Affirmative Action (Positive) Position
Debating affirmative action policies requires that the relevant facts surrounding the policy and its underlying premise, be agreed upon. One of the main reasons it is difficult to defend is because it is not fully understood. The true purpose of affirmative action is to remove barriers or discrimination from the hiring and/or admitting process and is not to create quotas or require a specific amount of seats for underrepresented groups. The principle of affirmative action is typically condensed into a means of correcting historical disenfranchisement of women and minorities; therefore the overarching purpose is not a mandate but a pledge or goal to make an effort to diversify the workforce. In the report, From Affirmative Action to Diversity: Toward a Critical Diversity Perspective, which appeared in the Critical Sociology journal, Cedric Herring and Loren Henderson describe affirmative action as such, “Affirmative action is an amalgam of federal, state, and local ordinances and other legislative mandates to remedy inequities in employment for traditionally marginalized groups” (Herring & Henderson, 2011). Tim Wise, an author and motivational speaker, further describes the intent of affirmative action, asserting, "Affirmative action does not seek to create a system of unearned black and brown advantage, but merely to shrink unearned white advantage" (Wise, 2014). A white advantage, which is made even more evident by the numbers:
“The continuing need for affirmative action is demonstrated by the data. For example, the National Asian and Pacific American Legal Consortium reports that although white men make up only 48% of the college-educated workforce, they hold over 90% of the top jobs in the news media, 96% of CEO positions, 86% of law firm partnerships, and 85% of tenured college faculty positions” (The Leadership Conference, para. 5).
Wise, who has worked with many corporations and government agencies on antiracism training and issues, makes an interesting observation about affirmative action in this simple statement. What Wise is alluding to is the fact that affirmative action is not intended to create a discriminatory atmosphere against white people, mainly white men, but to eliminate the obstacles that have been created through tradition and carried through history to establish inequality between races and other diversity groups. Tim Wise contends that the necessity for affirmative action has deeper roots than merely the obstacles that exist to create unequal opportunities in hiring practices, but it is also evident in our society that affirmative action legislation is a requirement due to traditional discrimination. What is clear is there is an underlying issue at hand, one that is key to understanding the need for affirmative action. The patriarchal history of our society, which is rife with human oppression, still informs the present. Richard Wasserstrom’s essay illustrates this idea further as he notes, “The institutions and the supporting ideology all interlocked to create a system of human oppression whose effects on those living under it were as devastating as they were unjustifiable” (Wasserstrom, 1977). The shape of this institutionalized human oppression and subjugation, previously took the form of slavery, Jim Crow laws, the lack of voting rights for women, and the marginalization and destruction of Native Americans and their culture, amongst other atrocities. To begin a discussion of affirmative action, it must be accepted that our country is still plagued by demons from its past. In discussing the Texaco racial discrimination suit, which proves the theory that racism and discrimination is alive and well, Canas and Sondak note, “Tangible evidence was offered that the ‘good ole boys’ network, ‘glass ceilings’ and many other negative corporate America caricatures did in fact exist” (p. 143). A