Affirmative action includes the steps taken by the government of a country to create opportunities for minorities. In other words, it aims to increase ethnic or other forms of diversity in the social sphere of the society.
Minorities are provided with benefits in the educational system and job sector. The concept of affirmative action is prevalent in many democratic countries. In United Kingdom, it is called positive discrimination, whereas in India, it manifests itself in the form of caste-based reservation.
Every country has its own set of rules and regulations on formulating policies to uplift the neglected sections of the society.
Regarded by many as a combination of various acts, affirmative action came into being following the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1968. Federal and state government, was involved in framing guidelines for the policies to be established in the affirmative action.
The idea was to provide support and assistance to minority groups, so that they are brought into the mainstream of American society. However, over the years, these polices have created a lot of friction between the majority and the minority community.
Thinkers believe that the whole purpose of creating a just and amiable society has been defeated as people competing for the same job or college, have demonstrated increased hostility towards each other. In few cases, this acrimony has taken the concerned parties to fight it out in the highest courts of the country.
A debate on affirmative action always has two sides rooting for their cause - one who benefits from it, and the other who thinks that they are at the receiving end. However, to know whether affirmative action has succeeded in its intention of bringing development and opportunities for the minorities, empirical evidence needs to be sought.
Also, there is a need to look at the issue in an unbiased manner and listen to both sides of the argument. In the following passages, we will discuss the 'perceived' pros and cons of affirmative action.
People who support affirmative action argue that after hundreds of years of racial discrimination, it is necessary for the government to provide opportunities to minorities, and affirmative action is a step in that direction.
Proponents point out that American history is tainted with the stains of atrocious laws that were created to keep minorities, including Blacks and women, on the periphery of American society. This, the supporters point out, is one of the main reasons for the economic and social backwardness of the minority groups.
Opportunities should be provided to people on the basis of their income, and not on the basis of their color - this is what a majority of opponents of affirmative action want the government to do.
Opponents accuse the minorities of betraying the cause of Martin Luther King Jr., who had famously said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Opponents argue that minorities get admissions and jobs, not because of the content of their character, but because of the color of their skin.
People who are in favor of affirmative action put forward the related reports and surveys, which substantiates their claim that even today, some sort of institutional discrimination is in place.
The average weekly salary of an employed black man was $723 in 2018, whereas the figure stood at $997 for an employed white man. In other words, employed Blacks earned 72.5% of what employed Whites earned. Black women did comparatively better, earning 82.8% of the average salary earned by white women (U.S. Department of Labor).
In the opinion of proponents, discrimination in wages will further increase, in the absence of affirmative action.
Opponents argue that racial discrimination has ceased to exist in the 21st century, and minorities want to keep the pot boiling because they don't want to compete on a level field.
Opponents claim that poverty and unemployment is as rampant among Whites as it is among Blacks, therefore, Blacks should not get any preferential treatment, and everybody should be equal in the eyes of the government.
Allies of affirmative action state, that in a racially segregated society, it is important to create diversity in colleges and job-sector.
Proponents claim that affirmative action brings people of different backgrounds together, and when they work to achieve a common goal, the bond of togetherness and companionship develops between them. This can go a long way in mending the age-old race tensions in America.
Opponents say that affirmative action creates hostility and hatred among people of different communities. When a unskilled individual gets selected for a job because of affirmative action, a feeling of ill will and acrimony develops in the hearts of workers of majority community.
Because of this, in many offices, opposing factions are hostile and acrimonious towards each other. Opponents claim that this leads to racial tensions between people.
Blacks and other minority groups would have never been able to realize their potential, had it not been for affirmative action.
Supporters state that due to the socioeconomic condition of Blacks, the encouragement from government plays a very important role in ensuring that people are able to bring themselves and their families out of abject poverty. In the absence of affirmative action, people might not get the boost that is so essential for disadvantaged groups.
Opponents claim that affirmative action promotes incompetency among the minority group. By giving people a handicap, the government encourages a behavior which rewards ineptitude over intelligence. The relaxation in rules leads to unskilled people getting into the workforce, which could be detrimental for the economy of a country.
These were some of the advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action. Proponents and opponents have their claims and counterclaims, but in the end, it is for the thinkers and lawmakers to empirically evaluate the success of affirmative action.
The strategy should be to target those groups who genuinely need government and corporate support to gain access to education and employment. People who use affirmative action as a shield to avoid hard work and fair competition, shouldn't be allowed to manipulate the system.
We have to remember that the purpose of affirmative action is to create a society which provides opportunities to the downtrodden and the needy, so that they can compete with the rest, and not to create a rift between communities and polarize them.