English Composition 121


Even though we all know what affirmative action is, let me give you the definition so we can hit that word count. Affirmative action is “(in the context of the allocation of resources or employment) the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against previously.” Sounds good on paper, right? However, by analyzing affirmative action through race, you will see that it is not something that should exist. The way supporters attempt to use race to help their argument for why we should have affirmative action include:

  • Affirmative action is a way to ensure that diversity is obtained and maintained in schools and in the workplace. In so doing it also helps create tolerant communities because it exposes people to a variety of cultures and ideas that are different from their own.
  • It helps disadvantaged people who come from areas of the country where there are not very many opportunities be able to advance where they otherwise could not. In other words, it gives everyone an equal playing field.
  • Affirmative action is a way to help compensate for the fact that, due to many years of oppression, some races “started late in the race.” Again, it helps level the playing field.

Again, this argument makes sense but it does leave things out. Arguing against affirmative action, we could bring up that:

  • Affirmative action is reverse discrimination. The past discrimination against certain minority groups does not justify present discrimination against non-minorities. All people are equal under the laws of the United States of America and should be treated accordingly.
  • It destroys the idea of a meritocracy and instead puts race as the dominant factor in admissions and hiring procedures. The best people for the position should be put there, regardless of race.
  • Students/workers who are put into a position through affirmative action often are not fully ready for the task. Not only is this not good for the university/company, but it is also not good for these students/workers as well because it lowers self-esteem.
  • Affirmative action reinforces stereotypes and racism because of the previous point. People given a position purely because of affirmative action often are not qualified, and the idea that all people of that race must be “stupid” is perpetuated. Also, it presupposes that all people of the same skin color are from the lower class, and therefore need help. This also reinforces stereotypes and even embeds them permanently into the system.
  • Simply having people of different races or ethnicities in the workplace/university does not necessarily mean diversity of opinion. People with the same skin color are not necessarily the same in opinion or even culture.

So let’s talk about this more specifically. Affirmative action is in a way just discrimination but towards the majority this time. It is still in a sense racism to let in a student of the minority, and they take the spot of someone who deserved it as much as they did. Additionally, race now becomes a huge factor in the admissions process, which is something that should be avoided. Race is supposed to be completely ignored when colleges are admitting students. Affirmative action also makes it seem like minority groups are maybe less capable or smart as white students, which again, is sort of racist if you say it out loud. Even the numbers fail to back up any reason to have affirmative action. “Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis.” Affirmative action seems like more of a way to get revenge on the majority for what has happened in the past, but this is not the solution to any racism.

One thought on “Critique

  1. Dhipinder Walia

    Thanks, Ramish. I believe much of this was in your second draft of your auto ethnography, so rather than talk directly to points made here, I’ll pose some questions that might further your analysis:
    1. Historically, what race has benefitted from affirmative action policies?
    2. Are there other support policies that try to help disadvantaged minorities in the same way as affirmative action?
    3. How do other countries handle disadvantaged populations?
    4. Concretely, what is the % of minority or non-white students/employees that make up a school or place of employment? How are you able to definitely prove this % is because of affirmative action and not because of qualifications?
    5. How do you respond to the claim that affirmative action isn’t about filling a quota system but about holding systems of power accountable for giving all candidates an equal opportunity.

    I’d also strongly urge you to talk in more specific terms when defending/arguing against affirmative action. Bring in #s. Bring in stats.


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