Affirmative action is a program or set of policies that regulate and try to eliminate both present and past discrimination against minority groups for their race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. It is an example of a race-specific policy that recognizes specific racial groups as having long endured racial discrimination and prejudice against them. Groups advocating affirmative action argue that color-blind policies which support the notion that all groups be treated alike regardless of their race, gender, or social status do not work in today's society.
The argument supporting the failure of color-blind policies is based upon the fact that Caucasians and other dominant social groups do not begin at the same social level as other minority groups. However, as the government attempts to create an egalitarian society and a culture defined by equal opportunity for everyone, are there groups that feel more negative effects than positive ones as affirmative action is enforced in the institutions of society? This issue is constantly being debated between both political and social groups.
In order to see whether or not the implementation of affirmative action actually causes some groups to be denied opportunities while other groups are granted opportunities solely on the basis of their status in society, it is necessary to examine both the positive and negative effects it has had on society. Minority groups such as African Americans, Asians, and women are the main factions in today's society that have reaped the most benefits from affirmative actions.
This can be seen with the increase in admission rates for ethnic minorities in undergraduate and graduate schools of education and an increase in salaries and job promotions for women. For example, an undergraduate admissions department at Texas A&M, has increased its acceptance rate of African American students has risen 35% in one year, and it has gone up 25% for Hispanic students (Schmidt). Also, according to data in The Shape of the River by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, from 1960 to 1995, the percentage of blacks aged 25-29 who had graduated from college rose from 5. 4 to 15.
4%, the percentage of blacks in law school grew from below 1 to 7. 5%, and the percentage of blacks in medical school increased from 2. 2 to 8. 1%. It has granted more opportunities for underprivileged students to receive a higher education. In addition to giving more opportunities to men and women that have been disadvantaged due to generational racism, colleges and universities see affirmative action as a way to improve their diversity of students on campus. For example, The University of Washington has used "socio-economical factors" to establish the acceptance status of the applicants.
"Students from poorer families and school districts or who have had economic hardships earn extra points in the admissions process" (Arnold). This concludes that gender and race have proven to have some influence over whether or not a student will be accepted. In addition to the positive effect it has had on minorities in schools, affirmative action has also enabled minorities such as women to make great strides in the work force. From 1970 to 1990, the amount of women physicians almost doubled from 7. 6% to 16. 9%.
Also the number of women becoming accountants, lawyers and judges, school administrators, and other prestigious occupation increased significantly. (Wikimedia). On the other hand, there is also significant data supporting the theory of reverse discrimination. Reverse discrimination is defined as a policy or regulation that discriminates against the dominant social group rather than a minority population. In the case of affirmative action, the group that would most likely experience this kind of discrimination is the white male population.
Examples of the effects can be seen once again in both the job market and college admissions institutions. With quotas of minorities to fill, it may be possible that certain dominant social groups be overlooked in certain circumstances when a candidate is selected solely on their ethnicity, religion, or gender. For example, in the Wyant Supreme Court case of 1976, all black employees were able to keep their jobs, while white employees that had worked for many years were laid off. (Wikimedia).
Also an example of reverse discrimination present in the higher education system is the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case of 1978. In this court case, a young Caucasian man applying to the University of California medical school was denied admission based upon his race. He was denied his acceptance two times as a result of the University upholding its 16% minority acceptance quota. He also seemed more qualified with a higher grade point average than the other minority students that were admitted (Columbia Encyclopedia).
However, the ruling on this case did help to rid the affirmative action system from using minority quotas when determining college acceptance. In conclusion, it is possible that with an attempt to rectify the generational oppression against minority racial groups, the government might have actually created a reverse discrimination problem without even realizing it. It is true that society needs to be aware of minority groups being excluded based upon their educational and social disadvantages. However, society as a whole must also recognize the negative effects it could bring upon just as deserving people.
1. Schmidt, Peter. 2005. "A New Route to Racial Diversity." Chronicles.com Government and Politics Section. January 28, 2005. Retrieved January 29, 2006 (http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i21/21a02201.htm)
2. Wikimedia. 2006. "Affirmative Action". Retrieved January 29, 2006 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action)
3. Arnold, Kyle. 2005. "Bill to let UW consider race in admissions has uphill battle." Seattle Post. March 5, 2005. Retrieved January 29, 2006 (http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:SJJ6iluyQRMJ:seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/216209_admissions16.html+black+applicants+getting+extra+points+in+admissions+process&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1)
4. Bowen, William and Derek Bok. The Shape of the River. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
5. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2005. Columbia, NY: Columbia University Press (http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0841421.html)