Importance of Affirmative Action Term Paper

Pages: 56 (15529 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

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America considers herself the land of the free, home of the brave, and while the second component to this maxim is rarely challenged, the first has come under fire throughout all of the nation's history, particularly in the last 40 years.

After all, America is a nation of stark contrasts: On one hand, it is truly the only nation in the world in which a minority can literally immigrate one day, and be well on the way to a successful career and job the next, without the shackles of prejudice and discrimination.

However, this experience is not shared by all immigrants, and it is certainly not shared by the largest indigenous minority in the United States: African-Americans. Together with Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans represent a disproportionately large percentage of the poor, the unemployed, the underemployed, those stuck in menial / dead-end jobs, those without health insurance and those least capable of adjusting to our modern-day high-technology, service-oriented economy.

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Given America's history of slavery, and then the Jim Crow laws, followed by legal and overt discrimination and then illegal and subtle discrimination, it is no surprise that minority groups - especially African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans - have clamored for measures to right these wrongs over time in both the workplace and in the ivory towers of higher education.

The most controversial of these measures are affirmative action initiatives. Affirmative action is a broad procedure by which universities, graduate programs and employers use relaxed standards to admit certain minority groups, with the understanding that increased diversity improves the productivity, environment and experience for all the employees or students.

Term Paper on Importance of Affirmative Action Assignment

Of late, these practices have come under fire. After all, the comparisons are made constantly to arenas in which affirmative action does not exist. For instance, in professional sports: "Perhaps the most convincing example of how the most-qualified participants emerge successfully is illustrated in professional sports in the United States. How often have you heard of racial under-representation in professional athletics? (for instance, have you ever heard complaints of the lack of Asians in the National Basketball Association?) Athletes are based on their performances, not on personal characteristics that they have no control over such as their race and sex (well, almost no control over that). True, sports are much more objective to evaluate than a person's abilities to function maximally in a particular work environment, but it is relatively easy to know which competitors are among the top of their field, whether by watching them, or looking at their lucrative contract offers and accumulated earnings." (Chung, 1)

Chung's point - and many other critics of affirmative action concur - is that complete equality is an unachievable - and indeed undesirable - ideal, and although minority groups pursuing such goals are motivated by good intentions, "discrimination will persist if such groups continue to seek after and demand equality on the level of job acceptances and college (and post-baccalaureate) acceptances." (ibid) Rather, these critics suggests, equality should be sought at a more impressionable age, namely, childhood: for instance, in health care measures to give better prenatal and postnatal care to minority and traditionally underprivileged families). (ibid)

Regardless of the critics' points, however, affirmative action has had, and will continue to have, a huge impact on our society in America. However, moving forward, a clear path must be set for the affirmative action initiatives, both in the workplace and in university settings: The question for us is whether to (1) dismantle affirmative action entirely, (2) maintain the initiatives in their current form, (3) maintain the initiatives in their current form but for a finite period of time, or (4) modify the initiatives significantly.

The solution must take into account legal, moral, ethical, socio-economic, political, practical and accounting implications, and must be, overall, compassionate as opposed to callous.

Purpose of the Study

This study will examine the limitations that face affirmative action today: What are the legal, socio-economic, political, practical, moral, ethical and accounting implications, and what is a feasible solution for one of the dilemmas that most tests us as "Americans." Which implications and factors outweigh the others, and which act as yardsticks to guide us to finding this solution?

The study will focus not so much on the theory behind affirmative action, but the legality of the measures and the practical implementations.

Importance of the Study

The importance of this study simply cannot be underestimated. Affirmative action defines more than just a policy, or a set of soundbites for policy makers. Rather, it represents the future of our country, and also defines the fabric from which our country is fashioned. How does America right the wrongs of its past? What exactly is meant by "every man is created equal?" Where on the spectrum of eastern and western political philosophers does America stand? And of course, more critically, how do we implement the chosen - and presumably best, or correct - measures from a human resources perspective, both in the academic environment and in the workplace?

These are truly questions that will define America and what it stands for years to come.

Scope of the Study

The sources for this study will be primarily current opinion and research pieces from reputable publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and respected university and Web sources. Also, the study will incorporate case law opinions, and lean heavily on the scholarly research in law review articles published recently. Data will be derived from these sources as well; as mentioned above, the study will generally steer away from older, more stagnant texts in favor of newer, more volatile texts, with the understanding that affirmative action is a much-changing spectrum of human resources work in today's environment.

Rationale of the Study

The question - where to go with affirmative action today and in the future - was developed through a close examination of current newspapers, periodicals and by speaking to industry leaders and professors of human resources, law and business administration. It was also reached after a review of the controversy surrounding the University of Michigan decisions regarding undergraduate and law school admissions.

Definition of Terms

Cases detailed in bibliography

Overview of the Study

The study concludes that affirmative action is an integral facet and indeed feature of society in America, and the American population leans on affirmative action not to create a false "equality" despite ability, but to take a giant step forward in righting wrongs committed in the nation's past. The study acknowledges that affirmative action is not perfect, nor will it eventually result in an ideal equality, nor does it even anticipate an ideal equality; rather, affirmative action is yet another necessary "evil" to compensate for a greater evil.

The study maintains that affirmative action is necessary moving forward, but should be put on the clock: Affirmative action is not a feature of society that should and will endure for eternity. At some discernable point in the future, this artificial system of admission and acceptance will no longer be necessary to bridge the immense gap between African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans and the remainder of the American population.

Primarily, this study supports findings that affirmative action must be given time to act and to take effect. America is a notoriously impatient society: Americans want their fast food and short stories and half-hour sitcoms now without any patience for novels, longer movies or gourmet meals. In the same vein, America has no patience for policy decisions that do not immediately produce results, results that are undeniably positive, and only positive.

This "do-it-now" philosophy finds its roots also in the fact that congressmen and congresswomen in America are elected so frequently; they are under pressure to show results immediately, or they are shown the unceremonious door. This impatience also manifests itself in companies' quarterly reports, as opposed to yearly reports. A company with an affirmative action policy is forced to show results every quarter to its shareholders, and not yearly, so poor results may mean a quick axe for the affirmative action policy.

Professor Derity at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill agrees, and posits the case in India: "The case of India is instructive here. Soon after the nation became independent, the government adopted a national system of preferences for members of the untouchable Hindu castes and certain tribal groups, to erode disparities that the caste system had produced. In the state of Kerala, the Ezhava caste, once a despised group, has displayed substantial upward mobility in recent years, to the point at which some younger members of the caste question whether they still need the preferences. But there is more to the story. The system of preferences has been in place at the national level since 1950, but Kerala, a politically progressive state, had initiated the preferences on behalf of the lower castes half a century earlier. Thus, the Ezhava have benefited from preferences for close to 100 years, or about four generations. Affirmative action in the United States, conducted on… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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