The Failure of Affirmative Action

July 4, 2013
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Affirmative Action perpetuates societal inequalities by causing reverse discrimination and negatively effecting poor groups in the United States. Such programs assume that belonging to a racial minority and disadvantage in the workplace go hand in hand, ignoring cultural trends that suggest otherwise. In fact, the result has been the genesis of new unfairly treated groups who lose spots in universities and professional fields for which they are qualified in order to admit minority students and applicants. The underlying assumption behind Affirmative Action is that race-conscious hiring practices will provide minorities with better employment opportunities, thus making the academic and business worlds more equal and diverse and quashing disadvantage. However, the racial quotas that institutions with Affirmative Action policy usually utilize do not fairly assess disadvantage and promote equality. For example, a Human Resource Department for an organization with Affirmative Action-oriented racial quotas will not actually be contributing to the rectification of societal disadvantage if an upper-class African American applicant will be given preferential treatment in hiring to a similarly qualified or more highly qualified white American from a poorer socio-economic background on the basis of race. Thus, even minorities with economic or social advantages are automatically and irrationally considered to be disadvantaged and thus in need of preferential admission or employment opportunities. The Washington Monthly reports that “black affirmative action beneficiaries are often wealthy.” In the process of maximizing the advantages and opportunities of upper-class minorities, little is being done to provide lower-class minorities and lower-class non-minorities with better educational and employment opportunities. Therefore, a Human Resource Department that wishes to increase an organization’s diversity and makeup to reflect modern America will publicize hiring and admission opportunities to a wide array of social and economic groups while leaving largely arbitrary characteristics such as race, gender and age out of such processes. The reality of Affirmative Action is that inevitably causes reverse discrimination. The Center for Equal Opportunity in Washington, D.C. found that it is ubiquitous in undergraduate admissions across the nation. For example, the University of Wisconsin’s median scores for accepted African American and Hispanic American applicants were 150 points and 100 points lower, respectively, than that of accepted White and Asian American applicants. In a study of law school admission practices, the Center for Equal opportunity discovered that an out-of-state black applicant with grades and LSAT scores at the median for that group would have had a seven out of 10 chance of admission, an out-of-state Hispanic a one out of three chance, and an in-state white had only a one out of ten chance. Rather than letting test scores speak for themselves, highly qualified and overqualified have been denied futures to make Affirmative Action a reality. Such policies are enforced at the expense of non-minorities and an institution or company’s own self-interest. The inevitable outcome of Affirmative Action programs is that better-qualified non-minority applicants (or male applicants) must be denied jobs to give spots to less-qualified applicants belonging to groups that receive preferential treatment based on race, gender or other characteristics. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education found radical disparities between the SAT scores of white and African American students. The average score of a white student exceeds that of a black student by more than two-hundred points. Since African Americans are scoring disproportionately low, the acceptable score for admitting a black applicant will have to be lowered in order to make African Americans be proportionately represented in the accepted pool of applicants. Thus, non-minority higher-qualified applicants will often be denied admission to universities with Affirmative Action programs that aim to rectify historical inequalities for which they are not responsible. The same applies to gender-based Affirmative Action, which may require the exclusion of a better-qualified male to hire or admit a female. Aside from giving unfair treatment to non-preferred groups, Affirmative Action hurts organizations by requiring them to betray their own self-interests in the pursuit of a greater societal goal that such programs have failed to achieve. If an organization is required to hire or admit a less-qualified applicant who will be a less valuable asset to them than a more-qualified applicant who would be a more valuable asset in the name of racial diversity, it is violating its own self-interest by accepting applicants that will be less likely to yield positive results. Proponents of Affirmative Action note that the academic and professional fields in the United States have historical legacies of promoting a system of privilege by prioritizing the arbitrary characteristics of being male and white over merit and qualification, which ought to actually matter. However, Affirmative Action has duplicated this culture of non-commitment to meritocracy by encouraging the consideration of arbitrary, non-voluntary characteristics (race, gender etc.) in the hiring process, thus creating new privileged classes. In other words, using lower test cutoff scores for minorities, setting quotas and hiring goals for minorities, and making minority racial status a preferred “asset” in admissions and hiring processes all prioritize arbitrary characteristics over merit. Affirmative Action ironically gives preference to minorities in the hopes that doing so will break a culture of preference and privilege for non-minorities. Consider the University of Michigan’s admission practices as evaluated by Pepperdine University Economics Professor Steven Yates. Being black counts twenty points towards admission, whereas a perfect SAT score counts only as twelve points. This is a prime example of an educational institution sacrificing its commitment to academic excellence and qualification in order to implement AA. Similar Affirmative Action programs in the workplace require that businesses suspend their commitment to the pursuit of profit by taking characteristics of applicants (such as gender or race) into account that do not speak to their qualification, merit or likelihood of actual success in the field. The illegal status of discriminatory practices against minorities as well as non-minorities in combination with race and gender-blind hiring and admissions practices that give no consideration to non-voluntary characteristics is the only way to ensure true fairness and to prevent reverse discrimination and the creation of new privileged groups in the workplace and university setting.

Contrary to public belief, the intended beneficiaries of Affirmative Action are done more harm than good by AA programs. Firstly, they end up suffering rather than excelling in the competitive worlds of the university and workplace. According to a study by Will Offensicht, one fourth of African Americans failed out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at a rate much higher than that of non-black students.Rather than attending schools to which they were qualified to attend, where they could have graduated with honors, a degree and confidence, they flunked out of an institution to which they under-qualified but accepted to because of Affirmative Action. It is inevitable that similar trends will be mirrored in the workplace. “A Systematic Analysis of Affirmative Action in Law Schools” claim that a disproportionate amount of black law students that “benefit” from Affirmative Action by gaining admission into top schools do not pass the bar or ever practice law. Thus, empirical evidence clearly shows that Affirmative Actions often set up preferred minority applicants to fail. Furthermore, Affirmative Action programs have created new racist attitudes in society that harm minorities, the intended beneficiaries, in the workplace and public sphere. The Stanford researcher Thomas Sowell writes that “today many Americans will refuse to visit a black physician or dentist because of their assumption that he or she was admitted both to medical school and to the position held through ‘special preferences’, set-aside quotas, and relaxed standards. The same is true for many other professionals and for other beneficiaries of affirmative action.” Therefore, minority professionals that are wholly qualified will oftentimes be discredited by the public and coworkers, who assume that a majority of minority professionals are not as qualified as white-professionals because of Affirmative Action policies in hiring and admission policies. Thus, a Human Resource Department that employs Affirmative Action practices is unintentionally perpetuating a system that reinforces poor race relations, stereotyping, and negative attitudes towards non-white workers, students and professionals. Ultimately, they are contributing to popular discrimination rather than working to rectify it. Furthermore, although the proportion of minority professionals in the workplace has obviously increased since the first implementation of Affirmative Action programs in 1961, the economic status of minorities as a whole remains poor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of February 2013, 13.8% of African Americans are unemployed, as opposed to 6.8% of whites. According to a Pew Research Center report titled “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics Twenty-to-one” found that the median wealth of white households is twenty times that of black households and eighteen times that of Hispanic households. These historically record-high racial gaps suggest that Affirmative Action has been a five-decade-long experiment that has simply failed to rectify the inequality that so many African Americans face. This evidence shows that deeply entrenched trends of racial and economic disadvantage have not been and cannot be reversed through the race-conscious hiring and admissions practices that all too often end up causing more harm than good. Moreover, Affirmative Action preferred minorities such as African-Americans are not the only minorities to suffer from the negative consequences of AA programs. Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade found that certain minorities are being discriminated against in favor of other minorities. He writes in his book, “No Longer Seperate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life” that “to receive equal consideration by elite colleges, Asian Americans must outperform white Americans by 140 points, Hispanics by 280 points, African Americans by 450 points in SAT (Total 1600).” Such policies bear an uncanny resemblance to Harvard’s 1925 quota of Jewish students which sought to limited the number of applicants from the “privileged” Jewish minority. In order to keep the proportion of racial groups with high rates of academic and professional excellence down in proportion with the ethnic makeup of the United States, less weight is given to the accomplishments and qualifications of applicants belonging to over-achieving minority groups and more weight is given to the accomplishments and qualifications of applicants belonging to under-achieving minority groups. This is another example of blatant disregard for an organization’s rational commitment to merit-based hiring and admission practices.

Evidence also suggests that the time to end gender-oriented Affirmative Action programs designed to provide women with equal rights has arrived. Taylor Bloom quotes the executive director of the Women’s College Coalition Susan E. Lennor as saying that “women have outnumbered and outperformed men on co educational campuses for more than two decades.” Social advancement has elevated women to a level in the educational and economic spheres that is on par with males. Thus, judgement on merit alone will naturally continue this upward trend for females without violating the right of American males to equal opportunity. Thus, the empirical verdict is in: It is time to disband race and gender-based Affirmative Actions in schools and the workplace. This move can only benefit all interested parties.

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

LW98 said...
Jul. 15, 2013 at 11:55 am
Have you even met any rich minorities? I sure haven't. And I'm Black, by the way.
Site Feedback