Monday, November 28, 2005


Original Chimes Article Here

Affirmative action policies needed

[ see also Reverse discrimination not the cure ]

It is no secret that women and minorities in America have never truly been granted the same rights and opportunities as white males. Issues of race and gender inequality continue to be a dark underbelly to the idealistic egalitarianism of the American dream and the constitution itself. The civil rights activism of the 1950s and ’60s was the first widespread outburst of this underlying ferment, and through it hard-fought reforms have gradually been enacted. The fact remains that changes to this effect have not gone far enough. Anyone who claims that race and gender inequalities no longer exist in America is blind to the facts, and grounds him or herself in ignorance. Unconvinced? The Census Bureau reports that on average women earn only 73 percent of the wages earned by men. The average 25-year-old working woman will lose $523,000 to unequal pay in her life. Audit studies show that interviewers and employers are less likely to offer jobs to women and minorities with similar resumes than to white males. Blacks still have twice the unemployment rate, half the median family income and half the numbers attending institutes of higher learning as whites. In 1999 alone the federal government received over 90,000 complaints of employment discrimination. All these facts are glaring indicators of inequality, and there are countless more studies enforcing this allegation.

Affirmative action is a legitimate and beneficial means of pursuing racial and gender equality in the United States. “Affirmative action” refers to a general commitment on societal and governmental (therefore legislative) levels towards the furtherance of a society free of institutional inequality. The generality of this definition leaves room for plenty of ambiguity and equivocation in the process of applying affirmative action to actual employment situations. The non-absolute nature of this issue makes any solid consensus or set policy virtually impossible. Affirmative action should instead be implemented as an underlying theme in the corporate, consumer, political, and academic worlds. It is an overall commitment to overt and definite actions in all situations that best attempt to forward the goals of equality. This means promoting diversity in the workplace by selecting equally qualified minorities or women to fill positions traditionally held by white males. In some instances a slight inequality in qualifications are acceptable to hire minorities or women, based on the understanding that these inequalities often arise from lack of opportunities in education and social conditioning in the first place.

There are several fallacies presented in opposition to affirmative action that deserve an amount of consideration:

Fallacy #1: Affirmative action is simply another form of discrimination and two wrongs don’t make a right.

Referring to the advantages proposed by the affirmative action programs as discriminatory is equating them with the prejudice and exclusion already present. While existing discriminatory policies effectively impose inequalities, the “discrimination” of affirmative action seeks to promote equality. “The most effective way to cure society of exclusionary practices is to make special efforts at inclusion, which is exactly what affirmative action does” (

Fallacy #2: Affirmative action promotes incompetence and under-qualification over capability.

This is not the case. According to the Bureau of National Affairs, federal regulation programs strictly forbid acceptance of unqualified employees on the basis of gender or race. The vast majority of affirmative action cases occur when women and minorities are selected over equally qualified or comparable candidates (i.e. an SAT score of 1210 is relatively the same as one of 1230). In addition to this, studies have determined that slightly under-qualified individuals entering an institute of higher learning are equally qualified upon the completion of their program.

Fallacy #3: Affirmative action gives advantages to women and minorities.

To claim that any policy is granting already disadvantaged individuals an unfair advantage is to ignore the facts. Statistics demonstrate the inequalities imposed upon women and minorities in America. Any attempt to deny this claim is naïve in light of statistical realities, as is the allegation that affirmative action will result in reversed inequalities. Federal law prohibits gender or minority-based advancement over more qualified individuals. Because of this, any advantages these groups can legally be given in terms of preference, etc. will only serve to help level the playing field.

Fallacy #4: Affirmative action programs are just quota systems that ensure minimum numbers of women and minorities admittance or employment.

Such programs are illegal if numerical goals for hiring of women and minorities bear no reasonable relation to the availability of qualified candidates, which would lead to the under-qualified individuals being given token positions in order to fill the “quota.” Numerical goals must be set with a reasonable degree of flexibility and placed in a predetermined length of time.

In summary, affirmative action programs are desirable and beneficial to society as a whole. They promote egalitarianism, perhaps the single most celebrated and valued facet of Americanism. Although much has been accomplished in the interest of equality for all, there is still much to be done.

Editor's Note: 
This article was co-written with Bork and Buma.  My memory is a little bit foggy after all this years, but as far as I can remember, I think my contribution on this article was just to do the research, and Bork and Buma did the actual writing.

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