What exactly is affirmative action,
What exactly is affirmative action, and under what circumstances can affirmative action tip over to become reverse discrimination against non-minorities?
I want to know if affirmative action should include all protected categories of Title VII, including age and disability status.
Affirmative action is the practice, written into policy and law, of favoring a community that is or has been historically disadvantaged. An example would be a quota for women. The idea is that disadvantaged communities are often not equipped with the very resources that will grant them equal opportunities. Affirmative action attempts to bridge these gaps, to put disadvantaged communities on a level playing field.
While quota systems have largely been outlawed in the US, many institutions, especially educational institutions approach matters of selection, employment, and so on, with a minority sensitive perspective, taking various factors into consideration when it comes to making decisions on individual from the margins. This sort of unofficial sensitivity to issues of cultural disadvantage is the most prominent approach. This is because the implications of bias, whoever it benefits (even if it is the disadvantaged), divert from the goal of equality. There have been some very compelling arguments against affirmative action.
Affirmative action, some critics claim, subscribes to a form of social determinism which may not even hold true in today’s cosmopolitan age. Social determinism is an important theoretical framework that attempts to predict an individual’s opportunities in life through her social, economic and cultural background. Moreover, the idea of forcing the members of an institution, take for instance the students of a particular college, to interact with diverse viewpoints can come to have more alienating and counterproductive consequences, through the rekindling of stereotypes and prejudice. The most coherent argument offered is that affirmative practices may cause highly underqualified members being accepted for jobs with responsibilities they cannot handle, undermining standards of merit.
Other arguments include the illogicality of a need to ‘compensate’ minorities for injustices suffered in the past. Does this mean that the present generation of the dominant race deserves to suffer for things they had no control over?