Affirmative action is an interesting—and somewhat contentious—concept. It has both benefits and consequences. Don’t be confused—this isn’t a black or white issue. There are valid points on each side. So, what are the benefits and consequences of affirmative action? Read on to find out.
What Is It?
Affirmative action is designed to educationally and vocationally level the playing field for underprivileged minority groups. Certain socio-economic trends have developed in the United States, especially when it comes to educational systems. Affirmative action helps people that wouldn’t normally join these institutions—whether due to racism or lack of educational resources—learn and work when normally they would be passed over. Affirmative action is supposed to allow people to do this in an easy fashion. It’s designed to eliminate discrimination in both the workplace and educational environments. This might include outreach campaigns and special scholarships in schools or employee management, development, and support in the workplace.
In essence, affirmative action promotes diverse institutions. Its encouragement of alternate perspectives is a key component of any affirmative action plan. If a person is disenfranchised or discriminated against, they can look to affirmative action to open a whole new world for them. An affirmative action plan will teach people different specific learning styles, challenges minorities face, and how to be empathetic to other peoples’ struggles. If done correctly, affirmative action can be an exceptional opportunity for those who normally wouldn’t get as many chances.
Unfortunately, affirmative action can promote reverse discrimination. Giving one person preference over another can have the opposite effect of leveling the playing field. It’s easy to overlook promising candidates in favor of filling a “quota” for minorities. The goal is to reverse socio-economic disparities, but it could also inadvertently engender them by excluding one group over another.
As we touched on earlier, affirmative action can—in effect—bite its tail. It can become less about meritocracy and more about “filling a quota” or bringing minorities into an institution to improve its reputation. Not caring about an individual’s progress effectively keeps the same institutions in place on a fundamental level while appearing “progressive” on a surface level to everyone else. The purpose of affirmative action becomes moot in progress, neutralizing any benefits of affirmative action and promoting far-reaching consequences.
In short, affirmative action is likely here to stay. This is fine if it’s approached properly. Regardless of your stance, people on both sides of the issue should sit down and figure out how it can work for everyone involved. The future of our institutions, especially for minorities, depends on it.