The concept of inherent inferiority among certain groups of humans has been present since ancient times. In 1789, this idea was termed “race,” which is a zoological term referring to a subset of a species with distinct physical characteristics compared to other subsets (Tivnan 181). Although slavery has largely been eliminated worldwide, the belief in “racism” that once justified it still persists in modern societies. Races that were formerly enslaved or are considered minorities within their communities often face different forms of discrimination. This mindset has led to extreme events like the Holocaust during World War II and minor incidents such as dismissive treatment from salespeople at upscale department stores.
Since the 1960’s, America has been actively combatting discrimination, particularly against minorities and women. In the last 35 years, the government has made advancements by implementing social policies to eradicate discrimination and provide advantages to disadvantaged minority groups in a society predominantly controlled by white individuals. Affirmative Action is one such policy that typically grants preferential treatment to minority groups based on their socioeconomic status, aiming to rectify past injustices. Nevertheless, utilizing race as a factor for educational and employment opportunities through this practice has sparked discussions about reverse discrimination and societal accountability in present-day America.
The moral right of African Americans in the United States to be compensated for the injustice of slavery, which ended almost two centuries ago, is a subject of debate. Throughout most of the 20th century, racism was not only tolerated but also encouraged by the American government, essentially becoming public policy. Advocates of affirmative action argue that society has a debt to repay to African Americans for these past wrongs and believe that these policies are socially beneficial. They contend that affirmative action can break the cycle of poverty within just a few generations by providing assistance to underprivileged African Americans today. This assistance enables parents to better care for their children, leading to improved education and higher-paying jobs without further help. In some cases, skin color can be as significant as intelligence or experience when considering someone’s suitability for a position. For instance, if black skin allows a doctor to effectively serve an urban ghetto population, then it should be considered a form of merit. It is important to note that this does not imply one person is inherently superior or more valuable than another. Just as individuals who are taller may have an advantage in playing basketball, it does not make them superior to those who are shorter. While affirmative action may not solve all problems or address every issue, its existence plays a crucial role in shaping society (Tivnan 211).
Some argue that committing another injustice does not eliminate injustice, as discriminating against whites is equally unjust as discriminating against blacks. When striving for equality in society, it should not involve reversing the current situation and violating the rights of different demographics. In the professional world, both whites and blacks should not be segregated or have separate dining arrangements (Tivnan195).
Another point raised is that affirmative action has been found to harm blacks more than it benefits them. Affirmative action implies inferiority (Tivnan198), and though it may provide certain opportunities to black individuals they might otherwise lack, it still perpetuates racism and racial tension in the workplace. Giving preferential treatment often leads to self-doubt among black individuals and diminishes their accomplishments into a cycle of uncertainty (Tivnan198). They prefer an equal playing field and dislike when their co-workers assume they obtained their position through a government program even if untrue (Tivnan200).
Striving for diversity, which many organizations aim for, often hides the fact that many black individuals are unprepared for these opportunities. According to Shelby Steele’s “The Content of Our Character,” only 26% of black college students graduate within six years after admission. These statistics presented are intriguing but do not pertain to the actual victims of affirmative action.The impoverished African Americans living in inner-city ghettos mentioned in this passage are the victims who face limited opportunities for higher education and simply aspire for decent employment. These matters have no relevance to them (as cited in Tivnan 199). Despite affirmative action measures being implemented, the incarceration rates among black individuals have actually increased over the past decade. It is now time for accomplished members of the black community to take a stance and provide leadership within their communities, introducing fresh concepts and visions that can shape our nation’s future while supporting those belonging to the disadvantaged black underclass.
Affirmative action, a program with good intentions, was once necessary but now lacks relevance. As Tivnan (200) states, “The moment for affirmative action has passed.” Although the past mistreatment of black individuals is unjustifiable, seeking direct retribution is unwarranted. The individuals involved in slavery are long gone, and while the effects persist today, our goal should be to assist those in poverty to improve our nation as a whole. By elevating people above the poverty line regardless of race, we contribute to America’s improvement. Furthermore, enhancing poorly funded public education and alleviating cultural pressures that lead young inner-city black individuals to drop out will prepare each generation for modern workforce challenges. Eventually, any racial group would find affirmative action or similar programs insulting.
Tivnan, Edward’s book “The Moral Imagination” was published in 1996 by Touchstone in New York.