe this idea. For example, affirmative action is seen as reverse discrimination, because not everyone is getting equal opportunity. Since both Asian and Caucasian students are suffering from being discriminated against at a University, they begin to blame the minorities instead of focusing on the policy. They think it’s unfair that their credentials did not get them into school when they knew they scored higher than most of the minorities attending the university.
However, symbol interactionism does not take into account that the large scale of racism that happens. Symbol interactionism shows how the system of affirmative action gives people racial identities. Since affirmative action bases most of the information on ethnicity and not the individual person, it shows how symbol interactionism focuses on the social interaction with particular emphasis on the interpretive and negotiating process. For instance, an Asian women applies to Harvard University, her credentials are great, but she interprets that she is not going to get in because she is Asian. This shows how she interpret the situation, because she has information on how affirmative action works.
Therefore, affirmative action has many viewpoints in the theoretical approaches. There are positive sides to this ideal, because it gives opportunities to minorities. But there are negative effects, because reverse racism could happen. Even though these types of situations could happen, sociologist have tried to find a way around the problems of this idea. While the functionalist believe that affirmative action has its benefits, there will be the conflict theorists who think otherwise. As this topic continues to remain, soon affirmative action will not focus on race anymore and will eventually turn to class, but that is another side that will be debated in the future. In the meantime, affirmative action, which has side effects, can still be helpful in the future.
Jost, Kenneth. “Affirmative Action in Undergraduate Admissions.” CQ Researcher 21 Sept. 2001: 737-60. Web. 1 May 2014.
Kohn, Sally. “Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone | TIME.com.” Ideas Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone Comments. Times Magazine, 17 June 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
Park, Julie J., and Amy Liu. “Interest Convergence Or Divergence? A Critical Race Analysis Of Asian Americans, Meritocracy, And Critical Mass In The Affirmative Action Debate.” Journal Of Higher Education 85.1 (2014): 36-64. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.
Sabbagh, Daniel. “The Rise Of Indirect Affirmative Action: Converging Strategies For Promoting “Diversity” In Selective Institutions Of Higher Education In The United States And France.” World Politics 63.3 (2011): 470-508. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2014.
Tairo, Mario. “A Critical Look at Affirmative Action – Panorama – TakingITGlobal.” A Critical Look at Affirmative Action – Panorama – TakingITGlobal. Taking It Global, 05 Apr. 2005. Web. 01 May 2014.