Affirmative action is a subject of increasing debate and tension in American society. The debate seems to be more emotional than intellectual, and it has probably generated more tension than anything else. People tend to over-examine the ethical and moral issues that affirmative action raises while forgetting to analyze the system that has created it. Often, affirmative action is looked upon as the cure-all for a nation once ill with the disease of racial discrimination, which some people feel, is now cured. More people say Affirmative action should be seen as, a temporary, partial, and perhaps even flawed remedy for past and continuing discrimination against minority groups in American society. Affirmative action working as it should afford minority groups greater equality of opportunity. Some claim that these programs distort what is now a level playing field and bestow partisan treatment on minorities because of the color of their skin.
While this view may seem very logical on the surface, many contend that it lacks any historical support and is aimed more at preserving existing white privilege than establishing equality of opportunity for all. Some critics attack affirmative action and say that affirmative action corrupts the purity of the process. And that extreme care must be taken in determining who receives affirmative action program benefits and how long and at what rate they receive them. I must, also, agree that affirmative action may tear down a “color-blind” society. And while the policies of affirmative action are not perfect and do raise some legitimate ethical concerns, some people still believe that they take us away from a system that is inherently unfair to some groups. Affirmative action seems to contradict several of the characteristics our society is known for. One is that we are governed by our abilities and just as some have the characteristic of leadership others have the gift of working with their hands.
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Some would say we are sending a mixed message. And that the belief that was taught to many people while growing up is contradicted by affirmative action; as it judges not what a person works for, but who they are. And others say affirmative action abolishes this factor. Most people would not want to be rewarded with a good job or admission into a certain graduate program, based on something other than work ethic or ability. Is a mixed message being sent to an individual when some of the characteristics they value within themselves are overlooked for traits of their physical being? Affirmative action was created in a time when some balance between different groups in society was needed. In today’s society, we have enough people that already seem to think they deserve certain entitlements. If society rewards individuals for physical factors instead of mental ones, is a trend being created that leans away from merit?
Society has come along way since the days of males playing the role of breadwinners, women as housewives, and blacks being shunned out of society. The road to knock down the barriers between men and women, minorities, and “whites” has been slow and difficult, but for the most part successful. Some will say that the cause of this success was due to affirmative action. It is true that affirmative action played a critical role in opening doors to many people who were wrongfully overlooked, however, it seems a point has been reached in our society where this policy may no longer be necessary. Some critics even go as far as to say that affirmative action cast doubts upon minority groups by creating the perception that their positions were given to them rather than earned. And that it initiates the idea that they are unable to compete successfully if held to the same standards as everyone else. This type of perception can be quite damaging to both the highly competent and unqualified minority person. Competent individuals may never know whether their social position was achieved because of their own merit or the kindness of others. In the case of the unqualified minority, affirmative action may serve as a self-deception.
It seems as though affirmative action has replaced individual rights with group rights and the concepts of equal opportunity with demands for equal outcomes have been replaced with quotas in the workplace and education. Affirmative action policies have damaged the principle of admitting students to universities and colleges and hiring and promoting employees on the basis of merit rather than politics. In an effort of trying to fulfill the numerical goal, quotas tend to override all other factors, qualifications in particular, in the final stages of the selection process. And even when white employers hire a number of minorities, they can still face damaging lawsuits if they have not followed all of the strict quota guidelines. Some schools may even lower their standards so those minorities are able to achieve the required entrance criteria.
These quotas could give minorities the assumption that they do not have to work as hard as others to obtain the same position, by creating this impression it may cause minorities to not try as hard. Which could result in decreased motivation, low productivity, and loss of sense of pride in work. Two wrongs do not make a right. Affirmative action may no longer be the best way to solve discrimination. Yes, it has served part of its purpose by diversifying the workforce and opening opportunities for women and minorities, but along the way, it has also been creating more problems. Not only are women and minorities being harmed but also white males and businesses and schools. Ending affirmative action would create more circumstances in which individuals will shine and, just as importantly, be seen to shine, on their own merit.