Civil Rights

Arguments for and against Affirmative Action

Schools and businesses have discriminated against minorities and women for many years. This discrimination caused an unfair advantage to white males in education and employment. The federal and state governments have attempted to stop this discrimination. Many of the laws are based around affirmative action.

What's Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action is the policy of giving special consideration to minorities and women. This policy is used in an attempt to prevent discrimination and to level the playing field. It can be used in a variety of different situations. Common examples include:

  • Decisions by employers as to who to hire for a particular job
  • Decisions by colleges as to who to accept for admission
  • Decisions by governments as to who to hire for contracting work

Level of Affirmative Action

Not all special consideration to minorities and women by affirmative action is equal. Some employers and schools only give a small amount of weight to a person's race or sex. Others may give a great amount of weight.

The lowest level of affirmative action involves increasing the number of applicants for jobs or education. Recruiting efforts are made to bring in more minorities and women to apply. However, there's no special consideration when individuals are chosen by colleges or employers.

Limited preference plans are a step up from basic recruiting plans. This means that a slight preference is given to minorities and women among equal candidates. It's used as a tiebreaker when choosing between two potential students or employees.

The most aggressive plan is the use of a quota system. This means that a certain number of minorities and women are chosen regardless of qualifications. White males can lose jobs and college placement to less qualified individuals under this system.

Support for Affirmative Action

There are numerous reasons given by supporters as to why affirmative action needs to be used. Some examples include:

  • To reverse the negative effects caused by years of discrimination
  • To make sure minorities are represented at schools and in the workforce
  • To create an equal opportunity for everyone by helping those individuals with a disadvantage
  • Discrimination continues to deny opportunities to minorities and women to this day
  • Diversity creates a better learning and work environment

Most supporters claim that affirmative action is never used to force a school or employer to choose an unqualified person. It's used to help minorities and women when they're qualified. The hope is that schools and the workforce will become more diverse with qualified individuals through the use of affirmative action.

Opposition against Affirmative Action

There are just as many arguments against affirmative action as in favor of it. Some examples include:

  • Reverse discrimination shouldn't be used to fix past discrimination
  • People should be chosen based on merit and not by race or gender
  • Minorities and women from lower classes aren't helped by affirmative action, only those individuals from privileged backgrounds
  • Diversity of opinion isn't created by diversity of race or gender
  • Devalues the hard work of many minorities and women
  • Increases racial tension

Opponents claim that no group should be favored over another group based on the sex of a person or the color of his skin. It wasn't right when schools and employers favored white men in the past, and it isn't right to favor minorities and women now. They want all schools and employers to be blind to race and gender when choosing students or employees. This blind method will create the best, most qualified group of individuals.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What should I do if I believe I wasn't accepted into a college because of discrimination?
  • How can I prove I wasn't hired for a job because of reverse discrimination? Will a better resume than the person they hired prove my case?
  • Can employers use affirmative action when choosing who to promote to a management position? Can I bring a lawsuit if I was passed over for the job because of affirmative action?
Have a discrimination question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a Discrimination lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys

Talk to an attorney

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you