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Essay/Term paper: Affirmative action: a counter productive policy

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Affirmative Action

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By definition, racism is the discrimination of prejudice against race. Discrimination, by definition, is treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than on individual merit. In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10.925, he was indicating that individual businessmen should take affirmative action to ensure applicants and employees are treated "without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." His executive order implied equal access and nothing else. The system that has evolved since is a perversion of the original intent of affirmative action. The stipulations that make up affirmative action today are too narrow to effectively help in the fight against racism and discrimination.

Affirmative action has the capability of causing reverse discrimination. Discrimination against white males is just as bad as discrimination against any minority. Some people say that affirmative action is justified as a way of making up for past discrimination. Although discrimination still exists in the United States today, as it does in the rest of the world, most African Americans entering the job market today, were born after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because of this, most African Americans have suffered little or no oppression in terms of slavery. When the Civil Rights Act was passed, its spirit was not one of reverse discrimination, but of getting employers to consider applicants candidly in filling jobs within their companies. Hubert Humphrey, a major sponsor of the Act, was quoted during a 1964 interview swearing that he would "eat the bill if it were ever used for discrimination of any sort." Yet, it has promoted just that, discrimination. The past cannot be changed, and society should stop compensating people who were never hurt at the expense of people who have done them no harm.

This unwarranted discrimination bothers most employers as well as most employees who do not qualify for affirmative action. The employers feel they have ended up with a lesser quality worker, because of unfair and unwanted employment regulations. Here is yet another disadvantage of affirmative action, namely that every employee from a social minority that benefits from affirmative action can bear a mark of not being the best pick, but only the best pick from a limited group, even if the person is selected for being the best available on the complete job market. The bypassed employees can feel tricked by the government or the minority. The minority could spark racism among the bypassed group, while affirmative action was introduced to decrease racism.

Colleges and universities frequently also have quotas for how many African Americans they must admit to "round out" their freshman classes. An example is the admission practices at Berkeley. According to a 1990 admissions investigation, only 40 percent of the entering class in 1988 at Berkley was selected solely on the basis of academic merit. While whites and Asian Americans need at least a 3.7 grade point average in high school to be considered for admission, most minority candidates who meet a much lower standard are automatically admitted. Berkeley continues this practice of favored admissions for minorities even thought the graduation rate of minorities is very low. In 1998, 66 percent of whites or Asian Americans graduated while only 27% of minorities graduated. The increase in racial tensions between whites and blacks at United States collages is also related to preferential admission policies. The guidelines that form affirmative action need to be revised in order to include all possible groups of minorities including sex, financial status, religion, and race.

In order to turn the racist possibilities of affirmative action around, the policy itself must be revised for the times. In this day and age, where so many Americans have such diverse heritages and lifestyles, the word minority must be looked at by many different angles. It should be looked at as what it truly is: a smaller set between two groups, not a privileged assembly. Primarily, affirmative action must only be used to help the unfortunate and oppressed. The unfortunate would include families with lower financial status, and people with physical disabilities. This would only give these people a stronger possibility to apply to schools or jobs they were not able to in the past, not a guarantee. The oppressed would include the minorities of sex, religion, location, as well as race. Again it would only give a stronger possibility of admission or employment, not a guarantee. The main revision of affirmative action would not be who receives help, but what help they receive. No one should be given a "free ride" to anything. So only a stronger possibility of success would be the correct answer. Affirmative action was never meant to be permanent, now is the time to move on to some other approach.

Affirmative action as originally conceived may have been a constructive policy, but it has been counter productive in practice. Critics charge that affirmative action policies violate the principal that all individuals are equal under the law. Advocates of it respond that effective remedies must exist to aid groups that have suffered discrimination. In the 1990"s, affirmative action has been a highly charged legal and political issue. With legislatures, courts, and the public divided over the issue, the status of affirmative action remains uncertain.


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