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Affirmative Action: A Cost Benefit Analysis

1794 words - 7 pages

Affirmative action, an idea which began in the 1930s but truly kicked off in the 1960s, consists of a wide variety of programs meant to help level the playing field in both universities and the workplace by making race and gender a consideration in the selection process. While supporters believe affirmative action must stay an active policy so that the United States can continue to strive for proportional equality in higher level jobs and education, opponents argue positions should be awarded on an individual basis based on merit alone. Although affirmative action policies have done impressive work creating these opportunities, it is now time to question if, after 40 years, this method is working and should be continued, if the current policies are no longer effective and the negative costs now outweigh the possible benefits and a new approach should be put into place.
Affirmative action is a label for a large range of programs, but all of these methods began for one reason: as a way to fight racism. There were voluntary efforts and mandatory laws enacted in order to accomplish this feat (Wu par 6). It was begun under President Johnson with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was followed by his Executive Order 11246, both of which emphasized the fair treatment and employment of minorities. Two years later, women were added to the list. Today affirmative action benefits women, racial and ethnic groups, and the physically, mentally or emotionally disabled to the detriment of white males (“affirmative action” par 1). Due to affirmative action’s efforts, doors have been opened allowing for the equalizing of opportunity in the United States, seen in the types of people working in places such as police and fire departments, as well as in industrial employment (Mink et al. par 12). Effects have also been noticed in universities, corporations with federal contracts, and the local and state governmental agencies (Sitkoff par 2).
Affirmative action supporters believe that affirmative action is necessary and a positive attribute in American society. Supporters believe it is important to continue because despite the noticeable progress, prejudices based on race are still an issue (Wu par 10). At this point, much of it is subconscious, since there is a natural tendency to choose the candidate that looks similar while rejecting the one that appears different, rather than blatant intolerance, but this unconscious tendency is just as dangerous since it is easier to deny and harder to catch and correct (Wu par 15, 16). President Obama is among the supporters of continued affirmative action; he stated in his Democratic Platform for the 2008 election that he would continue to work toward achieving affirmative action’s goals, ensuring everyone has equal opportunities, especially in the fields of federal contracting and higher education ("Democratic Party Platform (2008)." par 313). One reason affirmative action was started was because there were...

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