Opinion: Affirmative Action

Anu Venkatesh

Affirmative action is a policy designed to promote diversity and equality in education, employment, and other areas. Today, it is often used by various schools, companies, and organizations. Affirmative action was originally implemented with the hopes of increasing diversity in the workforce and in other such environments. However, many claim that affirmative action does not actually do a good job of promoting diversity; in fact, in many situations, it may add to the opposite occurring.

Many argue that affirmative action is crucial to combating historical discrimination and injustices faced by minorities. Since certain groups continue to face many challenges in their daily lives, affirmative action provides room for these individuals to still be successful and have access to opportunities. Affirmative action can be seen as a beneficial tool to counter the effects of systemic racism and discrimination, and an idea that can level the playing field for minorities. Affirmative action also ensures a diverse environment in schools and in the workforce, which fosters a more inclusive setting that promotes understanding, empathy, and communication. Diverse environments can also lead to more creative innovations and ideas, and a better educational experience for everyone. Affirmative action can be seen as a powerful tool that will level the playing field for those who continue to be at a disadvantage.

However, the problem with affirmative action, while it may help promote diversity, is that it reinforces negative stereotypes. By granting preferences and favor to a certain group, affirmative action implies that these minorities are inherently inferior, requiring special treatment and conditions to succeed. This idea can lead to feelings of inadequacy and the idea of being a “token minority.” It also reinforces the idea that these minority groups are incapable of competing with equal footing as other groups, which can limit their potential and have damaging effects on their self-esteem. Affirmative action can also create the perception that minority candidates are undeserving of their positions, due to the value of diversity over merit. This, as well, can be damaging to these candidates’ self-esteems and could lead to negative consequences in their future careers.

Affirmative action also inherently reinforces another kind of discrimination: reverse discrimination. By prioritizing diversity of qualifications, many well-qualified individuals will be overlooked in favor of less qualified ones who belong to minority groups. More than the quality of work, this can create a hostile environment, as there may be many feelings of resentment and anger in those who feel as though they have been discriminated against or unfairly treated. This effect can lead to a further divided and polarized society. In the process of using affirmative action, meritocracy can also be undermined. Affirmative action places a higher emphasis on factors out of a person’s control, such as race and gender; affirmative action sends the message that success is not based on individual effort and ability, but on factors out of one’s control. This can be damaging to society, as many individuals may become less competent and willing to strive toward meritocracy.

In society today, there is definitely a gap between many groups of people; however, affirmative action may not be the best solution to these problems. Affirmative action provides a temporary solution to a long-term problem; instead, resources should be directed toward the root cause of discrimination in our society, such as poverty, lack of access to education, and affordable healthcare. For example, universities can use alternatives to affirmative action in order to increase diversity, through outreach programs, scholarships, contextualized admissions, race-neutral policies, and mentoring.

In the end, affirmative action is a policy that ultimately does more harm than good. By perpetuating stereotypes, creating divisiveness, and leading to reverse discrimination, these policies can have a negative impact on individuals and society as a whole. Instead of relying on policies like affirmative action, we should focus on creating a level playing field for all individuals, regardless of their background or identity. By promoting equal access to education and employment, and addressing issues like unconscious bias and discrimination, we can create a more just and inclusive society for everyone.

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