The Need for Affirmative Action Policies

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Every individual who is a part of this world owns a right to everything, education in particular. Throughout this planet, countries have laid special concentration on education and the same trend is being followed by the UN and its several members by stressing on the need and significance of education. Its importance can be understood by shedding light on the Millennium Development Goals 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Some disadvantaged sectors of the society in several states and the US, in particular, have no access to quality education. To deal with this concern, affirmative action plan are put forward that majorly focus on offering an advantage to disadvantaged people by ensuring and safeguarding their fundamental human rights and their right to education in colleges and universities. Many communities worldwide and in America face discrimination in different sectors of the community. There exist gender discrimination and discrimination by color, ethnicity, race, class, social and economic status. Focusing on the educational status of minorities, they have low employment rates which are further reduced by the implications of quote system. To have equal representation in the educational sector, it is essential to have affirmative action policies as they can benefit the disadvantaged group by providing them equal opportunities while protecting their rights regardless of their race, color, and ethnicity. Affirmative action policies take the performance of the individuals into account while protecting their rights. There is a debate regarding the constitutionality of these policies as conservatives demonstrate resistance as they feel there is no need for a quota system by color or ethnicity. The government guaranteed that these policies would benefit by eradicating discrimination and by promoting equal opportunities for all the citizens. Educational opportunities are also enhanced owing to the availability of scholarship programs.


Education is a basic right of every individual living on the planet. It has been one of the mandatory goals of countries and empires throughout history. Even today, United Nations and its member states understand the need of having an educated population and the need of education, as it was a primary goal of the Millennium Development Goals 2015 and is an essential goal of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (Osborn, Cutter and Ullah 7). Without adequate and quality education a country’s population would be unable to meet the growing need for skilled population and add to the growth and sustainability of the nation’s economy.

America has had a long history of racial and gender discrimination, ever since its independence. It was not until the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, that the discrimination started to diminish from every walk of life, whether work related, healthcare, military, political, or educational. America has been doing a lot to undo its discriminative policies and the impact it has had on the society. One such policy is the affirmative action policy, which has been introduced by various schools and colleges throughout the United States, to ensure that there is a greater diversity of students on campus.

Thesis statement

While Affirmative action policies are necessary to compensate for centuries of racial, social, and economic oppression, colleges will hold a certain percentage of seats for underrepresented ethnic groups. Colleges will accept an undeserving minority over a qualified Caucasian. It is necessary to understand that how the law is set up needs be amended, to help make it more equal in the admissions process. The bill though has been able to help many ethnic groups out of oppression, and enjoy a more blissful life.

Affirmative Action Plan

Affirmative action plan or policy is any such policy which aims at protecting and promoting the rights of disadvantaged groups over any other group or race. For the purpose of the paper, affirmative action plan or policy specifically is related to admissions in colleges and universities. One would think that the step has been taken by all states of America, but that is not the case. In fact, eight of the states – Washington, Oklahoma, Arizona, Nebraska, California, Michigan, Florida, and New Hemisphere – have prohibited taking race into consideration in college admissions (Mulhere, Kaitlin).

Racial Oppression

African Americans, throughout have been treated indiscriminately, in every sphere of life, thus education is no different. African Americans had to struggle for almost a century even after the abolition of slavery in 1865, at the end of civil war. It was not until the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that African Americans got a legal protection against all forms of discrimination race, color, national origin or religion. This not only ensured the provision of equal employment opportunities for all citizens of America but also equal educational rights, it abolished any unequal voting policies and provided rights in every other sphere of life.

Studies have shown that the more African Americans feel internalized racial discrimination, the lower they tend to value higher education, and they also tend to have a more academic locus of control externally (Brown, Rosnick and Segrist 361). This was even higher for African American men, as compared to women. Also, when students of color witness oppressive behavior in the classroom, from the faculty as well as other students, it is prone to have a negative impact on their learning capabilities and their academic performance (Chesler, Wilson and Malani 62).

However, it is not just African Americans who have faced discrimination at the hands of White Americans. Asian Americans, have been targeted and dominated from the very beginning. They were not allowed to go to the same schools, they were not even allowed to have their own segregated schools, they were forced to study at Sunday schools at Church (Nakanishi and Nishida 12). However, the treatment was extended to other immigrants, such as Irish, Norwegians and Swedish, the behavior was only extended towards Asian Americans, making it clear that this was a racial discrimination and not a segregation on any other basis (Nakanishi and Nishida 13).

Gender Oppression

Almost every country in the world has been patriarchal in one form or the other. The man was and still is considered the head of family, businesses, governments and every other walk of life. The discriminated women to such an extent that they were always considered second-grade citizens. Things slowly started to change after the first feminist movement, which is also called the suffragist movement of 1920. The movement was one of a kind, which not only gave women the basic right to vote, but it also set course to change a number of existing laws, such as the inheritance law.

The movement gave way to other movements that the world in general, and the United States in specific was to see over time. This was a turning point for many women in the world. Though women have been trying hard to gain equal rights in every sphere of life, they had achieved little in practice. Women were provided with a specific form of education, as they had limited opportunities if any at all. Women were expected to be homemakers, and even if they did go out looking for a job they were usually trained either as teachers or nurses. The society was not willing to change their attitude towards women or acknowledge the changing demands of education (Madigan 12). The attitude continued till the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The act protected students from any sort of discrimination on the basis of sex or race, in any form of educational programs, which are entitled to receive financial assistance from federal governments. Along with the Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1974 was passed to protect girls and women from multifaceted discrimination in the form of racial, gender-based, ethnic, disability, age, national origin and any other basis.

Despite this, research shows that female students received fewer opportunities to participate in classroom and less feedback from teachers in co-educational institutes (Grossman 77). As a result of this, some advocates for female education have asked for single-sex schools for girls all over the country (Madigan 12).

Socioeconomic Oppression

The social and economic status of an individual or a group has a lot to do with the educational level of the individual and the employment opportunities available to them. The educational level of minorities, specifically non-White Americans have always been targeted. They have never had the same opportunities as their White American counterparts (Nakanishi and Nishida 29).

Racial minorities on an average have worse physical and mental health than White Americans. This is directly affected due to the poor socioeconomic status of racial minorities. African Americans on an average have a higher mortality rate than White Americans (Bahls 3). Racial minorities also tend to have a higher rate of multidimensional poverty as compared to White Americans. They are also more likely to live in poverty. Poverty has a severe impact on the physical and mental health of the people. As they do not have access to food and healthcare, like those living above the poverty line. Poverty is the direct cause of poor level of education and unemployment, along with living in a high poverty area and belonging to a low-income level household (Reeves, Rodrigue, & Kneebone 12).

African Americans have twice the unemployment rate as compared to Caucasian Americans. They are also not provided with equal employment or pay opportunities. African American men on an average earn only seventy-two percent of that of Caucasian men, and eighty-five percent that of Caucasian women, despite working full time. Lack of employment opportunities is directly related to the poor socioeconomic status of the minorities.

Quota System

Under the quota system, a certain number of seats available in a college are divided on the basis of population. Though this might seem a good idea, it actually put minorities at a disadvantage. They are not provided with equal representation, rather they are represented according to the ratio of their population. A quota system will have the opposite impact as the affirmative action plan, which aims at bringing American population together despite their race, gender or ethnicity. People will be departmentalized, and they will have to place themselves in a specific category to receive certain benefits and overcome any penalties.

Performance-Based Equal Treatment

These policies are a way to provide equal protection to minorities, specifically those who have a long history of degradation and discrimination. These people have a long way to go before they can equally represent their population in every field of life, whether educational or professional. The purpose of affirmative action is to provide students with equal opportunities to the available resources of education, without targeting them on the basis of their gender, race or ethnicity. If two students of different racial backgrounds, but similar academic record and performance, have applied to the same program, it would not be acceptable under an affirmative action plan to take in the White student over the other, simply because of his skin color. Similarly, it is not right to accept an underperforming Non-white American or a White American, simply because he/she belongs to a disadvantaged group (AAAED).

Though many have claimed that Affirmative Action policies are there to hire minorities, even if they are underperforming, simply to increase diversity and comply with the federal government’s policies this is not the case. There have been numerous cases against Affirmative action plane, the most recent being between Abigail Fisher and the University of Texas, where the court upheld that the decision made by the University of Texas, which was aligned with affirmative action policy, was constitutional. It stated that Fisher did not get an admission due to her performance and grades which were not up to the requirement of the University.

Though it is necessary to treat a Caucasian and a non-White student, having the same score and GPA equally, however, due to the affirmative action plan, there is a possibility that the non-White student would be admitted (Lyons, Linda). Though this is not something that should be happening, as it is selecting a non-white student over a Caucasian, simply along the lines of race and color. This is the opposite of what affirmative action plan is supposed to achieve. It is necessary to have a thorough recruitment and selection process to ensure that such selections can be minimized to the most yet increasing diversity.

Constitutionality of Affirmative Action

This a hot debate going on regarding the issue. Some believe that it is constitutional, while many believe that it is unconstitutional and discriminates against those who do not make the cut to be added to the group discriminated against. Majority of the resistance against affirmative action policies in educational realm comes from the conservatives, who believe that there is no need for setting a quota for students on the basis of their ethnic and racial background. This is viewed as detrimental to the White American population and their opportunities. However, it is necessary to understand that White Americans are not a minority in the United States. They are a majority population by every sense and meaning of majority, at least for the time being.

It is constitutionally right of every citizen to equal opportunities in education and employment. The race or ethnicity should not be the base on which one should not be allowed to exercise the right. Thus, if there are laws and policies which safeguard these rights of minorities it cannot be unconstitutional (Fenwick, Cody). However, it might become unconstitutional if it starts to accept underperforming students over much more deserving students, on those seats which are open to all. Whether African American, Hispanics, or Asian Americans, they should not be overcompensated than their white counterpart, as this would become detrimental to the White population in the city or state.

Through affirmative action, the government has ensured that there would be no racial, ethnic or gender discrimination against college applicants and that their work should the basis of judgment, rather than their skin color. This is an important step towards overcoming the effect of long racial, ethnic or gender discrimination. The fact that it is promoting the equal rights for all the citizens of America is enough to state that it is constitutional. In fact, those claiming that it is unconstitutional want to further divide America along the racial, ethnic, and gender-based lines, rather than bring it together and ensure that voices of the past are not repeated.

Scholarships for Minorities

There are a number of scholarships, in place in a number of these colleges and universities. Some of these scholarships are open for all, while a number are specifically aimed at gender and racial minorities. The purpose of these scholarships is to help students who come from a disadvantaged background to have access to quality education so that they would have an opportunity at a better standard of living. Universities and colleges have understood the importance of diversity in classrooms, and as a result, they are working towards ensuring that the diversity which has been introduced through affirmative action plan would stay there even if the plan is scrapped and is not in effect. This they are trying to achieve through the specific scholarships for minorities, as a lack financial assistance is one reason why minorities do not choose to attend college (Stewart, Russell and Wright 8).

The overall aim of these scholarships is to ensure that there is diversity on campus and that those students who do not have the means to study further can have a chance to do so. This is necessary as education is essential for the uplift of the individual and the society as a whole. Students with the right type of education would be able to find jobs which is essential for economic growth of the country and improving the standard of living of the individual.

Nature of Scholarships

Scholarships can come in all shapes and sizes. Some are aimed at only providing financial assistance to cover the tuition fee of the students. While others are more inclusive and include boarding as well as food. To have access to financial needs scholarship the students would have to prove that they actually are in a need of financial assistance and that without it they would be unable to complete their studies. Studies have shown that financial aid has increased the enrollment of minorities (Lee 98). Though there has been an increase in loans, as compared to grants, it is necessary to understand that these students apply for grants because they cannot afford to complete their studies on their own, without any financial assistance. When they take a loan, they will have to pay it back with interest, which is discouraging factor for many.

The amount awarded by these colleges vary across the board, with some offering scholarships up to $10,000 a year for the entire course of the program, while others offer a one-time scholarship, which might not even be so high. Minorities have separate scholarships in many colleges, and through various scholarship programs, and some of them provide additional support apart from tuition fees as well, such as conferences, seminars, books, and other materials and resources.

Difficulties in Accessing Scholarships

Though there might seem to be a lot of scholarship programs for minorities, they are not easy to obtain. In fact, they come with rigorous work. Though many colleges and even organizations are trying hard to increase the number of minorities getting a higher education. But they do not simply hand out scholarships to every student who applies to them. To be successful to secure a scholarship, students have to work hard and maintain a certain level of test score or GPA. Just belonging to a minority does not secure one a place in the scholarship program, as there are many other students who are applying to it as well.


In conclusion, the affirmative care act helps to send many underprivileged kids to college, but at the same time, it is found to hinder the hard work of many students who are more fortunate. Many minorities use the privilege to their advantage and are making a significant life for themselves, and without the help of a free scholarship, they would not have been able to get a higher education. The affirmative action plan is an ideal way to increase minority population in colleges. However, it can be improved to make it more equal in the admissions process, and not to discriminate against any student, specifically if he/she has above average score and does not belong to a minority group. The bill has been able to help many ethnic groups out of oppression, and enjoy a more blissful life, over the past years.

Works Cited

AAAED. About Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Inclusion. American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity, 2015, Accessed 13 March 2018.

Bahls, Christine. "Health policy brief: Achieving equity in health."Health Affairs, vol. 30, no. 10, 2011, pp. 1-6.

Brown, Danice L., Christopher B. Rosnick and Daniel J. Segrist. "Internalized Racial Oppression and Higher Education Values: The Mediational Role of Academic Locus of Control Among College African American Men and Women". Journal of Black Psychology, vol. 43, 2016, pp. 358 - 380.

Chesler, Mark, Mark Wilson, and Anu Malani. "Perceptions of Faculty Behavior by Students of Color."The Michigan Journal of Political Science, vol. 16, 1993, pp. 54–79.

Fenwick, Cody. Is Affirmative Action Unconstitutional? Care 2, 2015, Accessed 13 March 2018.

Grossman, Herbert. Achieving educational equality: Assuring all students an equal opportunity in school.

Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd., 1998.

Lee, Courtland. Achieving diversity: Issues in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented racial/ethnic students in higher education: A review of the literature.

Alexandria, VA: National Association of College Admission Counselors, 1991.

Lyons, Linda. Blacks: Whites Have Advantage in College Admissions. Gallup, 13 September 2005, Accessed 13 March 2018.

Madigan, Jennifer C. "The Education of Girls and Women in the United States: A Historical Perspective."Advances in Gender and Education, 2009, pp. 11-13.

Mulhere, Kaitlin. "5 Things to Know About Affirmative Action at Colleges". Times Money, 2 August 2017, Accessed 13 March 2018.

Nakanishi, Don T. and Tina Yamano Nishida. The Asian American Educational Experience. Routledge, 1995.

Osborn, Derek, Amy Cutter and Farooq Ullah. "Universal Sustainable Development Goals". Stakeholder Forum, 2015, Accessed 13 March 2018.

Reeves, Richard, Edward Rodrigue and Elizabeth Kneebone. "Five evils: Multidimensional

poverty and race in America."The Brookings Institution, 2016, Accessed 13 March 2018.

Reeves, Richard, Edward Rodrigue, and Elizabeth Kneebone. "Five evils: Multidimensional

poverty and race in America."Economic Studies at Brookings Report (2016).

Stewart, G. L, R. B. Russell and D. Wright. "The comprehensive role of student affairs in African American student retention."Journal of College Admission, vol. 154, 1997, pp. 6-11.

November 24, 2023

Education Sociology

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