Essay about Affirmative Action

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Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is a blanket term that refers to “the set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin,” (Sykes). Before the Civil Rights Acts of 1965 and the 1954 Scott v. Topeka decision, there were “unwritten laws and protection for white men” against competition from women and ethnic minorities in prestigious professions, creating blatant inequality (Alsbrook). Affirmative action policies designed in part to counteract such “unwritten laws” were first employed in 1965 to provide equal opportunity among federal contractors; now however, they are used widely in many industries, both public and private (Kahn). In the
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For example, according to a Department of Labor study, an estimated five million non-white workers and six million women are in higher occupational classifications today than they would have been without the affirmative action policies of the 1960's and 1970's (Americans 3).

Turning to the realm of education, some opponents of affirmative action claim that its policies actually backfire, and that it harms the very groups it is intended to help. For example, Shelby Steele, a researcher who specializes in racial studies at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, claims that blacks “stand to lose more from [affirmative action] than they gain,” (Steele 113). Steele argues that affirmative action in higher education precludes the success of racial minorities to “achieve proportionate representation on their own” because, as presently implemented, it confuses representation with development (115). He also claims that affirmative action leads to black self-doubt because it often calls for less prepared black students to compete directly with well-prepped whites (116).

However, affirmative action proponent Ronald Dworkin utilizes evidence amassed from William Bowen and Derek Bok’s research on affirmative action in higher education to undermine both of Steele’s central arguments. Bowen and Bok’s study concluded that blacks do in fact applaud affirmative action because it has had positive effects on their educational experience and

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