About Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action Essay
Selina A. Griswold defines affirmative action as a set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Affirmative action is a wonderful policy, which takes initiative to correct some of the misfortunes faced by not only colored people but females, yet a common myth about affirmative action is that it stands to benefit African-Americans the most. However, the largest beneficiary of affirmative action has been Caucasian women. This is because affirmative action is designed to help break the glass ceiling, the barrier that blocks Caucasian women from moving up in the workplace, in male dominated professions.

Another common misconception about affirmative action is that it goes hand in hand with quotas, when it is actually based on goals. The reason for this is because quotas are fixed numbers, and are usually abandoned after they are reached. Goals on the other hand are often exceeded and continued after they are reached, and imply something to be strived for as opposed to just a fixed number. An example of a quota is a company looking to hire 35 minority workers this year, and an example of a goal is a company striving to increase its inventory of quality minority workers.

As you see, quotas have the ability to almost change the definition and aim of affirmative action, therefore in my opinion quotas should not be used when regarding affirmative action. When a company must meet affirmative action quotas, it can transform affirmative action from an act of equal opportunity into a blatant advantage for minorities and women. Take this example into perspective; A company must hire “X” amount of colored workers, and “X” amount of females. However, said company has only used word of mouth advertising, and only a small amount of qualified minorities have been informed. Now in order to meet their quota, the company must hire any minorities that apply for the job without regard for their skill level or qualifications because of a lack of suitable candidates. Without affirmative action quotas, the company would only need to hire minority workers who are accurately qualified for the job instead of fighting to meet a quota to avoid some penalty or gain an incentive.

Affirmative action also expands recruiting and training techniques. It increases recruiting techniques because when it is implemented, companies attempt to recruit from a larger pool of more diverse people. This means that said company might be forced to use different advertising methods to reach areas that they may not have before. Affirmative action expands training techniques because companies are attempting to train people from a larger range of ethnicities and skill levels, therefore the company must use more diverse methods of training to get workers to a “happy medium” of overall skill level.

The analogy on page 352 is a perfect example of what affirmative action really is or at least should be. Many people make the naïve assumption that affirmative action is meant to give an advantage to any female or person of color no matter what their skill level when referring to whatever position they are attempting to fulfill. This analogy shows you that this is not true. It gives the example of a batter in baseball who when on the field is against the other nine defensive players and is otherwise alone except for his teammates on the bench. The batter represents a recipient of affirmative action, and the nine defensive players stand to represent Caucasian male candidates for the same job. The analogy then goes to mention that the batter must earn his way to base, and if he hits the ball but does not make it to first base then he is out regardless of the situation. This represents the fact that if an affirmative action recipient cannot earn his or her way to be worthy for a job then he or she will not get the job and there is nothing that affirmative action can do to stop it, equivalent to being “out” in the analogy. Finally the analogy goes on to state that in the event of a tie where it can’t be determined if the player reached first base in time, that the benefit of the doubt is given to the batter because of the nine to one odds that he faced. This is equivalent to a person of color or a female being equally qualified with a Caucasian male for a job opportunity. Affirmative action would give the person an edge over the Caucasian male because of the odds that are stacked against said person due to past or current discrimination.

According to the article in “In Motion Magazine”, some Caucasian male college students did not have to go to war because of a law called college draft deferment, which basically allowed college students to avoid the draft. This is a form of affirmative action that mostly White males benefited from because most people of color could not afford to go to college, which made their deferment a lot less likely. It is also surprising how no one complained about this form of affirmative action, or when bankers, farmers, or White men of power receive these incentives and it is often looked at as an entitlement. Yet the moment that incentives were expanded to be given to colored citizens and women there was an uproar of criticism. It is also ironic that some of the same people who benefited from college deferment or social engineering have a problem when a minority receives any form of competitive advantage. How can judges in the Supreme Court be opposed to affirmative action, when there is not a single judge in that group who have not benefited from some sort of affirmative action? If an advantage for a minority is considered reverse racism, then what is an advantage for a White male considered?

Part of the reason why affirmative action is such a hot topic in America is because of the way the media represents it. It has been noted over time that women are rarely well represented in reports or articles covering the topic; and there are hardly ever any instances in which there is an article reporting on the affirmative action received by Caucasian males throughout any portion of history. Much more often we see articles from accredited sources focusing merely on the African-American or Latino recipients of affirmative action. Also in many of the articles, the terms “affirmative action” and “racial preference” are used interchangeably, giving the illusion that affirmative action is not a way to give minorities a competitive advantage to stay in the proximity of White male workers, but instead a way to attempt to insure that companies employ Black and Latino workers first. It then becomes much easier to see how someone could view affirmative action as reverse racism with such horrible representation.

If affirmative action were in its true form, that is without quotas that could make it an incentive numbers based program, and with accurate media representation, I do not believe that half of the people who oppose it now still would. Therefore, I would not favor a society that did not want affirmative action when in its true form. This being because in its true form there is no aspect of affirmative action not to be desired. I believe the only way that a society could not want affirmative action in its true state would be if they were misinformed about what its true state is.

In conclusion, affirmative action can be a great process aimed at correcting past mistakes. America’s only problem with it stems from its media representation, and if it were to be corrected only the strictest of nay Sayers could oppose it. The question that I now pose is how long will it be before the media finally decides to accurately cover this topic, and when that day comes will those who still oppose it attempt to come up with some other way of discrediting the process? Only time will tell.