Affirmative Action: The Great Equalizer?


Affirmative action policies are set up to increase opportunities for those who have been historically excluded in American society. These policies are mainly geared towards education, employment and providing the under-represented with equal opportunities. This leads me to my question; is affirmative action really being implemented and does it actually work?

Dating back to the Civil Rights Movement, president JFK was actually the first to use the term in an executive order that urged government contractors to take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated well during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” The truth is, even though over the past decade we’ve seen an increase in college admissions and job opportunities for minorities, there is still a wide gap existing between the minority and the majority.

Many claim that affirmative action is actually creating the reverse effect by favoring certain groups over others. This has caused the current administration to reconsider the affirmative action policies in colleges and fight “race-based discrimination” which give the minorities a great advantage over others when it comes to college admissions or job applications. These so-called privileges are in the form of educational opportunity programs that allow students to gain admission into college without the grades that would be required for a regular admission. The special programs not only assist the students in obtaining the degree of knowledge needed for college-level courses but also help out financially. Many of the minorities admitted into these programs would have no other opportunity of earning college degrees otherwise.

What many do not know, is that the funding for these opportunity programs has been at risk because it comes at a high cost for state governments. This is also another opening to get rid of the programs that help the smaller populations. There is no way that minorities are able to compete with those who come from middle or upper-class education systems without these programs. The minorities that are admitted into colleges through these programs or some form of affirmative action, come from homes where education was not the priority, where there was no access to quality education. Many of these times, the students that are looking forward to attending college and benefit from the programs will be the first in their immediate families.

So the problem doesn’t really lie in the affirmative action plans, or whether the education/employment system is preferring the minority over the majority. The problem really lies in the lack of skills and knowledge that many of the students who benefit from these programs don’t have. If the current administration really wanted to get rid of affirmative action or create greater sanctions for the universities/employers who practice what they call “racial discrimination”, why don’t they invest in allowing the minority to get the same quality of education that the majority has. Without the affirmative action policies and programs created, the minority might not be able to obtain a degree or job at a respectable company. So if the government gets rid of these programs my question to them would be, how would you help the minority succeed? Will the minority be left at the bottom of the list?

“Public schools were designed as the great equalizers of our society – the place where all children could have access to educational opportunities to make something of themselves in adulthood.”  Janet Napolitano