America And Affirmative Action Essay Research Paper

America And Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper America and Affirmative Action Affirmative action has been the subject of increasing debate and tension

America And Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper

America and Affirmative Action

Affirmative action has been the subject of increasing debate and tension

in American society. However, the debate over affirmative action has become

ensnared in rhetoric that pits equality of opportunity against the equality of

results. The debate has been more emotional than intellectual, and has

generated more tension than shed light on the issue. Participants in the debate

have over examined the ethical and moral issues that affirmative action raises

while forgetting to scrutinize the system that has created the need for them.

Too often, affirmative action is looked upon as the panacea for a nation once

ill with, but now cured of, the virulent disease of racial discrimination.

Affirmative action is, and should be seen as, a temporary, partial, and perhaps

even flawed remedy for past and continuing discrimination against historically

marginalized and disenfranchised groups in American society. Working as it

should, it affords groups greater equality of opportunity in a social context

marked by substantial inequalities and structural forces that impede a fair

assessment of their capabilities.

Perhaps the biggest complaint that one hears about affirmative action

policies aimed at helping Black Americans is that they violate the 14th

Amendment of the Constitution and the Civil Rights laws., The claim is that

these programs distort what is now a level playing field and bestow preferential

treatment on understanding minorities because of the color of their skin. While

this view seems 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. Any cursory look at the history

of this country should provide a serious critique to the idea of a level playing

field. Since the birth of this nation, Blacks have been enslaved, oppressed,

and exploited people. Until 1954, when the Supreme Court handed down Brown v.

Board, Blacks were legally pushed to the margin of society where many were left

to dwell in poverty and powerlessness. The Brown decision removed the legal

impediments that had so long kept Blacks in the impoverished peripheral.

Despite this long awaited victory for Black Americans, the historic decision

failed to provide adequate means for the deconstruction of White dominance and

privilege, It merely allowed Blacks to enter the arena of competition. This

recognized and established the status quo (White wealth and Black indigence,

White employment and Black unemployment, White opportunity and Black

disenfranchisement) as an acceptable and neutral baseline. Without the

deconstruction of White power and privilege, how can we legitimately claim that

the playing field is level? Does it not seem more logical and indeed fairer and

more just, to actively deconstruct White privilege, rather than let it exist

through hegemony?

Another critique of affirmative action policies is that they stigmatize

and call into question the credentials of the qualified minorities. And

furthermore, that this doubt undermines their effectiveness. This has always

been the most puzzling critique of affirmative action in my mind. The

credentials, qualifications, character, and even the culture of minorities have

always been in question and stigmatized in this country. When racial categories

were created, simply being in question and stigmatized in this country. When

racial categories were created, simply being labeled a minority carried with it

quite a slanderous stigma. Even to this day Black Americans combat lingering

racism an stereotypes about their intelligence, tendency toward violence, sexual

prowess, etc…. The idea that affirmative action policies introduce stigmas

that did not already exist into the life of minorities seems nonsensical. To

those who claim that this stigma undermines the effectiveness of Blacks because

their coworkers will not be cooperative, or because the minority will always

doubt that he or she deserves to be there, I propose that affirmative action

will only accomplish the continued exclusion of Black Americans from

participation within American society and thus further ingrain stereotypes and

stigmas. Another reason that the stigma critique of affirmative action confuses

me, is because the discussion is always limited to race and gender based

affirmative action policies. Where is the discussion about athletes and legacy

students who are accorded preferential treatment in university admission

decisions on a yearly basis? This focus on gender and race based policies only

reinforces my point that the stigma minorities face has much more to do with

persistent racism than the deleterious effects on affirmative action.

Should affirmative action programs force people to hire unqualified

minorities? No. But affirmative action programs should cause us as a society to

re-evaluate how we access qualifications and how we measure merit. Let us

become tenure Harvard Law School professors for just a moment. Suppose we have

two applicants for an open associate professor position. The first candidate is

White, a Harvard Law School graduate, has impressive board scores, served as

editor of the Law Review, etc…, but has never practiced law before. The other

candidate is Black, a Harvard Law School graduate, average board scores, has

excellent person skills, and practiced law as the county defendant in an inner-

city neighborhood. Under the traditional system of merit, the White Harvard

graduate gets the appointment hands down. But under affirmative action policies,

the Black Harvard graduate receives the job. Why is this the optimal situation?

The Black lawyer brings non-traditional, but certainly valid, qualifications to

the table that are not recognized under our current system of merit. In fact,

common sense suggests that he is as. or even more, qualified to train lawyers of

the future than his White counterpart. Allowing the Black Harvard graduate to

have the job might very well call into question how we assess the qualifications

we require to be law school professor. This challenge to traditional

qualifications brought about by affirmative action appointments benefits all of

society by forcing us be critical of how we assess the nebulous notion of merit.

The critics that attack affirmative action are correct when they say that

affirmative action corrupts the purity of the process. 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 with my critics

that affirmative action may destroy or motion of a “color-blind” society. But,

the rights of Blacks and other minorities to have equal opportunity forces us to

take these risks.

In short, it has been recommended that broad-based affirmative action

policies range from the workplace to the classroom. While they are not perfect

and do raise some legitimate ethical concerns, they take us away from a system

that is inherently unfair to some groups. The active deconstruction of the

White privilege that grew out of virulent American racism affords Blacks a

greater chance at equal opportunity and will have the side effect of forcing us

to re-evaluate that unethically and immorally disadvantages minorities. These

advantages outweigh the cost of the risks.