Affirmative Action: A Controversial Dilemma



What is it?

The concept of Affirmative Action was introduced in 1965 in the United States, as a way to combat racial discrimination in the hiring process.  The concept later expanded to address gender discrimination. Affirmative Action seeks to achieve goals such as promoting equality in employment and pay, increasing access to education, promoting diversity, and addressing hindrances or oppressions of minority groups. This Order requires that government contractors are to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are considered without regard to anything except their qualifications.

Is AA Still Relevant Today?

  1. Affirmative Action puts in place a set of incentives that move us toward equally-qualified men, women, and minorities in the work place. It is used to create actions of non-discrimination.


  1. In July 1970, a federal district court encouraged the State of Alabama to discontinue discrimination against blacks in the hiring of state troopers. The court found that “in the thirty-seven year history of the patrol there has never been a black trooper.” Eighteen months later, not a single black had been hired as a state trooper or into a civilian position connected with the troopers. The district court then entered a further order requiring the hiring of one qualified black trooper or support person applicant for each white hired until 25 percent of the force was comprised of blacks. By the time they took the case to the Court of Appeals in 1974, 25 black troopers and 80 black support personnel had been hired.


  1. In 1979, women represented only 4% of the entry-level officers in the San Francisco police department. By 1985, the Department of Justice sued the City for discrimination, the number of women in the entry class had risen to 175, or 14.5%.


  1. Racial disparities still persist in education, health, housing, and employment. The United Church of Christ believes that It is about more than diversity, “for it is in fact a moral obligation to racial equity.”


The Controversy: Is AA Counterproductive?

  1. Moral and political philosopher and opponent George Sher believes that AA devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen based on the social group they belong rather than qualifications.


  1. Law regarding quotas and affirmative action varies widely from state to state. A considerable portion of the arguments against Affirmative Action states that you have to meet race quotas that will in turn unfairly allow qualifying non-minorities to be rejected the position due to limited spots. However, quotas are illegal in the United States, where no employer, university, or other entity is allowed to create a set number of required people for each race.


  1.  Originally conceived as a way to redress discrimination, racial preferences have instead promoted it. preferences hurt poor whites and even many Asians (who meet admissions standards in disproportionate numbers). If preferences were truly meant to remedy disadvantage, they would be given on the basis of disadvantage, not on the basis of race.


  1. Very significant achievements of minority students can become compromised with AA. It is often not possible to tell whether a given student genuinely deserved admission to a school, or whether they are by virtue of fitting into some sort of diversity matrix. David Sacks, CEO of a software service, states that When people do start to suspect the worst. Meaning that preferences have skewed the entire class; they are accused of the very racism that justifies these preferences. Is it a cure that generates its own disease?

An Understanding

Affirmative Action has divided many people of the same background and has granted an unstable foundation of misinterpretation. Many debates have been framed on this with real world examples of discrimination and controversy. It will be interesting to see what side our Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates think of this Order that inherently affects millions of people. Though many assume stark opinions about AA and share strong beliefs for and against it, there are however citizens that remain in the middle about it. Whether the lack of information on the genuine affects it has on people and if the rejection of students and the unemployed has anything to do with the policies of Affirmative Action are all points to be socially determined and factually improved upon.  Hopefully we can see some of the opinions the presidential and vice presidential candidates have this campaign.


“Why We Still Need Affirmative Action.” UNC. Ed. Elizabeth Leung. United Church of Christ, 2015.


By 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court Had Upheld the Cornerstone Segregationist Doctrine of. “Affirmative Action.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web