Arguments For and Against Affirmative Action
"The difficulty of overcoming the effects of past discrimination is as nothing compared
with the difficulty of eradicating from our society the source of those effects, which
is the tendency -- fatal to a Nation such as ours -- to classify and judge men and women
on the basis of their country of origin or the color of their skin. A solution to
the first problem that aggravates the second is no solution at all."
-Justice Scalia's judgement in the case City of Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co.: January 23, 1989
Arguments FOR Affirmative Action:
A short essay which
contains the typical arguments for affirmative action
- Affirmative action is a way to ensure that diversity is obtained and maintained in schools
and in the workplace. In so doing it also helps create tolerant communities because it exposes
people to a variety of cultures and ideas that are different from their own.
- It helps disadvantaged people who come from areas of the country where there are not
very many opportunities be able to advance where they otherwise could not. In other words,
it gives everyone an equal playing field.
- Affirmative action is a way to help compensate for the fact that, due to many years of
oppression, some races "started late in the race." Again, it helps level the playing field.
Arguments AGAINST Affirmative Action:
- Affirmative action is reverse discrimination. The past discrimination against certain
minority groups does not justify present discrimination against non-minorities. All people
are equal under the laws of the United States of America and should be treated accordingly.
- It destroys the idea of a meritocracy and instead puts race as the dominant factor in
admissions and hiring procedures. The best people for the position should be put there,
regardless of race.
- Students/workers who are put into a position through affirmative action often are not
fully ready for the task. Not only is this not good for the university/company, but it is
also not good for these students/workers as well because it lowers self-esteem.
- Affirmative action reinforces stereotypes and racism because of the previous point.
People given a position purely because of affirmative action often are not qualified, and
the idea that all people of that race must be "stupid" is perpetuated. Also, it presupposes
that all people of the same skin color are from the lower class, and therefore need help.
This also reinforces stereotypes and even embeds them permanently into the system.
- Simply having people of different races or ethnicities in the workplace/university does
not necessarily mean diversity of opinion. People with the same skin color are not necessarily
the same in opinion or even culture.
A short article containing a typical argument against affirmative action.
The Government on the whole, however, has maintained a position somewhere in the middle. On
the one hand, the Supreme Court has banned the use of strict quotas in universities. However,
affirmative action still remains a policy supported by the Federal Government and legal everywhere
except for California and Texas, where other policies have been adopted. Still, the debate
continues on how we as an American society can truly embrace diversity.