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Affirmative Action

"Affirmative action" refers to efforts to redress imbalances in the workplace, university, or other institution by actively seeking out candidates who have traditionally been excluded, such as members of racial minorities and women. In the past, certain Americans have been excluded from full participation in the American economy, and racial discrimination and sexual discrimination have been cited as the two primary reasons for this. Affirmative action is a way of seeking out candidates from previously excluded groups and may include preferential treatment in order to elevate minority candidates above other candidates in order to achieve some form of racial or gender balance. The goal is admirable, but the means can lead to conflict and to a system in which excellence is not the primary criterion for advancement. Critics charge that this is precisely what has happened. They also charge that affirmative action has in fact been damaging to the very minorities it has been intended to help, but this conclusion is incorrect. In fact, affirmative action has been good for minorities and has provided them with opportunities they otherwise would not have had.

Critics suggest that these policies have not helped blacks at all and have indeed impeded the development of coalitions for social programs and have inhibited black Americans through a deep sense of inferiority. This is the position of Shelby Steele, who says that affirmative action only seems to have the moral symmetry that fairness requires. He sees affirmative action as reinforcing inequality by placing white society in the position of gift-giver and black society in the subordinate position of receiver of gifts, stating that affirmative action has done more bad than good for blacks so that blacks stand to lose more than they can gain ("Affirmative action hurts minorities" 436). Steele sees affirmative action in and of itself as a program with good intentions such that the pro...

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Affirmative Action. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:21, September 24, 2020, from