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.


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