Since its establishment after the Civil Rights Movement, Affirmative Action has sparked many discussions and debates. Affirmative Action is a policy put into place to actively help vulnerable groups in that have experienced historical and systematic oppression, such as racial minorities and women. There are many arguments for and against Affirmative Action, some of which will be discussed in this article.
Affirmative Action is embraced with open arms by many. Not only does it improve diversity in terms of admissions, but it also increases diversity in the applicant demographics as well. Because of internalized racism and racism itself, many marginalized individuals feel defeated when aspiring to higher education. Affirmative Action offers hope for these people. This alone makes Affirmative Action a very beneficial program. In fact, when California abolished Affirmative Action programs in 1998, minority student admission fell 61 percent at UC Berkeley and 36 percent at UCLA. Affirmative Action can also be seen as beneficial to everyone, not just minorities. Having diversity in academia and businesses leads to a much more enriched experience for all races. Affirmative Action is has helped many marginalized people in the past and continues to help them today.
Most critics of Affirmative Action understand that in the past, these efforts were necessary. In their eyes, however, we are currently living in a post-racist society. In fact, these critics go as far as to say that because of the progress we have made in our society, Affirmative Action leads to reverse-racist practices that give no-longer-needed advantages to people who are now equal. They argue that Affirmative Action policies actually generate the opposite of the intended effects because if minority groups are offered assistance in admittance, they will be less motivated to do well and earn their positions through merit. Another issue raised by those opposing Affirmative Action is that the policies may not actually help those that need it, meaning lower class individuals, but rather the middle and upper classes may be reaping these benefits. The critics of Affirmative Action raise important questions. While it is quite apparent that our society is not post-racism, we have come a considerable way. In many debates regarding national issues, it is common to critique the use of a document as old as the Constitution in governing. I think the same could be said for something like Affirmative Action; can policies written in the ’60s be applied now?
Affirmative Action is a complicated topic and, as with most programs, is obviously not perfect. Following the college admissions scandal, I have been thinking about the common complaint that Affirmative Action leads to stealing someone’s “rightful” spot in a school or workplace. Are the marginalized people who had to fight against the system really the ones stealing your spot? Or is it an excessively wealthy individual who was able to cheat the system after having every advantage given to them? I also think that while, yes, Affirmative Action can be a helpful program, it can keep us from addressing the root of the problem: how closely race and class are tied together. Marginalized groups are lacking in the resources and access to education that would even allow them to apply for higher education. In order to consider this problem fixed, and eventually get rid of Affirmative Action, the system as a whole needs to be disrupted.