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What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action is a growing argument among our society. It is multifaceted and very often defined vaguely. Some can define affirmative action as the ability to strive for equality and inclusiveness. Others might see it as a quota-based system for different minority groups. “Affirmative action was originally designed to help minorities” (Gross, 1996). Is affirmative action fair? Are minority groups on equal footing? Is gaining employment for minorities difficult? Is education easily obtained for the minority groups of people?

Affirmative action endeavors to answer all these questions, while allowing society to believe harmony exists. “Affirmative action was originally designed to help minorities, but women, especially white women, have made the greatest gains as a result of these programs” (Boston, 1996). Is affirmative action fair? In 1974, a woman named Rose was turned down for a supervisory job in favor of a male. She was told that she was the most qualified person, but the position was going to be filled by a man, because he had a family to support.

Five years before that, when Rose was about to fill an entry-level position in banking, a personnel officer outlined the woman’s pay scale, which was $25 to $50 a month less than what men were being paid in the same position. Rose was furious because she felt this was discriminating to her. She confronted the personnel officer and he saw nothing wrong with it. In 1977, a woman working for a company as a clerk was informed that she should be at home raising a family. She allowed the comments to persist until she was given two weeks notice that her position was no longer available.

Upon leaving the position she learned the company had given the clerk position to a man because he had a family to support. Thanks to affirmative action, situations like the ones mentioned are becoming less frequent and employers are correcting these situations quickly and efficiently. Affirmative action has definitely helped women and minorities in their careers, but it has yet to succeed in the goal of equality in the business world for women and minorities. As more and more women are faced with discrimination in large firms, more have decided to strike out on their own. Observers argue that women have made huge strides with the help of affirmative action. They now hold 40 percent of all corporate middle-management jobs, and the number of women-owned businesses has grown by 57 percent since 1982″ (Dundul, 1995). “Affirmative action was designed to give qualified minorities a chance to compete on equal footing with Whites” (Chappell, 1995). Equal opportunities for the African Americans, for the most part, has remained more wishful-thinking than fact. African American students are continuing to struggle for an education.

In society today, many educational institutions offer scholarships for minorities. Ethnic minority students can further their education from the elementary level to the Ph. D level. However, for a minority student, all the financial assistance in the world, is not going to pay for the racial discrimination that they may receive, while attending a white educational facility. In 1982 a young African American man had been accepted into an Ivy league institution. His family were proud of his achievements and his ability to become someone great.

As time progressed, our African American student dressed like a black, walked like a black, looked like a black, but to keep well with his professors talked, and acted like his white counterparts. Equal opportunities for African Americans continue to be hard work and wishful-thinking. African American business owners are still competing against their White counterparts. Society labels and stereotypes certain ethic people. For example, when a person enters an electronic store and the owner is white, the person shopping continues to look at the items on the shelf.

When an individual walks into an electronic store owned by an African American, the shopper may believe some of the items are stolen. Affirmative action is a written law requesting that minorities have equal opportunities however, society dictates how the opportunities will be given. African American workers are experiencing an unemployment rate twice that of Whites. The low rate of unemployment is due to low-income, low-education and low individual worth of African Americans. African Americans hold dead-end, labor-intensive, low-paying jobs. Few can argue that racism is still rampant in awarding contracts, jobs, and educational opportunities” (Chappell, 1995). Affirmative action needs to overcome the disparities of employment that exist in this country. A recent Urban Benchmarks’ study found that of 71 metro areas surveyed nationwide, Pittsburgh had the highest rate of employment-related problems among non-Hispanic whites between the ages of 25 and 54 and the sixth highest rate among African Americans in the same age group.

The employment outlook for minorities is difficult, but not hopeless. Jobs can be obtained with education and persistence of each individual. Jobs require more than a high-school diploma, but less than a four-year degree–such as an associate degree or certificate from a vocational or trade school” (Kovatch, 1996). Today employers both private and public require individuals to take a test before entering their place of employment. For example, if one were to apply for a job with Foodland a test for your basic educational skill is required. To become a fireman, policeman, teacher, or Kentucky Fried Chicken employee you are required to take a test before being hired. To further your education you need to take a test to enter a University.

Abundant jobs for today are in the technological, computer, and internet areas. The need to be educated is a part of life. In our society there are difficulties with basic education. Affirmative action gives minorities the right to equal education. Education encourages all minorities in our society to better themselves. Alex Hayley writes, “When I first wrote this book in 1982, I thought that education in America was about as bad as it could be. However, in the past eight years I have had many opportunities to observe schools throughout the country, and I have found that the situation is worse than I realized” (Hayley, 1982).

Affirmative action encourages equal opportunities for education. Is education easily obtained for the minority groups of people? Minority groups have difficulties in turning out highly educated and motivated students. An inner city teacher Marva Collins began her own school. This school was open to all children however, the majority of the school population were of minority ethnic backgrounds. The school did not have funds for education, no school books, no desks and no chalkboard. Students grades were appalling, reading levels were extremely low and the mathematical skills of students, were not quite at a decent third grade level.

In 1980 education for these children was inevitably needed. As one reads “Marva Collins Way”, you learn that this miracle worker turned out motivated, educated, and socially behaved students. The educational opportunities for minority groups is low. One may argue that education is low due to finances. Studies have demonstrated that cities with the majority of the population being African American tend to have low income earners, low standards of living and low basic education skills. One may argue that the community in which certain minority people have grown up in does not encourage education.

Illegal drug abuse is often found in these communities. Drug users are parasites, feeding off society’s money, taxes and insurance. Those with low self-esteem seem to find that the drug dealers are their way to escape reality. One may argue that the minority of people simply do not want to succeed in life, because there is no equality in our society. Affirmative action increases the opportunities for every minority whether race, creed, religion, or age to an equal opportunity for an educational experience. Affirmative action is a growing argument among our society.

It is multifaceted and very often defined vaguely. Some can define affirmative action as the ability to strive for equality and inclusiveness. Others might see it as a quote-based system for different minority groups. “Affirmative action was originally designed to help minorities” (Gross, 1996). Is affirmative action fair? Affirmative action has become a tool for minorities to use for equality in the business world. Women, African Americans, Hispanics and the like now have a level tool that would support their rights as individuals in the business world.

Yes, affirmative action demonstrates fairness. Are minority groups on equal footing? Today, affirmative action is recognized however, the “glass ceiling” is still there. The glass ceiling refers to “you can see it, but you can’t get it”. Minorities can reach for the ceiling but still have difficulty actually trying to touch it. Unfortunately affirmative action cannot tell society to behave in a way that would place every individual, every minority group on equal footing. Is gaining employment for minorities difficult? Today, the employment opportunities for minorities has increased.

Minorities education is increasing slowly, hence the level of job opportunities has changed. Minority people have the right to apply for jobs, contracts, and higher paying employment if they are qualified. Affirmative action has given minorities the freedom to obtain equal employment opportunities. Is education easily obtained for the minority groups of people? Education is a necessity of life. For an individual to survive in todays society the need for an education is imperative. Education is an ugly display of how affirmative action is only a piece of paper with a written law on it.

Unfortunately, minority groups of people still have the constant issue of trying to get a fair, equal, education. There are many scholarships, financial grants and aids, both federal and state for minority individuals, however, not all children obtain an education today. Society has found that the environment in which minority groups grow up in, needs to improve. The community of minority groups needs to improve the quality of education taught and received. Affirmative action is a great tool for minorities. It encourages equality in humanity. I agree and support affirmative action in that individual’s should be treated equally.

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