Affirmative action, a policy crucial in promoting diversity and equal opportunities, addresses systemic barriers by ensuring fair access to education, employment, and other vital aspects of life. By actively considering race, gender, and other factors, it levels the playing field for underrepresented groups of people in the U.S. However, the recent ruling against affirmative action has raised significant concerns about its future. The ruling, which specifically challenged the consideration of race in college admissions, jeopardizes affirmative action as a whole creating uncertainty about whether this decision could lead to affirmative action being completely removed. Eliminating affirmative action would undo the progress made in building a diverse and fair society for all.
The Evolution of Affirmative Action
Originating from the civil rights movement in the 1960s, affirmative action emerged as a powerful response to address the deeply rooted discrimination faced by minority communities. It sought to create opportunities for those who had long been excluded from equal access to education and employment.
In June 1965, during his address at Howard University, President Johnson expressed the principles of affirmative action, stating, “You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair… This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity––not legal equity but human ability––not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” President Johnson’s words acted as a catalyst, inspiring the ongoing development and adaptation of affirmative action as a policy designed to address deeply rooted inequalities and promote a more inclusive society.
In its early years, affirmative action focused on changing the unfair access to education and employment faced by racial and ethnic minorities, as well as women. Over time, as societal awareness of other forms of discrimination grew, affirmative action expanded its scope to include other underrepresented groups, such as LGBTQIA+ individuals and individuals with disabilities. This broader approach aimed to tackle different forms of unfairness and build a more complete system for encouraging diversity and inclusion.
Despite the positive progress made by affirmative action in breaking down barriers and promoting inclusivity, it has not been immune to criticism and legal challenges. Over time, the debates surrounding affirmative action have become more complex and nuanced, leading people to question issues of representation and fairness for all.
Affirmative Action Today
In the present day, affirmative action continues to be a vital tool in protecting minorities from exclusion and discrimination. Inclusive policies help create a more diverse society by ensuring equal access to education, work opportunities, and representation in leadership. Supporting fair admissions policies helps continue to show that talent, ability, and potential are not secluded to a particular race, gender, or background.
Numerous studies, including one done by Harvard Graduate School of Education, have shown the positive impact of affirmative action. By promoting higher diversity in learning environments, affirmative action not only enhances the educational experience, but also promotes critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills. This connection between affirmative action and higher diversity contributes to a more enriched and inclusive learning environment. Furthermore, companies with diverse workforces have been found to be more innovative and better equipped to understand and cater to various customer needs.
Additionally, businesses that embrace affirmative action and prioritize diversity have been found to outperform their competitors. A McKinsey & Company report discovered that companies with diverse workforces are 35% more likely to financially outperform those with less diverse teams. Another study done by the Boston Consulting Group found that diverse companies are better at innovating and creating new products and services, leading to a 19% higher revenue rate compared to less diverse companies.
The numbers from those studies highlight the importance of affirmative action in creating diversity and inclusivity in schools and workplaces, positively impacting both individuals from all backgrounds and society as a whole. When we have a diverse environment, society functions in an equilibrium allowing everyone to prosper and thrive.
What You Can Do
While the recent ruling against affirmative action poses challenges, we can all play a role in protecting and upholding equal opportunities. Here are some actionable steps you can take:
Educate yourself: Dive deeper into the history and impact of affirmative action. Understand the arguments both in support of and against it, empowering yourself to engage in informed discussions.
Spread awareness: Share the importance of affirmative action with your friends, family, and colleagues. Engage in conversations to promote understanding and eliminate misconceptions.
Contact elected officials: Reach out to your local politicians and representatives to express your support for fair admissions policies and affirmative action. Every phone call and email makes a difference. Find the contact information for your elected officials on the USA.gov website to make your voice heard.
It is through education, awareness, and collective action that we can protect and advance these fundamental principles. By standing together, we can ensure a future where equal opportunities are embraced, diversity is celebrated, and our society truly thrives.
To learn more about affirmative action, check out these books:
The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok – This book presents a comprehensive study on the effects of affirmative action policies in college admissions and their impact on students’ lives and society.
Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study by Thomas Sowell – This book offers a comparative analysis of affirmative action policies in different countries, providing a broader perspective on the issue.
For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law by Randall Kennedy – This book explores the complexities and controversies surrounding affirmative action and the role of law in addressing racial discrimination.