Why Affirmative Action is Detrimental to Society in all Facets

Trying Less: Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is “supposed” to help balance the gap between minorities and the majority when it comes to situations like college education and job opportunities. Although the idea of affirmative action sounds great, it hinders hardworking individuals from gaining acceptance in a field of study or employment simply because they are not in the “minority”. An individual should never be denied an equal opportunity in any situation but should not be given a “right of passage” simply because a school or business needs to have a certain number of African Americans, Asians, Latin Americans, and so on. Affirmative action tries to help minorities have the same opportunities as those who may have a better means to higher education or job placement. In actuality however, affirmative action is saying “the color of skin, not education” determines whether or not a college or job accepts an individual. As a result “trying less” is rewarded simply based on economical situation, not educational achievement.

As defined affirmative action is the encouragement of increased representation of women and minorities in colleges and employment. It is great for the government to encourage candidates that under normal circumstances would not apply to certain places but basing a person’s performance strictly on a set of guidelines that determines they are “overcoming” some sort of discrimination is ridiculous. When it comes to admissions for college and work, a person should base enrollment on who is better qualified for the job, not filling a quota. There is nothing wrong with positions being competitive instead of saving a percentage of spots to diversify.

There have been numerous studies and articles that say affirmative action is beneficial. This benefit is only given to a select few who in essence “try less” than maybe another student who is more qualified but belongs to another racial or economical class. One argument is proposed by Laura D’Andrea Tyson in her essay “Needed: Affirmative Action for the Poor”:

Doesn’t an SAT total score of 1200 combined with an A average mean something different for an applicant raised in a low-income household and educated in a rundown public school than for an applicant from a high-income home and educated in an outstanding private school? (269) This statement implies that a person with a 1200 SAT score and an A average in a “bad” public school should outweigh a student with the same scores in a great private institution when it comes to a college application. This is completely absurd. From personal experience, it is much harder to maintain higher grades in a “better” private school than it would be in a rundown public school simply because at private school the education is being paid for. At a private school, the education is more competitive and more demanding. There is no denying the achievement of an A average in a bad environment, but it is common knowledge that the education is not as intense at it would be in a private institute.

Another argument in favor of affirmative action is that it is the government’s response to the hundreds of years of discrimination of women and minorities. Although discrimination without debate was and is awful, no individual should be granted “special circumstances” for past events. If an individual’s grandparents were on welfare, should that grandchild be given welfare money despite his economical standings? This example may sound crazy but it deals with those “special circumstances” that sound completely ridiculous when put in retrospective. If a person overcomes poverty through hard work, should he still be given special rights simply because at one time he was in an economical depression. Past events should in no way determine future applicants at college or employment in the job field.

One argument against affirmative action is that through affirmative action some applicants that are accepted may be unqualified. Harry Holzer and David Neumark in their article “Are Affirmative Action Hires Less Qualified? Evidence from Employer-Employee Date on New Hires” explains this very debate:
… On the other hand, if Affirmative Action is imposed on (or chosen by) forms with no discriminatory practices, it could lead to the hiring of employees with weaker qualifications or performance, since such firms were presumably already hiring the best-qualified individuals regardless of race or sex. The likelihood that Affirmative Action leads to the hiring of less-qualified minorities and women may be reinforced because the educational attainment of minorities (especially among Hispanics) continues to lag behind whites, as do their average test scores. (536) This statement argues that if a company does not discriminate when it comes to hiring that through affirmative action the company may in fact hire “less than qualified” applicants simply due to affirmative action. This very argument reaffirms the fact that affirmative action rewards individuals for not trying as hard as the competition. This is why affirmative action has to be either completely omitted or redesigned.

Affirmative action may also have an opposite effect on racial tension that is already overflowing in this country. By granting particular races extra benefits when it comes to school and job placement, society is basically saying one race has it “tougher” and therefore should be granted leeway because it is so “tough”. This feeling then translates into racism because a person in the majority will then claim that just because a person is a minority they got accepted into the same position that the majority candidate applied for. It is a myth that racism does not exist anymore simply because slavery is outlawed in America. According to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education “The major contention is that all blacks, including the most academically gifted, are stigmatized as beneficiaries of affirmative action. Thus, it is said that affirmative action practices reinforce whites’ perceptions of black inferiority” (20). One can see that through affirmative action, racial tensions only become more complicated and frustrating.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education even suggests that through affirmative action, the minority is holding themselves back in any a sense are “hurting” themselves. According to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, “One of the most persistent of the contentions has been the charge that black people only hurt themselves by pressing for some forms of redress for exclusions of the past” (20). This statement says that by asking for “special treatment”, it can be argued that minorities are separating themselves from other individuals giving themselves a disadvantage. Colleges and the workforce are competitive and tough enough that making a person a target for racism and skepticism will just add to that overall overwhelming feeling associated with those places.

Affirmative action is sending the wrong message to younger generations of hardworking children that despite where they go to school to school and what grades they have, where they go in life is determined by how they look, not what they know. Over time if this trend of affirmative hiring continues, academics will become secondary and national background will overwhelm the work force and college admissions. That trend will lead to less hardworking, better-qualified candidates, being the new “minority”.

Can affirmative action be amended so that the scope of candidates it helps become greater? One the biggest problems associated with affirmative action is that it helps a select few that fall into the bracket of “minority”. It is common knowledge that the minority as a whole outweighs the “majority” in America. How can affirmative action help minorities when the minorities together outnumber “majority” members? If affirmative action is “supposed” to help compress the overgrowing poverty line in this country, then it must encompass more than just race. Economical situation such as living in a lower income household, number of living parents/guardians, annual income, and personal circumstances should be included in the affirmative action campaign. Although usually outnumbered in popular consensuses, there are many white members that are consider “majority” individuals that may live in low-income housing but because of the color of their skin they are not considered candidates for the affirmative action program. This can almost be considered a type of “reverse discrimination”. Shouldn’t affirmative action help everyone as long as the situation permits it to?

One alternative to affirmative action would be “healthy competition”. The common phrase “May the best man win” comes to mind when competition is enforced. There is nothing wrong with members of all races competing with each other for positions in college or the work force. The ideal perspective would be that college admissions would look at a person’s individual achievements in education and extra-curricular activities, not whether that person is black, white, blue, or gray. The only time race, gender, and background should be included is when financial aid is being determined and even then it should be done with a fine comb. How can “favoritism” bases on race and gender be better than healthy competition?

Finally, like stated earlier affirmative action does not truly help minority individuals get accepted into colleges and job opportunities because it relays the message that because of skin color, not ability that a person goes somewhere in life. Thus, hardworking individuals are not rewarded for their work; instead for the minority the slogan “working less” is rewarded instead of the idealistic puritan work ethic. Affirmative action has the right idea of “leveling the playing field” but doing so in the wrong way. The best person should be entitled a position whether that person is white or any other race. The number of white members at a particular institute or job should not determine whether or not discrimination is being practiced. It is the very company’s views that should determine discrimination. It is a shame that in today’s society the number of “minorities” somewhere determines whether or not an institute is “minority-friendly” and not being so-called “racist”. If someone of African descent is better qualified for the same position as a white person, admissions or employers should hire the “better” candidate regardless of whether or not it meets some sort of affirmative action quota. That is why affirmative action is detrimental to society in all facets.

Works Cited

“What About the Charge That Affirmative Action Reinforces a Sense of Group Inferiority?” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. No. 18. (Winter, 1997-1998). 20-21.

Douglas, Frederick. " Needed: Affirmative Action for the Poor”. McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the Disciples. Ed. Gilbert H. Muller. 9th ed. New York:
McGraw-Hill custom Publishing, 2006. 267-269.

Holzer, Harry; David Neumark. “Are Affirmative Action Hires Less Qualified? Evidence from Employer- Employee Data on New Hires” Journal of Labor Economics. Vol. 17, No. 3. (Jul., 1999). 534-569.