Affirmative action is the nation’s most ambitious attempt to redress its long history of racial and sexual discrimination. But these days it seems to incite, rather than ease, the nation’s internal divisions.
Born of the civil rights movement more than three decades ago, affirmative action calls for minorities and women to be given special consideration in employment, education and contracting decisions.
In its modern form, affirmative action can call for an admissions officer faced with two similarly qualified applicants to choose the minority over the white, or for a manager to recruit and hire a qualified woman instead of a man.
Affirmative action decisions are not supposed to be based on quotas or give any preference to unqualified candidates. And they are not supposed to harm anyone through “reverse discrimination.”
The Supreme Court hasn’t come to grips with this question – to what extent a school board or university or just an employer can take race and similar characteristics into account in hiring, admissions, promotion and the rest merely because it thinks such a policy will be helpful to it, and not to redress some past discrimination.
I know some people are honestly concerned about the times affirmative action doesn’t work, when it’s done in the wrong way.
And I know there are times when some employers don’t use it in the right way.
They may cut corners and treat a flexible goal as a quota. They may give opportunities to people who are unqualified instead of those who deserve it.
In so doing, they allow a different kind of discrimination. When this happens, it is also wrong. But it isn’t affirmative action, and it is not legal.
There should not be any quotas in theory or practice; no illegal discrimination of any kind, including reverse discrimination; no preference for people who are not qualified for any job or other opportunity.
Affirmative action has been good for America. We should reaffirm the principle of affirmative action and fix the practices.
It is simply wrong to play politics with the issue of affirmative action and divide our country at a time when, if we’re really going to change things, we have to be united.
Kaye Dallas is a senior public relations student from Miami She is the Copy Desk Chief for The Famuan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.