For the definition of affirmative action, we can say it is a type of policy through which individuals that pertain to an underrepresented part of society get increased opportunities to counter historical discrimination. Through affirmative action programs, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or nationality are accounted for to increase the diversity in institutions, companies, and other areas of society.
The affirmative action policy focuses on battling the low representation of those demographics that suffer from historical discrimination. Leadership positions, academics, or professional roles are no longer limited to individuals of a certain race, nationality, religion, or gender. Discrimination against any demographic is no longer the norm, and affirmative actions are taken across the country to stop it like the Greensboro Sit-ins that significantly impacted the community.
Across the US, affirmative action began during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as a way to advocate for equal rights and opportunities for every individual, regardless of the segment of society they belonged to. Through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action developed to enforce equal rights and eliminate discrimination. The affirmative action policy aimed to dispel segregation from educational institutions for minorities and provide a more accurate representation in key roles in government, academics, and business positions for underrepresented groups.
Through affirmative action, government agencies can demand companies and institutions to increase underrepresented groups’ opportunities through grants, scholarships, or other financial aids. Government agencies can do this by limiting government funding or not allowing them access to public contracts. Affirmative actions nowadays include increased opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities.
While we can see all over social media and TV media that there is an impact of affirmative action with the increasing number of individuals from underrepresented groups, from company CEOs to senators voted in power, the efforts must continue. The main advantage is the increased opportunities as well as protection that underrepresented groups benefit from. Whether it’s a woman applying for a leadership position or a person of color, human resources departments carefully monitor workplace discrimination. Having more individuals from underrepresented groups will increase the representation of those underrepresented groups. A young girl can look up to a female astronaut, or a young African-American boy can look up to an African-American surgeon; a child should find examples that look like them in any field. Furthermore, when an underrepresented group reaches the representation levels that correspond to the country’s percentage, the underrepresented group’s rights will have better representation and advocates. With more voices demanding equality, more individuals will have access to it.
The disadvantages of affirmative action come from the opponents of the policy. They call these efforts pointless as no real result can be seen in their opinion. They also argue that hiring based on affirmative action standards might lessen employees’ quality or that those who benefit from affirmative action obtain positions only based on their ethnicity, sex, or nationality.
As a side note, affirmative action gains more and more support from all the underrepresented groups through this and other social movements. Equal rights, equal representation, and equal opportunities should not be a matter of discussion but a given, something to be expected, not fought for. With human rights and other social movements, advances will continue to be made as long as there is a need for it.