Affirmative action actually refers to policies and legislations that aim to help socio-politically non-dominant groups (like the historical case of women and minorities) to have access to employment and education opportunities in the society. This is, in essence, one way of eliminating discrimination in the society and its institutions as well as to encourage public ad private institutions (universities, hospitals, police forces, etc. ) to become more accommodating and representative of the whole population that it serves.
A more direct application of affirmative actions is when there are population-targeted programs of workforce recruitment, by imposing quotas, and through preferential treatment aimed at getting applicants from a politically or socially disadvantaged individuals or groups. There are those who oppose affirmative action policies due to the fact this is actually another form of eliminating discrimination by promoting one. For some, this can result to collectivism, i. e.
, they would be denied entry to a job even if they are perfect fit or have enough qualifications simply because they belong to the non-targeted-population, i. e. , male or from a dominant group in the society. The most common criteria for a targeted group are characterized by gender, ethnicity, race, or disability status. In some countries, India for example, the focus is on undoing the discrimination brought about by the caste system. In South Africa, the focus of affirmative action is primarily on race and gender.
When specific members of targeted populations are actively searched or preferred, the reason is usually to compensate for the inherent advantages that “dominant” groups have. In an article by Sturm and Guinier (1996), “Opponents counter this argument by demonstrating that some groups who have been victims of institutional racism, such as Asian Americans, are directly injured by affirmative action programs. Proponents argue affirmative action is the best set of principles to eliminate unfair decision-making. ”
There have been court cases related to affirmative actions: The case of Grutters in 1995 is a good example. Her application to the law school of university of Michigam was rejected despite strong expertise on a variety of fields. She accused the university of discriminating against white applicants in favor of the minorities. They prayed that race be taken out of the criteria in the admission process. In a statement by the University's lawyer, “We take race into account as a factor among many in order to pursue the educational benefit of diversity.” The court decided in favor of the University.
Delgado, Richard, 1996. The Coming Race War? And Other Apocalyptic Tales of America after Affirmative Action and Welfare. New York: NYU Press. Available at http://academic. udayton. edu/race/04needs/affirm02. htm. Date accessed: November 11, 2007. Sturm, Susan and Guinier, Lani. “The future of affirmative action: Reclaiming the innovative ideal. ” California Law Review, July 1996. Also available at http://www. law. harvard. edu/faculty/guinier/racetalks/future_aa01. htm. Date accessed: November 11, 2007.