In recent years, among the major public policy questions has been whether or not positive action should be adopted. Positive action refers to the process in which minority or disenfranchised groups receive preferential treatment in hiring or admissions decisions. The intention behind such policies would be to provide fair avenues to success for these people and to create workplace and academic environments that reflect the demographics of the community. The present research considers the debate surrounding this issue, ultimately arguing that positive action is necessary to achieve more equal representations in in professions and institutions.
Although positive action has been supported by a significant amount of individuals and governments, a number of detractors exist regarding its widespread adoption. Among the greatest objections to the institution of positive action are that doing so is a form of reverse discrimination against people who do not fall into the specific groups that are being supported. Other prominent objections to positive action have been on the grounds that simply instituting a quota is ineffective as it does not provide the individuals with the background training and resources necessary to ensure that they have the requisite skills to be successful in their new positions. For instance, one source pointed out that positive action programs in United Kingdom fire departments was ineffective because of the candidate pool was not properly prepared (Archibong & Sharps, 2013). Similarly, in education, people have objected to positive action on the grounds that many students admitted to schools through such channels are not as competitive as other students.
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While the arguments against positive action raise some strong points, when they are considered more thoroughly, it’s clear that they do not provide the entire picture. The importance of implementing positive action is actually critical in many institutions. For example, in 2007, the Association Chief of Police Officers in England in Wales met to decide whether or not to implement positive action. Hiring percentages would be established that would increase the amount of black and Asian officers hired in specific regions (News.bbc.co.uk, 2017). While some voices within the police force objected to the policy measures on the grounds that they would be reverse discrimination, such arguments are not accurate as black and Asian candidates would not be given preferential treatment over candidates who were more qualified than they were. Rather, if a minority and non-minority candidate both passed the same entrance requirements, only then would the minority candidate be hired ahead of the other candidate. Not only are such hiring practices fair, but within the context of the police department they take on even more importance because the police are frequently tasked with making judgment decisions in public in their administration of justice. Also frequent are discriminatory policies that oppress minorities in society. While this example shows a particularly critical example of positive action, it is also necessary in other professions. In this way, implementing positive action ensures that citizens gain fair representation based on demographics, which contributes to society’s perception that they are receiving just treatment.
Of course, one could argue that such equality in demographic hiring practices could occur through other means. However, a significant amount of reputable perspectives has convincingly argued that positive action is decidedly necessary to bring about meaningful policy changes. Although Britain has since left the European Union, among the important documents from this period was the Declaration of Principles on Equality. This was a guideline established by human rights and equality experts regarding necessary actions society must take to achieve social justice. Among the most prominent initiatives in this document was that positive action was necessary for minority groups, “to overcome past disadvantage and to accelerate progress towards equality” (Ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk, 2017). The experts who crafted the Declaration of Principles on Equality were not the only ones who recognized that positive action was truly critical to aid minority members of society in overcoming past discrimination and disadvantage. Additionally, American progressive activist Jesse Jackson, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, pointed out that affirmative action in the United States was critical to helping the country move towards a freer society. He subsequently argued that it was essential for Britain to adopt a similar approach (Dodd, 2013). As such, positive action is clearly necessary in order create an equal society.
In conclusion, this research has examined the debate surrounding positive action and argued it is necessary to achieve a fairer society. Within this spectrum of investigation, because of racism and oppression, positive action is essential to make sure certain people have the same access to success as others. Ultimately, while positive action will not end racism in society, it will substantially improve social justice for all citizens.
- Archibong, U. and Sharps, P.W., 2013. A Comparative Analysis of Affirmative Action in the United Kingdom and United States. Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture, 3(S1), pp.28-49.
- Dodd, V. (2013). UK needs affirmative action plan, says Jesse Jackson. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/jackson-affirmative-action-uk [Accessed 7 Apr. 2017].
- News.bbc.co.uk. (2017). BBC NEWS | UK | Police heads debate ethnic quotas. [online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6570545.stm [Accessed 6 Apr. 2017].
- Ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk. (2017). Does Affirmative Action Create Unfair Advantage? | OHRH. [online] Available at: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/does-affirmative-action-create-unfair-advantage/[Accessed 7 Apr. 2017].