Affirmative action is a term applied to policies that are designed to recompense historical injustices committed by former legacies of colour, tribal and other forms of group discriminations (Sisamu, 2015). This kind of policies have also been termed as positive discrimination and works under the same principle as social policies that aim at redistributing resources and opportunities between groups. Affirmative action has been applied in different arenas mainly higher education, employment opportunities as well as political quotas. The implementation of such policies has sparked very serious and controversial debates on how efficient they are with regards to redressing the various historical injustices that were committed by past generations this has led to two sets of opposing opinion on the efficiency of the affirmative action with reference to the efficiency of selective discrimination in addressing various inequalities in the society.
In this regard, I would like to critique the supposititious assetion that affirmative action has been a successful policy in filling the gaps of inequalities in the society. I find this polices to be rather cosmetic and does not address the fundamental cause of disparities in the community. The preferential treatment of students in the admissions in tertiary education institutions or in the recruitment and hiring process fails to address the inequities in the education sector or even in levels of practical skill and administrative proficiency. As has been demonstrated affirmative action has been unable to address the causes of the problem but has somewhat diverted people’s attention from them and have gone a step further to promote individuals who lack the skills and technical know-how in positions where they cannot perform ineffectively.
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Secondly, these policies raise problematic ethical questions with regards to the accountability of various generations, and personal accountability as opposed to joint responsibility. In as much as the proponents of the policy argue that there is the need for the nation to take some initiative to address the historical injustices that were meted to a specific group, it is important to establish who deserves the assistance most, otherwise this is going to result in what many scholars refer to as “reverse discrimination.” In self-governing setting, the implementation of such policies can easily lead to political backlash where as a majority might feel they have been decimated and their equal opportunities transferred to other individuals whom can be termed as “advantaged” socially, this could lead to fracas considering everyone is going after a particular achievement and the element of entitlement to this opportunity because someone belongs to a special category if citizens.
Additionally, affirmative action has tilted the societal structure as a result of the impact of the majority of privileged policies. Though the proponents of affirmative action argue that this is not a grave matter in the youthful stage of the redistribution strategies as the major inclusion of the post- underprivileged select few is an essential stepping stone in the reduction of ethnic ferocity and war. However, when an increasing economic gulf opens up between the newly advantaged and the hazardously isolated underclass, it is important that the objectives of the preferential discrimination policies are reassessed so at to ensure that there is a greater emphasis on financial impartiality in as much as these policies are working towards bridging historical ethnic and economic injustices.
Affirmative action has moreover been associated with racial and ethnic strife. In Taylor Stuart’s book Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It. The author illustrates how the selective discrimination within the universities admission board can spew hatred, envy, and resentment among the previously advantaged groups. The author of the book is a white student, and he states that affirmative action has resulted in many blacks as well as Hispanic students being admitted to colleges and graduate school where a majority of the students are better qualified. This is a clear indication of resentment among students, and as a result, it can culminate in racial strife that can be very injurious to the learning fraternity and the image of the school as well. Moreover, the benefactors of the affirmative action are also affected psychologically as they have to come to terms with the fact that their admission, appointment or any benefit that they have received as a result of the affirmative action is not well deserved and they got it only because they belonged to special group of individuals who have been perceived as disadvantaged. This also affects their performance both in school and place of appointment as they tend to be affected by the fact that they were not appointed by merit.
Affirmative action can also be associated with stigmatisation in the organisation since some employees will have difficulty gaining respect from their colleagues because they are benefactors of affirmative action. In this sense, such employees are often looked down upon and even labelled token employees. It gets worse when such an employee is promoted to a senior position in the place of work and the other colleagues feel like they do not deserve the position, therefore, promoting acts of insubordination within the firm. Moreover, this notion destroys the idea of meritocracy and instead puts groups as the primary factor in admissions to the learning institutions as well as the hiring practices. Conventionally it would be important that these positions be gained without considering the people’s race or their ethnic groups.
The critics of affirmative action further argue that people who are admitted in the institutions or who land particular positions in places of work are often less qualified and are not ready for the task that lies ahead for them. This is not only dangerous to the institution but also to the individual who is benefiting from the affirmative action since it lowers his/ her self-esteem while at the same time tarnishing the name of the institution that admits the individual based on other factors rather than merit. Besides, affirmative action reinforces stereotypes and racism because it presupposes that all people of the same skin belong to an inferior social group. Moreover, the presumption that having people with the different origins, ethnicity and race does not always lead to diverse opinions both the institutions of higher learning as well as in the places of employment.
In sum, affirmative action has not helped in bridging the gap of inequalities in the society. To an extent, it has led to the creation of other inequalities. Moreover, the implementation of affirmative action can be considered cosmetic as it helps in diverting the people’s attention from the main problem, for instance, there is no point for universities to give an underqualified student a chance in the institution because he/she belongs to a disadvantaged group at the expense of a more qualified student who belongs to the majority. Additionally, affirmative action seems to “punishing” a newer generation for the crimes that were committed by those who existed before them this raises a moral question on whether one generation should carry the burden of another generation. As been illustrated above, affirmative action policy has not played a significant role in addressing the various inequalities in the society. To an extent, it has promoted the inequalities by reversing the position of the people who were previously victims empowering at the expense of the broader majority. The affirmative action also negatively impacts the benefactors psychologically as they have to admit that they are in a certain position because they belong to a disadvantaged group rather than from merit, which could further lead to stigmatisation in the place of work or even in the learning institutions.
- Kennedy, R., 1986. Persuasion and distrust: A comment on the affirmative action debate. Harvard Law Review, 99(6), pp.1327-1346.
- Holzer, . H. & Neumark, D., 2000. Assessing affirmative action. Journal of Economic Literature, 38(3), pp. 483-568.
- Sisamu, G. N., 2015. Analysis of the implementation of affirmative action policy in Namobian public sector:casestudy of the office of the prime minister. Namib: (University of Namibia).
- Cahn, S.M. ed., 2013. The affirmative action debate. Routledge.
- Teranishi, R.T., 2010. Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education. Multicultural Education Series. Teachers College Press. 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027.
- Yosso, T.J., Parker, L., Solorzano, D.G. and Lynn, M., 2004. Chapter 1: From Jim Crow to affirmative action and back again: A critical race discussion of racialized rationales and access to higher education. Review of Research in Education, 28(1), pp.1-25.