The Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action

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Affirmative action has been the topic of debate for many years. It has been controversial because it has been said to be a form of reverse discrimination. This paper will discuss the purpose behind affirmative action, as well as, its various strengths and weaknesses. Also, this paper will look at the following issues surrounding affirmative action such as the incompetency myth ( are companies hiring less qualified people?), the impact on employment (what has changed in the work place?), the impact on women (how have their lives changed?) and the impact on employment law (what documents back up affirmative action?). Lastly, a discussion of affirmative action on an international scale, and what international documents have to say about the topic. The purpose of this paper is to bring to light all the issues, and then make an educated statement of whether affirmative action is a worthwhile activity or if there is a better solution.

Affirmative action or positive discrimination can be defined as providing advantages for people of a minority group who are seen to have traditionally been discriminated against. This consists of preferential access to education, employment, health care, or social welfare. In employment, affirmative action may also be known as employment equity. Affirmative action requires that institutions increase hiring and promotion of candidates of mandated groups. (Rubenfeld, 1997, p. 429)

The purpose ofAffirmative Action is a simple one, it exists to level the playing field, so to speak, in the areas of hiring and college admissions based on characteristics that usually include race, sex, and/or ethnicity. A certain minority group or gender may be underrepresented in an arena, often employment or academia, in theory due to past or ongoing discrimination against members of the group. In such a circumstance, one school of thought maintains that unless this group is concretely helped to achieve a more substantial representation, it will have difficulty gaining the critical mass and acceptance in that role, even if overt discrimination against the group is eradicated. For this reason, more effort must be made to recruit persons from that background, train them, and lower the entrance requirements for them. (Goldman, 1976, p. 179) Proponents of affirmative action argue that affirmative action is the best way to corre...

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