Top 10 Reasons Affirmative Action Is a Bad Idea
Affirmative action is the policy of giving preferential treatment to minorities, women, and other underrepresented groups. It is used in an attempt not only to eliminate discrimination, but to set right the effects of discrimination in the past. The policy was initiated in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy signed the Executive Order 10925, ordering all federally funded programs to take active steps to make sure that minority groups are employed and treated fairly. Later, it was expanded and even admission to institutions and access to healthcare, among others, have been affected by the policy. Well, looking at the current status of our society today seems to indicate that the policy has been quite a success. However, many critics of affirmative action believe that the policy is no longer necessary and has to be eliminated as it already leads to more problems than solutions. The following reasons explain why affirmative action programs should no longer continue.
Affirmative action leads to reverse discrimination
Affirmative action was created to finally end discrimination and give everybody an equal playing field, but in reality, it does the opposite. Many white students today, despite having excellent grades and being more qualified, are having a difficult time to get into college because many institutions favor the minorities. Take for instance the case of Allan Bakke, a white California man who was twice denied admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis. In an effort to promote equality, the school’s policy was to reserve 16 percent of its admission places for minorities. Bakke was denied twice because of the school’s “quota” system, despite having higher grades and test scores. The same is true in the field of employment. In 2009, a group of firefighters was unfairly denied for promotions because of being white.
Sure, affirmative action has good intention. But imagine that you were a white male student, who has worked hard all his life to get good grades and qualify for admission to a university, but you were denied because there was only one slot left and that was already reserved to a minority student, even though that student is less qualified than you. What would you feel? Do you think that’s fair? Of course, not.
Many opponents of affirmative action feel that this kind of policy is morally unjust and promotes reverse discrimination. It does not only give the majority group an unfair treatment in the field of higher education and employment, but it also does punish them for crimes that they haven’t done. One of the reasons for implementing affirmative action programs is to make up for past wrongs. But the past is past, and those people who have racist ancestors must not take responsibility of what happened hundreds of years ago. Just because they have racist ancestors doesn’t mean that they will do the same and they liked what happened. After all, they weren’t there, so that wasn’t their fault. And let’s not forget that not all whites were unfriendly toward blacks earlier in history. As a matter of fact, some of them even experienced suffering comparable to that of blacks. Isn’t it unfair to give them all the burden of past wrongs?
It rewards wrong people
Another great concern why many critics want to abolish this policy is because it automatically rewards people who do not actually deserve such opportunities. Take for instance the unqualified students who are able to get into college just because the admission standards have been lowered for them, as well as the unskilled workers who are able to get hired for a job just because they are blacks or Hispanics. While not all minorities are taking advantage of the situation, it’s true that there are some minorities who use their “minority” status in order to get ahead in life.
Actually, the real problem is much more complicated than that. Isn’t the initial purpose why affirmative action policy was implemented was to compensate for past discrimination or present disadvantage? If that so, then only people, who have been victimized by past discrimination and slavery, should be given preferential treatment. However, current affirmation programs are providing benefits to “all members” of minorities, whether or not they have suffered unjust treatment. In fact, even those, who are in the middle and upper class, are taking a lot of benefits and using their race and ethnicity to easily advance in life.
It encourages people to seek easy access rather than work hard
Affirmative action is also no longer helping the “underprivileged” society, the reason why many critics want to abolish it. As mentioned, many minorities are already taking advantage of their status in order to get benefits and acquire the things they need in an easy way. They no longer work or study hard because they know that they can get help, no matter what. Ultimately, they become weaker and much more dependent.
The truth is, there are so many talented and intelligent people that belong in the group of minorities. However, not all of them are able to discover their true potential because they’re focusing too much on “getting help” than “working hard.” If affirmative action would be abolished, these people would have no choice but to work hard like everybody else, which will ultimately help them discover and use their true potential. I guess it’s truly better to eliminate the racial preference in order to make them realize that nothing in this world comes easy – that you should work hard if you want to achieve something. In addition, it will also make them realize that even if they’re blacks or came from a poor family, they still have ability to compete and succeed in life. Take for instance the famous Oprah Winfrey and President Barrack Obama. These people are black and came from poor, but they never let their background interfere with their success.
It devalues the person’s real accomplishments
As we know, affirmative action gives all minorities an increased opportunity for employment and education. And it’s true that since the implementation of the policy, a lot of minorities, especially blacks, have benefited from it.
However, since its policy works by giving “special” treatment for minorities, it’s sending an impression that people from the target group only achieve success because of affirmative action. That even though they are talented and truly achieved their positions though hard work and intelligence, their achievements are still demeaned by the public and they are perceived as someone who only got to the top because of preferential treatment. And worse, this sometimes makes them even question their own competence, leaving a lasting and damaging effect on the emotional and mental well-being of the students. How can you feel truly fulfilled when a lingering doubt about your achievement plagues you?
I believe many of you have seen it occur many times before. Perhaps, you’ve already experienced labeling one of your colleague’s successes as a result of affirmative action. Well, you’ve also seen it during the 2008 presidential election, when Obama won the presidency. Many people, during those times, believed that Obama only got to Harvard Law because he was black. Although he was hard working and gifted, many thought that his success purely came from the policy. The same is happening to many minority lawyers, doctors, and educators. People doubt their real ability and believe that they only got to where they are due to preferential treatment. So I guess, it’s really just right to eliminate the affirmative action policy. Sure, most minorities, even Oprah Winfrey, Clarence Thomas, President Barrack Obama, and other famous black people have benefited from it, but that doesn’t mean that they never worked hard to get to where they are now.
It lowers standards and makes people less accountable.
Another reason why affirmative action has to be eliminated is because it lowers the standards of personal responsibility. Ever since affirmative action has come into play, many organizations, particularly schools, businesses, and federally funded establishments, have been forced to lower their standards so that more blacks and certain group of minorities can be admitted to the university and get hired for a job.
However, instead of helping the minorities, this policy only harms them. Affirmative action makes these people so much dependent on the help of others, to the point that they settle for mediocrity because they know that they may get the position anyway. If you were a black student who realized that you can get into Harvard with a 3.0 grade point average (GPA), would you push yourself to get a 4.0? Well, most students will not. Why would you try hard to get an excellent score when you can get accepted even if you only have a good or average point?
This is one of the very reasons why many opponents of affirmative action want to abolish the system. Lowering the standards only leads to increasing the number of students who are ill-equipped in college and at work. And if we think that we’re helping them give the education and job they need, we’re wrong. Because this only gives them much more difficult time to learn. A student or a worker, who isn’t qualified but gets accepted, will only find it hard to keep up and handle the duties assigned to him. Of course, when he fails to perform his duties, he will never be able to get the promotion he needs, which makes him resentful in the end.
So, it’s time to abolish this policy. If we really want to help the minorities and promote equality, we should reward people who really worked hard and performed their best, and not those who only relied on the help of others.
It places a stigma on women and minorities
I think most of us understand that the reason behind the implementation of this kind of policy is to eliminate discrimination – well, that was the original intent of the policy anyway. And that’s a good thing, in fact. But somewhere along the decades, its purpose seems to have changed. Today, we’re already making a selection for someone to be admitted in school or get hired for a job based solely on color and race. We even get to the point where we ignore thousands of qualified applicants in order to give black people and certain other minorities a “place” for education and employment.
Affirmative action, as mentioned, is definitely beneficial for minorities. But as a whole, the process is not a good thing for them. It only puts them in a tough place where no matter what they do, even if they work harder and harder, they will still be perceived as someone who cannot stand on their own feet. If affirmative action will not be abolished, people will continue to stigmatize black and certain other groups of minorities because preferential treatment is like saying, “You’re incapable of standing up for yourself, so let me help you.”
It increases racial tension
Since affirmative action went into force, thousands of cases have been filed by those who are victimized by school admission policies and labor contracts. I guess you’re already familiar with the case of Allan Bakke, the white California man who was denied admission to the university of his choice because he was “white.” A similar case, Grutter v. Bollinger, was filed in 1997 in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan. The University of Michigan was sued by a white female student, Barbara Grutter, who claimed she was denied admission in favor of minority applicants with lower grades and test scores.
Another case in 2008 was also filed by a young female student, known as Abigail Fisher, because she, too, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin because of being “white.” Fisher claimed that accepting students on the basis of race is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Aside from these, there are more other lawsuits filed against institutions and companies because of giving special attention to people who are less qualified and not deserving.
The country is already obviously witnessing a barrage of allegations and complaints filed by non-minorities, so I believe it’s time for this policy to be eliminated. And let’s also not forget that whites are not the only ones who feel victimized because of the policy. Even blacks are experiencing negative effects because of affirmative action. Since this policy is in favor of them, they are often bullied in classes and perceived as incapable students. Most of the time, professors give them extra attention, assuming that they are truly unqualified. These things are insulting for blacks, making them more bitter and resentful to whites. If the policy will continue, I think years from now, the gap between the black and white communities will just grow wider, to the point that they will decide to live unconnectedly because of tension.
It makes minorities struggle more
Opponents of affirmative action push the elimination of affirmative action policy because according to them, not only will this help the whites, but it will also help the blacks and other groups of minorities. And it’s true. Well, there was surely a point in time where affirmative action was considered a good thing; however, as time passed, people observed that this policy produces more harms than benefits for its supposed beneficiaries.
One biggest issue is that racial preferences put minority in environments where they can neither learn nor compete effectively. We refer to this problem as a “mismatch,” the theory that explains why even though blacks and certain other minorities are given opportunities to enter major universities, they are still often found to get much lower grades and fail to pass professional exams.
Just imagine that you were a student who excels in arts and literature and struggles in science and math. Since you’re good in arts, you decided to enter a course that is related to that subject. Suppose you didn’t get that class because the department has already reached its quota and the only department that has an opening (and accepting anyone) is the science class. Although you knew that you were not good in it, you still enrolled to the class because you were too eager to get into college. What would you think would happen next? Soon, you would find yourself struggling to keep up, even though your professor gives you extra attention, because it has never been what you want and you were underprepared when you enter. This is how academic mismatch works.
Experiences like these may even create much worse outcomes, such as feelings of panic, self-doubt, resentment, as well as reduced productivity at workplace and incompetence in school.
It perpetuates social division
I think that we’re all aware that our country’s history of white supremacy has created the gap between black and white people. This is the very reason why affirmative action policy has been created – to redress the effects of past discrimination and finally eliminate biases. I’m lying if I say that the system didn’t do good years after its implementation. Of course, I also believe that the policy has accomplished a great deal of good thing. Today, more blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, and Asians are getting and enjoying all the available opportunities that were once denied to them.
But the policy has to stop. If you will notice, lots of problems are already occurring because of affirmative action – more debates, complaints, lawsuits, tension. And instead of creating equality and eliminating discrimination, which were supposed to be its purpose, what’s happening is that it does the opposite. The country’s preference for one race over another is a solid definition of what we called discrimination. The only difference is that the victims are now the whites.
And if we think that we’re creating a diverse society by using affirmative action, we’re wrong. This in fact just worsens the division between races. By reserving a certain number of spots for minorities, either in school or at work, we’re like limiting the number of students and workers to accept. That even if there are more minorities, who deserve to get the place, they would never be able to get the chance to get accepted if the population limit has been achieved. If you will ask a professor how many blacks are present on the campus where he works, he will surely give you the exact number on the spot. But ask him if how many whites are there, he can’t surely give you an answer. See? Do you think that’s diversity and equality?
It pretends to solve a problem that no longer exist
Years ago, when racial discrimination was still prevalent, affirmative action may have been a necessary step to give equal opportunities for disadvantaged communities. But now, the times have changed. We are now in a new world where people no longer judge by the color of skin or ethnicity. We are now in a world where everyone is given an equal chance to get admitted in schools, get hired for a job, and even join a community. We are, in fact, in a world with a black president! Indeed, affirmative action had served its purpose to give minorities the opportunities they deserve. But now that it has done its job, I guess continuing the policy is no longer necessary.
Sure, we can say that there are still people in the United States and even at some parts of the world who are racist, but it’s no longer a prevalent issue. Unlike before, you will no longer see or hear a white student today telling a black student that “smartphones are just for whites,” or “college books are just for whites.” As what the writers David Sacks and Peter Thiel said in an article published in Stanford Magazine, “None of this is to deny that there are some people in America who are racist and that there are some features of American life that are legacies of a much more racist past. But racism is not everywhere… so perhaps the real problem with affirmative action is that we are pretending to solve a problem that no longer exists.”
So, it’s time to stop affirmative action, instead, focus on implementing effective and fair solutions that will help our nation achieve long-term success. What do you think? Let us know in the comments?
And for the opposite take, read List Land’s 10 Reasons Affirmative Action Still Matters Today.