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Affirmative Action - Pros And Cons

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A Short Discussion of Affirmative Action - Pros and Cons.

Affirmative Action programming is seen by some as a mechanical remedy to past social conditions that penalized minority member applicants for employment, women, or persons with disabilities. In the United States, Affirmative Action has been seen as compensation for the exclusion of the African American community, in particular, and has been hoped to create upward mobility for more members of this sector. In this sense, Affirmative Action may have much encouraged individuals to strive for education, training or employment of kinds they would not have thought accessible, in past generations. Similarly, women have been helped by Affirmative Action to know that their applications will be taken seriously. Moreover, as the public grows used to seeing a more diverse workforce, including visible minority members and women in positions of responsibility, then attitudes change as to who is a suitable worker for this position, or that field. The argument is that, in time, all citizens will expect a diverse workforce.

It should be known, however, that not all of the groups said to benefit from Affirmative Action are automatically in favour of it. For instance, while preparing this paper, an African-American friend whose parents are successful professionals, stated that she did not believe that she should obtain special consideration by virtue of her ethnicity. She said that her grandparents had enjoyed their lives of achievement, knowing they had done well on merit, without any special consideration of them. Indeed, they had excelled in order to overcome considerable discrimination. As for her own career, she believed that her Ivy League education rendered her different from many young African-American women who perhaps should have special consideration. Overall, her points complied with Richard Kahlenberg's article stressing how one must look at differences of social class, more than race, at present. (1995:3-4) Affirmative Action should assist socio-economically disadvantaged persons to have become qualified, at large, rather than differentiating between ethnic groups, or according to gender.

Affirmative Action has not proven very successful in countering the evils of racism, either, where it is entrenched, for some human beings will forever view Affirmative Action as a form of racism that happens to discriminate against white male persons. Indeed, in some instances, Affirmative Action has been showed to function as a form of exclusive discrimination, all its own, as in the realization that white male applicants to the University of California at Berkeley had been penalized by the presence of the university's long dedication to Affirmative Action. (Rosin: 1995)

Affirmative Action has been a stopgap solution in terms of creating social diversity but cannot replace a thorough attempt at public education and encouraging mixing across racial and class lines that is needed in order to remove perhaps generations of ignorant, divisive thinking. A needed 'spiritual' approach is described in Nathan Rutstein's essay, "A Prescription for the Disease", in Healing Racism in America. (1993) Rutstein prescribes a grassroots movement for America that will involve daily efforts on the part of every citizen to serve in ways the remove barriers between groups, at large, promote inclusion as opposed to exclusion, and generally, break down walls between citizens and groups that have created once severe divisions and distinctions.

When examined, positively, Affirmative Action remains a stopgap approach to ethnic or other inequality. It cannot, by any means, directly address the problems of racism or discrimination, or for that matter those of gender stereotypes and exclusion, or attitudes to affect disabled persons, or those from impoverished backgrounds. It does not promote open-mindedness or fairness as it is essentially, making distinctions according to the description of a person, not according to the person's ability or moral character. Ideally, matters such as race or gender or origins should have no place in selection or hiring practices. The only way to correct what Affirmative Action endeavours to fight, again, lies in grassroots activism and education of kinds that can expand accurate understanding of the different social and economic realities



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