Affirmative Action in Modern America: A Critical Examination

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The Historical Roots of Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is an important, controversial topic in modern American history. This system is defined as a means to even the playing field for minorities in both education and employment. This is an issue that dates back to the beginning of America until now, when all people were not seen to have been created equally. Especially in the mid-1900s, when African Americans and other marginalized were not allotted the same opportunities as groups more elevated in society.

The solution to the issue was affirmative action, which establishes a quota that schools and businesses have to fill so that their students and employees are more diverse. Unfortunately, affirmative action is more deleterious than beneficial. It further divides people into groups just like their racist counterparts and promotes inequality based on gender, race, and class status. This system indirectly undermines minorities as well as promotes laziness for higher rewards to a minority. Other solutions are required, as affirmative action is a floundering system that was built on the back of positive intentions.

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The facts are simple and harsh. Affirmative action favors a system to bombard marginalized people into situations that they do not fit into. For example, in 2000, the census revealed that for fourth-grade reading, Caucasians are 40% proficient, whilst combined Hispanics and African Americans only reach 28%, with African Americans accounting for only 12% of that amount. Fourth-grade math readings for the same year are even more drastic. Caucasians are 34% proficient in math; meanwhile, Hispanics are only 10%, and African Americans are 5%. This proves that Caucasians and their minority counterparts are not on the same level of education. There is an obvious divide in the lack of comprehension of the most basic of subjects.

Challenging Affirmative Action’s Promise of Diversity

Supporters of affirmative action blame the lack of diversity in schools as the culprit. If children are not already on comprehension level with their counterparts, why should they be placed in more rigorous settings? The problem is that too many people are below expected proficiency from all races. Of course, better resources can potentially make a person achieve more. However, even the people with the “better” opportunities still are below where we should be in reading and math proficiency. Forcing schools and jobs to accept more students of more diverse families does not prepare either the school business worker or student for success. There is no reason: “Why does the underqualified son of a black doctor displace the qualified daughter of a Vietnamese boat refugee?.” If a person is incompetent in a specific area, they should not be encouraged to that area for a quota.

Pay Inequality: Beyond Affirmative Action’s Reach

Even being placed into a job equally, these minority groups are not receiving the same benefits. designed a chart that has data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It has a comprehensive guide of pay rates throughout sex and race groups. In every race, women make less than their male counterparts, whereas Asian and White males make more than Black and Hispanic males. Affirmative action does not help issues such as these, while these seem to be the main issues in America. This is another prime example of minorities not having equal rights as people who are not minorities. Affirmative action does allow access. However, what is that access worth when access means mistreatment and degradation?

In the book “Affirmative Action: The Pros and Cons of Policy and Practice” by Richard Tomasson, Tomasson weaves a scenario for the reader in the first chapter. A black coworker named Alvin comes and complains to his coworker about an issue he could only confide in them about. Alvin is complaining about the racism of the institution he works at. He states that a fellow coworker named Jacob has gotten a promotion. Alvin had been expecting the promotion as he claimed that he had “got stronger endorsements from my subordinates, and I had the best performance rating in the entire company five years ago.” Affirmative action allowed him to get such a job, which would have seemed impossible for an African American. However, his treatment on the job can not be protected by affirmative action.

Rethinking the Merits of Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is much more detrimental than it is portrayed and intended to be. There are many side effects that this program ignores for the people that it affects. Programs such as affirmative action encourage race rather than merit. It is only beneficial for the community to encourage others to succeed due to their own work ethic rather than the color of their skin or what is in their underwear. By encouraging affirmative action, America is encouraging the very racism that affirmative action pretends to combat. Affirmative action defines the borders around people and only benefits those whom history chooses to look at as the lower classes.


  1. Stanford. “The Case Against Affirmative Action.” STANFORD Magazine, 1996.
  2. Tomasson, Richard F., et al. Affirmative Action: The Pros and Cons of Policy and Practice. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001.
  3. U.S. Department of Education, The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth Grade Reading 2000, p.30-31 (2001).

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Affirmative Action in Modern America: A Critical Examination. (2023, Aug 24). Retrieved from

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