In the US, affirmative action is a term used in reference to equal opportunity policy, which national contractors and subcontractors are lawfully required to implement. This policy was put in place to thwart unfairness against workers or candidates for employment based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or nationality.
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Affirmative action’s immediate goals are to put an end to discrimination, compensate for past discrimination, and enhance diversity in the workplace. In the long term, the policy should enhance a racially just and sexually just society in America. Since its implementation, the policy has attracted numerous heated debates (Cohen & James 15). This article focuses of affirmative action policy in the United States.
Before the implementation of affirmative action policy in the United States, the minority groups were discriminated. During the early 1960s, civil rights activists believed that by prohibiting discrimination government could make a level playing field where equal opportunity triumphs. The effectiveness of this assumption had been witnessed in baseball and some school desegregation cases.
It had been witnessed that black players and students’ performances improved significantly when racial barriers were abolished. In the year 1961, President John F. Kennedy stated that a confirmatory action was to be put in place to enhance equal opportunities in American societies. Three years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of the year 1964.
Through the act, all the employers were prohibited from discriminating their employees and job applicants based on nationality, gender, and race. Equally, through the act every American regardless of race or gender has been protected from being barred from participating in any agenda or activity receiving federal financial support.
Given the fact that affirmative action policies were backed by the president’s orders, government policy makers and other congressional leaders were not given a chance to debate on the issue. Thus, the governmental agencies and contractors who were obligated to implement the strategies have shaped the affirmative action policies.
Despite its controversies, several companies in the US have embraced affirmative action as an element of their business strategies. A major advantage of adopting affirmative action policies in the US is that it has enhanced the representation of minority groups in the workplace and education institutions.
Before the policies were enforced, the minority groups were prohibited from attending certain learning institutions and holding some certain positions in the workplaces.
With the implementation of the policies, the minority groups’ members have been able to attend any learning institution in the US without being discriminated. Equally, the policies have ensured that the minority groups’ members are equally represented in the workplace.
Another advantage associated with the affirmative action policy is that it has increased diversity in the workplace. With increased diversity, American companies and institutions have benefited in a number of ways. It is believed that a diverse organization has more adaptability in relations to problem solving. A diverse organization has a wider range of possible solutions compared to non-diverse organization.
Equally, a diverse organization is in a better position to serve multi-cultural communities compared to non-diverse organization (Bardach 67). In addition, it can be argued that the American society unlike other societies have become more diverse owing to the implementation of affirmative action policy.
Owing to the diffusion and acceptance of different cultures, every ethnic group and race have brought new point of views, different behaviors, and civilizations into the American society.
Similarly, through the policy the government has been able to increase opportunities to minority groups through government contracts (Weimer & Aidan 56). In the Civil Rights Act of the year 1964, companies getting government contracts were required to implement affirmative action policy.
By doing so, the government has been able to increase work opportunities for minority groups and their companies. Since companies consider government contracts lucrative, the minority groups have benefitted financially from the policies.
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Despite its advantages, the government has had to deal with issues outside the market equilibrium like moral and ethical issues during the implementation of the affirmative action policy. Those who oppose these plans assert that racial or gender preference is morally wrong (Cohen & James 23).
To ensure that equal opportunities are offered to all Americans regardless of their religion, race, or gender, the white males’ opportunities have to be reduced. For centuries, the white males have dominated every sector in the US. To reduce their dominance and increase diversity, more minority group groups’ members are being favored in the sectors.
Despite the fact that this move will be beneficial in the long term, those affected assert that the move is morally wrong since it violates the basic principle of treating every American equally. With respect to this, those opposed to the affirmative action policies suggest that the strategy should be abolished because it embraces categories that should not be used in differentiating individuals in the community.
They champion that Americans of every ancestry are equal. Therefore, no matter who the beneficiaries or the victims of the policy are, preference based on race or gender is morally wrong. Based on this argument, race preference was wrong in the past, is still wrong in the present, and it will always be wrong.
According to some critics, affirmative action is unethical and is not justified as compensation tool (Cohen & James 26). The founders of affirmative action wanted to compensate minority groups such as the African American, the natives, Hispanics, women, and other minority groups for the outrageous discrimination against them by the majority groups.
These founders believed that explicit preferences of these groups would make up for their past deprivation. It is unethical to offer explicit preference for specific group at the expense of another group with the aim of compensation because historical injustices can never be reversed. Instead, the present society should put in place measures to ensure that moral balance is restored.
Although the affirmative action policy is appealing, critics assert that it should never be used as a compensation tool because its victims would suffer for the wrongs committed by their ancestors. Equally, the policy should not be used as a compensation tool because most of those injured by discriminatory laws are long dead and can never be compensated.
Although the affirmative action policy has been used as a tool for enhancing social equality, it should be noted that the policy still attracts heated debates. To date, the societies that have adopted the policy are yet to come up with an ideal formula that will be tolerable to the diverse competing social interests. As such, all Americans should be engaged in the debate over affirmative action for a workable formula to be reached.
Bardach, Eugene. A practical guide for policy analysis: the eightfold path to more effective problem solving. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2009. Print.
Cohen, Carl, and James P. Sterba. Affirmative action and racial preference: a debate. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
Weimer, David Leo, and Aidan R. Vining. Policy analysis. 5th ed. Boston: Longman, 2011. Print.