Many contemporary organizations have adopted diversity policies in their human resource practices not only to enhance equal opportunity and fair hiring practices but also to overcome long-held stereotypes and cultural misconceptions that certain categories of employees were previously automatically excluded from certain career ventures based on the gender, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other variables that are unrelated to professional qualifications and experience (Kravitz, 2008).
These policies formed the underlying tenets of affirmative action not only in employment but also in other choices such as education, marital life and business.
However, there exist compelling evidence that the original intents of affirmative action has drastically changed over the years, courtesy of some legal loopholes and technicalities existing in many justice systems across the world. Using the Bakke v. Regents case, this paper aims to discuss several opinions on the original intents of affirmitative action and its current state of affairs
According to Fullinwider (2009), “…affirmative action means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded” (para. 1). This was the original intent of affirmative action – to provide women and members of minority groups with equal opportunities to access employment openings, education, and business opportunities.
But as the Bakke v. Regents case demonstrates, the policies that drive affirmative action and diversity initiatives in the workplace continue to generate a lot of controversy due to shortcomings in law. For instance, many federal laws in the United States prohibits discrimination based on race, and this is principally why the respondent won the case despite the fact that he came from a white community, which is thought to be endowed with many opportunities and resources than the minorities (FindLaw, 2011).
The Bakke v. Regents case bears serious ramifications not only for the advocates of affirmative action but also for organizations which have been attempting to use the tenets of affirmative action to achieve diversity in the workplace.
For instance, while it is known that affirmative action arising from diversity initiatives enhance teamwork, transfer of skills, and the achievement of a global workplace environment (Kravitz, 2008), disgruntled voices are now more likely than ever to use the courts and the justice system to argue that they were excluded for places of employment based on the race and in direct violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (FindLaw, 2011).
The above dissection means that affirmative action as currently practiced may never achieve the intentions it originally aimed to achieve. By extension, this means that organizations will continue having challenges exercising equal opportunity and fair hiring practices because of the fact that minority members of the society do not enjoy equal opportunities, resources and privileges which the dominant members or the mainstream society enjoys (Kravitz, 2008).
What is needed, therefore, is a paradigm shift in employment law that will ensure that affirmative action and diversity initiatives practiced by organizations have the capacity to cultivate an environment where all employees not only feel accepted and valued for their contributions, but are accorded the opportunity to realize their full potential.
Legal technicalities, including the right of an employee to equal consideration, the right of the maximally competent to an open position, and the right of every citizen to equal educational and employment opportunity (Fullinwider, 2009), need to be reconsidered and aligned with the realities on the ground to enable organizations reap the full benefits of diversity initiatives.
FindLaw. (2011). U.S. Supreme Court: University of California Regents v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978). Retrieved from https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/438/265.html
Fullinwider, R. (2009). Affirmative action. In: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/affirmative-action/
Kravitz, D.A. (2008). The diversity-validity dilemma: Beyond selection – The role of affirmative action. Personnel Psychology, 61(1), 173-193. Retrieved from Business Source Premier Database.