Affirmative Action and its Effects
The roots of affirmative action can be traced back to the
passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act where legislation redefined
public and private behavior. The act states that to discriminate in
private is legal, but anything regarding business or public
discrimination is illegal ("Affirmative" 13). There are two instances
when opposing affirmative action might seem the wrong thing to do.
Even these two cases don't justify the use of affirmative action.
First is the nobility of the cause to help others. Second,
affirmative action was a great starter for equality in the work place.
The most promanite variable in deciding affirmative action as right
or wrong, is whether or not society is going to treat people as groups
or individuals. Affirmative action is a question of morals. The
simplicity to form two morals that are both correct but conflicting is
the reason for the division of our nation on affirmative action.
Affirmative action is very noble when looking at who benefits
from the outcome. Take a closer look at affirmative action. The
people that are involved and the damage it takes on our society
surfaces many doubts. Taking a closer look also stirs up a question
of nobility that needs to be answered before making a decision on
affirmative action. Does affirmative action simply change who is
discriminated against and makes it legal for the new discriminators?
Coming from my point of view, the view of a white male, this
is a serious question. One example of this came to my attention from
Dave Shiflett who once worked at Rocky Mountain News wrote "Rocky
Mountain Hire". In this article he tells about a new hiring strategy
used at the Denver news paper Rocky Mountain News. A memo was sent
out stating, "The job reviews of supervisors and others involved in
hiring should address race and sex. Each review should have a hiring
goal of at least half of our hires being women and at least half
non-white" (Shiflett 45). Lets put this strategy to work. We have
ten positions to fill, these positions can be filled following the
above guidelines by hiring five black women. It can also be met by
hiring five white women and five non-white men. Obviously to meet
this goal successfully would mean to not hire a white male (Shiflett
45). I strongly disagree with my white fore fathers and society today
who both address race and sex when hiring. Using a persons skin color
in hiring is discrimination no matter how society looks at it.
At St. Bonaventure University the potential for reverse
discrimination became a reality. In May 1994, 22 faculty members were
fired, all were male. The president of the university was very blunt
about his motive, to protect the small number of women on the
university staff (Magner 18). This was purely a discussion based on
gender not qualification. No matter how efficient these men were some
were fired for not being part of a certain minority. Gary A. Abraham,
who was fired as a tenured associate professor stated, "It seems
ludicrous that the university can rectify its failure to engage in
affirmative action on the backs of its male faculty." Twelve of the
men took their complaints to the US Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. The commission sided with the men and are even planning
to bring the university up on charges themselves (Magner 18). Giving
an employer the power to discriminate only towards minorities is
unfair and unethical.
Now the question is who will the government protect? Society
can not consider its self fair when we are still forming decisions
based upon gender or race. It is not noble to protect the jobs of
women at Bonaventure University simply there are not enough women on
the roster. We should protect the jobs of the experienced. We can
not form a new society from affirmative action and believe the rights
of all United States citizens will be upheld.
The whole idea behind affirmative action is to right the
wrongs of the past. Well, what about the individuals that were not
even born when this atrocity of discrimination was going on. Society
should not punish the youth for the crimes of their white male
forefathers. Thomas Sowell gave an interesting story in his article
"Free Markets vs. Discrimination" about Albert Greuner. He had
graduated from Pensacola Naval photography school and was refused a
job he was more than qualified for. The reason Albert was denied the
position was based on the conduct of the other cadets graduating from
Pensacola(Sowell 69). These are the battles that need to be fought.
Stop employers from hiring in a discriminatory fashion Not to just
favor the group that has been discriminated against in the past.
Not only does it affect white males, but the recipients of
affirmative action suffer from negative side effects also. There is
an angry backlash that women and minorities feel from affirmative
action. There is also the effect of pampering. It can make any
individual lazy and unmotivated. Affirmative action does nothing but
build walls to separate us more, and pollute our work atmosphere with
An angry backlash towards the recipients of affirmative action
appears prominently in the work place. An example of affirmative
action backlash comes from the article "When an Advantage is Not an
Advantage." "I recently got a large chunk of government funding in a
program that didn't even have any sort of affirmative action ranking.
Yet, almost all men I talk to including my father, assume there was
at least some component of consideration given to me for being
female" (Cohen 18). Affirmative action weakens the spirit of the
individual by making them think the reason they got the job or grant
was because someone felt sorry for them. Some women believe
affirmative action will benefit them in the beginning because there is
an incentive to hire women. This will do more to hinder than to help
in the long run. Here is a quote from an article opposing affirmative
action. "I think affirmative action helps to get a female an
interview but once on the interview and once on the job, it gives
males a basis for their resentment and skepticism of females..."
(Cohen 18). This can cause additional tension between men and women
that was not there before affirmative action.
Another side effect is how pampering can make a person lazy
and unmotivated to excel. This is exactly what affirmative action
does. It makes sure that women and minorities are pampered to make up
for lost time. Well, lets take a look at what all the pampering in
the past has done for the white male. Look at the college graduation
numbers of today. Eighty percent of blacks attending college
graduate, while only 55% of white college students graduate. These
numbers alone show what discrimination did to help the white male to
achieve a lazy attitude of "I don't need good grades, I am white I'll
get a god job." This is a dangerous attitude in 1996, because in some
situations a white male needs to be over qualified to compensate for
small "bonus points" some minorities receive. By pampering any single
group the long-term disaster will outweigh the short term relief.
Discrimination is not the problem that plagues society. This
is shown with the increase of women in the work force. The number of
women in the computer industry has increased 93%, in auto industry
89%, and in pharmaceuticals 78% (Dunkle 44). Thirty years ago this
was not the case, and affirmative action forced American employers to
open their eyes to the benefits of diversity. "Affirmative action in
1995 is beginning to resemble Soviet Communism in 1969. Outside the
sheltered elites, the majority of people loathe it. The circumstances
in which it was dreamed up no longer exist" (Sullivan E15). Now it is
time to end affirmative action and focus on what is holding down
minorities today. Let us turn our sites on poverty, poor family life,
poor schooling, for these problems are colorblind, and can hinder an
individuals chances for success more than anything else. To equal the
opportunity of minorities for employment we should educate and prepare
them, not force them into the work force or universities.
Guadalupe Quintanilla, the assistant Vice President for
Academic Affairs for the University of Houston, stated, "Affirmative
action has been distorted and abused. We need to take a second look
at it. I think affirmative action has opened a lot of doors, but it
has been misrepresented. I'm for opportunity, not special treatment.
The majority of people in this country are open-minded and willing to
work with people without considering their sex or color. So I think
we could do away with set asides" (Dunkel 42).
Problems with equality in our work force and universities can
not be blamed completely on discrimination. The problem today is
colorblind poverty. Affirmative action actually hurts the lower
income individual of any minority group. Thomas Sowell, in his 1990
book, Preferential Policies, used an international survey of
affirmative action programs to show the consequences. "The benefits
of affirmative action went overwhelmingly to people who were already
better off., while the poorer members of the same groups either did
not gain ground or actually fell further behind" (Richardson 4C). The
wealthier neighborhoods have better school systems, which in turn
offer greater resources. If we bring equality to our school systems,
a rise in minorities in the work force will soon follow.
Some universities here in the United States have based
enrollment on College Board's and SAT's or ACT's, none of which show
intelligence levels. These tests rather show the standards of
education that the individual has encountered. The gap between mean
SAT scores for black and whites is 938 for whites and 740 for
blacks(Shipler 16) These test scores sometimes become the
discrimination against minorities. Another form of evaluating
students is where the Universities and government need to focus, to
establish a standard in education that spans across all levels of
income. Affirmative action is definitely not the answer for equality
in this day in time.
Affirmative action has balanced for thirty years on a moral
threat. It is now time to apply new moral threats, not towards the
employers and colleges but towards the government. For it is the
government that needs to change its polices. The government needs to
take action towards the real problems of equality: poverty, not the
bad white man from the past. Affirmative action is simply the same
old discrimination in reverse.