Affirmative Action: Why We Need Essay

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18-9). Since then affirmative action has been intensely debated in other Court decisions, by government officials, media commentators, and ordinary people, each group insisting on the righteousness of their positions.

According to Rosenfeld (1991), the intensity of the debate stems from the fact that all participants believe that "they are engaged in an important moral debate concerning fundamental notions of justice and equality" and both foes and advocates of affirmative action "loudly proclaim their allegiance to the ideal of equality" (p. 2). Foes of affirmative action argue that all members of the society, including white males, should be treated equally. They argue that preferential treatment of minorities and women is as unjust as the preferential treatment of white males. Advocates of affirmative action counter this by arguing that "equal treatment may be used to perpetuate existing inequalities and that whereas the preferential treatment of white males would exacerbate such inequalities, favoring racial minorities and women would contribute to the elimination of race- and gender-based inequalities" (p. 3). While pursuing these aspirations, parties are locked in what Pruitt and Rubin (2003) call a "stalemate." It is important therefore to point out strengths and weaknesses of each position and call the parties for yielding so that a problem solving alternative can be offered.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Affirmative Action: Why We Need Assignment

Affirmative action can obviously be defended on moral and constitutional grounds. It is morally right to grant all members of the society equal opportunity in the workplace and educational institutions. Centuries of discrimination relegated minority groups and women to a lower social status in the society and it is understandable that affirmative action programs are pursued to decrease and eventually eliminate social inequality. It is also constitutionally justifiable because the Constitution as it is understood today is premised on the same moral stance. And the consequences of past discrimination are still easily observable. Nearly half of all black children in the United States remain under the poverty line. Black unemployment is twice higher than White unemployment, and the median net worth of black families is ten times less than that of white families. In many black communities, infant mortality is twice as high as it is in white communities. Life expectancy for a black male living in the Harlem neighborhood of the New York City is less than it is for an average resident of Bangladesh. And according to United Nations study, "white Americans, when considered as a separate nation, rank first in the world in well-being (a measure that combines life expectancy, educational achievements, and income). African-Americans rank twenty-seventh, and Hispanic-Americans even lower at thirty-second" (Sterba, 2009, p. 7).

Yet there is ample evidence showing that racial minorities are still discriminated against, despite the existence of affirmative action programs. Here is a partial list of many discriminatory policies that are still in place:

According to a study done at the University of Colorado at Boulder, blacks seeking business loans were two to three times more likely to be rejected than whites, and blacks were twelve times more likely to be rejected than whites at the highest levels of assets and collateral.

In a study by the Urban Institute equally qualified, identically dressed, white and African-American applicants for jobs were used to test for bias in the job market for newspaper-advertised positions. White and African-Americans were matched identically for age, work experience, speech patterns, personal characteristics, and physical build. The study found repeated discrimination against African-American male applicants. The White men received three times as many job offers as equally qualified African-Americans who interviewed for the same positions.

According to a 1998 study conducted by the Fair Housing Council in Washington, DC, minorities in the United States are discriminated against 40% of the time when they attempt to rent apartments or buy homes.

Another study revealed that African-American and Hispanic-American job applicants suffer blatant and easily identifiable discrimination one in every five times they apply for a job.

African-American men with bachelor's degrees earn as much as $15,180 less than their white counterparts. Although native-born white males make up only 41% of the U.S. population, they comprise 80% of all tenured professors, 97% of all school superintendents, and 97% of senior managerial positions in Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 service companies. African-Americans hold only 0.6%, Hispanic-Americans 0.4%, and Asian-Americans 0.3% of the senior managerial positions. . . .

In studies done in New York City and Milwaukee whites with prison records were more likely to be hired than black men without prison records.

A study of Bay area employment agencies found that white job applicants were preferred three times as often to equally matched black applicants. . . .

The bipartisan Glass Ceiling Commission found that Asian-American men earned between 83 and 90% of what white men with the same credentials earned. The figure was about 60% for Asian-American women.

In elementary and high schools, according to a national study even when blacks demonstrate equal ability with whites, they are still far less likely to be placed in advanced classes. Even when children from lower income families, who are disproportionately of color, answer correctly all the math questions on a standardized test, it turns out that they are still less likely to be placed in advanced tracks than kids from upper income families who miss one-fourth of the questions on that test. . . .

Blacks constitute about 13% of drug users in the United States but they make up 58% of those sent to prison for drug possession. In Illinois, blacks are jailed for selling or using drugs at a fifty-seven times the rate of whites (Sterba, 2009, pp. 7-9).

One can easily observe that there are similar discrepancies in terms of equality of opportunity between men and women. Women on average earn three-fourth of what men earn. While women hold seventy percent of white-collar positions, they hold only ten percent of managerial positions. So, advocates of affirmative action programs are not necessarily out of touch with the reality. Their position is reasoned, morally justifiable, and intended to help the society attain full equality.

Affirmative action that solely targets race and sex, however, is often misleading. It does not account for class differences in the society. Race- and sex-based affirmative action, for instance, may grant the same form of preferential treatment to upper-class black males that it grants to working-class black males, although the former are already more privileged than the latter. In the same way a black female from a middle- or upper-class family may receive preferential treatment by virtue of being black and female in addition to her economically privileged position in the society, whereas a black female from a working-class family may receive the same kind of treatment but be hampered by the unfortunate fact of being born in a poor family (which is beyond her control). The only groups of people who are totally left out of all affirmative actions programs are poor white males. There are affirmative action programs that target all other groups, including rich white males.

There is no officially granted affirmative action that targets middle-class and upper class white males but representatives of these groups are privileged enough to have equal, and even greater, access to educational and job opportunities. In universities, for example, rich white males receive preferential treatment through various mechanisms. Consider the following data provided by Sterba (2009):

Although the median U.S. family income today is a little over $54,000 per year, but almost 90% of Harvard students come from families with greater incomes, and almost 75% of Harvard students come from families with incomes over $100,000.

Although fewer than 2% of U.S. families have incomes more than $250,000, 20% of first-year students at Northwestern University come from such families.

Of the students attending Notre Dame, Northwestern, Penn, Harvard, Princeton, Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis less than 10% come from families earning less than $40,000 a year so as to qualify for Pell grants.

At top elite colleges, only 3% come from the bottom quarter of U.S. family incomes (p. 80).

White males coming from rich families have benefited so much from the policies at higher education institutions that mechanisms used by universities to attract white students from upper-class families may be described as the "affirmative action for the rich" (Kahlenberg, 2010). According to Michael Dannenberg, the director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, "[t[here are more white students admitted to top ten universities after having benefited from a legacy preference than African-American or Latino students admitted after having benefited from affirmative action policies. In some elite institutions of higher education, there are more white legacy students than African-American and Latino students combined" (Brittain & Bloom, 2010, p. 124).

The case of Jennifer Gratz whose battle against the University of Michigan was addressed by the Supreme Court is instructive here. Gratz, the daughter of working-class parents, was an excellent student in high school, maintaining a GPA of 3.8 and engaging in various… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Affirmative Action: Why We Need.  (2011, April 7).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

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"Affirmative Action: Why We Need."  7 April 2011.  Web.  1 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Affirmative Action: Why We Need."  April 7, 2011.  Accessed December 1, 2021.