Arguments for and Against Affirmative Action

Affirmative action: Pros and cons

Simply defined, affirmative action refers to the act of giving preference to the marginalized groups when admitting students to colleges, and employment opportunities (Martindale, 2010). For many ages, some groups have been marginalized and discriminated against based on gender and race among other factors. This has led to a lot of controversies in the recent past. Besides, discrimination has led to a lot of conflicts in various organizations and societies. Segregation in society has been evident since time immemorial. Traditional societal structures and beliefs played enormous roles in propagating discriminatory practices.

However, in the late 20th century, significant steps were made in the war against discrimination. The significant milestone was the imposition of civil rights that virtually granted everybody equal rights. However, even after the declaration of civil rights some institutions still discriminated. In particular, some schools did not admit students from different races in equal numbers. There was the need to include the marginalized groups of people in professions initially considered being for the white. This led to the introduction of affirmative action. Affirmative action is an ethical issue as it relates to issues of fairness in society. Affirmative measures aim at ensuring fairness in society. Various arguments attempt to support the use of affirmative action in achieving equity. Other arguments also strongly oppose the use of affirmative action.

Affirmative action can substantially lead to the realization of equity in society (Taylor, 1991). Various arguments tend to support the use of affirmative action. To the proponents, affirmative action leads to diversity in the places of work and social institutions (Rushefsky, 2007). This can be extremely vital to schools and organizations. Organizations can benefit a lot from diversity since there will be a rich pool of varied talents. Institutions of learning can also benefit from diversity. Students do not learn through reading textbooks alone. Instead, environment and interactions also contribute to learning. The richer and diverse the learning environment is, the better it is for learning purposes. Affirmative action in schools and colleges is, therefore, pertinent in increasing students’ learning. Secondly, proponents of affirmative action argue that students from disadvantaged groups require exceptional treatment above the less disadvantaged students. In most cases, children from disadvantaged backgrounds may lack basic requirements for effective learning. Unusually treating them may be justified. On the same note, affirmative action is beneficial because it ensures that there is equal representation of all ethnic groups in schools and colleges. It enables children from disadvantaged backgrounds to get access to education. This might in turn lead to balanced regional development. Affirmative action also serves as a compensatory means for the minority groups which underwent a lot of oppression in the past. Most of the marginalized groups, for instance, the blacks underwent a lot of oppression through slavery and forced labor. According to the proponents of affirmative action, giving the minorities preferential treatment to compensate for the years of oppression, may be justified.

Affirmative Action. Racial Question

Affirmative action has also been strongly opposed by many. Those opposed to affirmative action give various arguments to support their stand. Many have argued that recruiting students based on color is not justified. Admissions should be done reasonably without any special consideration. Admissions should exclusively be based on merit. An organization may miss out on employing a competent and highly qualified white in preference to a less qualified black when recruiting. Currently, there have been many positives in the fight against racial and gender discrimination in societies. As a result, racial discrimination is no longer a problem. Admissions should, therefore, be based on grade tests and students’ abilities. Those in support of affirmative action claim that it brings much-needed diversity in education. In contrast, those opposing the use of affirmative action argue that affirmative action has failed to create true variation in education. To them, what is vital is opinion diversity, and not racial diversity.

These people believe that affirmative action only brings about racial diversity in institutions. Racial diversity is not an essential aspect of the academic field. To Sacks and Thiel, if diversity is to be considered in education, then preference should be given to those students exhibiting “unusual characteristics” (1996). Preference should not be based on gender or color differences. Supporters of affirmative action believe that it can solve the problem of racial and gender discrimination. However, those who oppose affirmative action believe that instead of solving racism, it has reversed it (Tucker, 2000). Affirmative action is unfair and discriminatory to the whites. Discrimination is unethical and should be wiped out in society. Giving preference to the black students will only reverse the direction of discrimination, and not solve it. Preferential treatment to blacks will be discrimination against the whites. Those opposed to affirmative action argued that it perpetuated discrimination in society (Rushefsky, 2007).

A lot of shreds of evidence support the reasons for and against the application of affirmative action. Supporters of affirmative action point to the well-known slavery and oppression that the minority groups suffered. Those against affirmative action claim that applying affirmative action is a direct violation of the constitutional law. After the imposition of the civil rights law, some people still violated it. The continued discrimination led to the introduction of affirmative action. The main aim of affirmative action was to ensure that the minorities get access to opportunities just like the whites. Later on, the 14th amendment of civil rights was to put an end to the preferential treatment of minority groups. The amendment states that nobody should be given any exceptional treatment based on color. Initially, colleges based their admissions on racial quotas. This was also abolished, and the colleges were to start admitting students based on merit alone. Those opposed to affirmative action do not, therefore, see any need for further preferential treatment of the minority groups. The highly referred to a case by those against affirmative action was that of Allan Bakke. Bakke, a white student who had outstanding grades and justly deserved a place in the medical school of California failed to secure a place in the school. This was because the college reserved some chances for the minorities. When Bakke sued the college, the court ruled in his favor.


To use affirmative action or not is still largely debatable. However, from the above discussion, the arguments against affirmative action seem to bear more weight. With several laws in place to curb discrimination in the present world, there is no need for preferential treatment of any group of persons. Any attempt to treat the minority groups peculiarly only reverses the existing discrimination (Tucker, 2000). Appropriate structures should be put to wipe out racial discrimination in the schools instead of using affirmative action. Colleges should admit learners based on merit and not on gender or race.


Martindale, G. (2010). Arguments For and Against Affirmative Action. Web.

Rushefsky, M. E. (2007). Public Policy in the United States: At the Dawn of the Twenty- first Century. New York: M.E Sharpe.

Sacks, D., & Thiel, P. (1996). The Case Against Affirmative Action. Web.

Taylor, R. (1991). Affirmative action at work: law, politics and ethics. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburgh.

Tucker, R. B. (2000). Affirmative action, the Supreme court and political power in the old confederacy. New York: University Press of America.

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