The goal of Affirmative Action or a similar program is a method of giving favoritism to a group of people who may be disadvantaged within society for some reason. Policies can vary, but in basic terms Affirmative Action allows for preferential treatment of minorities during a selection process for education, employment, or other opportunities.
Is positive discrimination or employment equity a beneficial program? Or does it simply reinforce the values that have kept certain groups of people at a disadvantage? Here are the pros and cons of Affirmative Action to think about.
What Are the Pros of Affirmative Action?
1. It increases the diversity of the workplace.
What makes people different is also what can make people stronger. A team requires different talents and skills to be successful. If that team is only pulling from one certain population demographic, then its growth will be naturally limited. Affirmative Action encourages companies to seek out talented individuals in the minority group to diversify and this creates strength.
2. It has the possibility of reducing poverty.
When people are trapped in a negative socioeconomic cycle, then the poverty they experience is often passed down to their children. This continues generation after generation because the family knows nothing else. Affirmative Action opens a door out of poverty by giving minority groups the chance to receive education or employment opportunities they might not otherwise have.
3. It inspires higher levels of innovation.
Imagine where we would be today without the efforts of people like Harriet Tubman, Barney Ford, or Biddy Mason. When people are given the chance to cast off their shackles, whether that be slavery, poverty, or other socioeconomic factors that weigh them down, they can create some amazing things. The next great idea might just come about because someone was given an opportunity because of Affirmative Action.
4. It levels the playing field.
Nothing can make up for generations of oppression, no matter what anyone might say or do. The simple fact that a society is willing to recognize that a wrong was committed and is trying to make it right in some way can still benefit everyone. If nothing else, it can inspire the healing process to begin.
5. It provides hope.
Instead of an athletics scholarship or a job in the family business, people have a chance to really change their lives no matter what their circumstances may be.
What Are the Cons of Affirmative Action?
1. It can create reverse discrimination.
Although the idea of creating an equal footprint for everyone is a great idea on paper, it isn’t always implemented correctly in real life. Far too often the purpose of programs like this is to try to “make up” for past wrongs by creating more discrimination instead of less. When highly qualified people outside of the minority cannot find employment, but someone unqualified can for the same job, then reverse discrimination can be the result.
2. It can create lower levels of accountability.
Sometimes companies or educational institutions want to keep a certain percentage of minority groups within their population. To maintain this percentage, less emphasis is placed on achievement because the goal is to keep the person instead of improve the person’s opportunities. That’s a key difference and unfortunately quota-based Affirmative Action programs tend to devolve into this point of emphasis.
3. It doesn’t necessarily teach people how to succeed.
When someone lives in constant poverty, then they tend to have entitlement programs helping them get through the day. Affirmative Action is therefore seen as another entitlement program. Instead of using it as a way to find their own path to success, the attitude becomes one where success is supposed to be just given to the individual.
4. It can be a costly program.
To create an equal opportunity, someone taking advantage of Affirmative Action may need to have supplemental vocational training or educational opportunities to bring them up to speed. Schools and work training opportunities in areas that are prone to poverty do not always convey the information needed to help everyone become competitive in the modern marketplace.
5. It doesn’t always work.
You can place people in a vocational or educational setting, but you can’t make them work or learn. People need to want this opportunity for it to actually work.
The pros and cons of Affirmative Action create an inspiring debate that can further the opportunities that all groups have within a society. No matter what this equalization program may be called, one thing is for certain: everyone deserves the chance to pursue happiness. This kind of program can make that happen for some people who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.