Affirmative Action in the United States

The writer Mary Anne Warren is focusing on describing the current practices in many organizations today in regards to the implementing a goal vs. a quota system for the purposes of affirmative action. She defines a quota as "Those who use the term "quotas" pejoratively tend to assume that the numerical standards will be set so high or enforced so rigidly that strong reverse discrimination-that is, the deliberate hiring of demonstrably less well qualified candidates-will be necessary to implement them." (Warren, 370). Warren then describes goal as "The term "goal", on the other hand, suggests that this will not be the case, and that good faith efforts to comply with the standards by means short of strong reverse discrimination will be acceptable." (Warren, 370).

The critical thing that must be understood when exploring the subject is that the writer is describing how affirmative action is being applied in American organizations today in other words the current reality. However, she fails to speak to us about how the law designs this program to function. This is the critical component that American organizations must be educated to understand.

Affirmative action as defined by law is most definitively not based on a quota system. In fact, what is not widely known is that this program can be equally used by all individuals provided that an inequality exists in the group that they belong to as not being reflected in the work force.

So what is affirmative action? What is it designed to do? It is not designed to provide an opportunity to an unqualified candidate. It is designed as "a way of compensating individuals or groups for past injustices or for present disadvantages stemming form past injustices" (Warren, 373). It is further designed "as a means about bringing about further future goods-for example, raising the status of downtrodden groups." (Warren, 373). The keyword in these quotes is the word "group".

Who are these groups? The law has identified them. Some of the groups identified are: race, religious beliefs, blood trait, gender, disability (whether physical or mental), veteran status, national origin, and the list continues. In no way does this require that you have to hire an unqualified person for a position because they fall into one or more of these groups. What it does mean is that you can not discriminate and exclude a person from getting a job, getting promoted, and other factors, just because they happen to fall into that group.

How does the law say that affirmative action should be applied? It would play out something like this. First of all, the demographics and the socioeconomic factors in the neighborhood where the organization is based primarily control affirmative action. So that means, for example, let's say your neighborhood is 60% women and 40% men, 50% White, 25% Hispanic, 20% Black and 5% Asian. In a nutshell what affirmative action requires is that your business should reflect that in your work force. Naturally as demographics change so do the goals. Let's say that in a business you have 75% Whites, 15% Blacks and 10% Hispanic, with no Asians. Well, your goal would then be to increase the amount of Hispanics, blacks and Asians. Likewise if your community was predominantly white (let's say 75% white) then you should have 75% of your work force be white.

Understanding this, how does affirmative action as the law intended it to be applied in this case study.

In the first case the man should obviously get the job. Why? Because the woman lacks a doctrine which is an important key requirement for a tenured position. We don't need to look at this further.

In the second and third case, the key factor that has to be considered is, do the candidates both meet the minimum requirements for the job? It appears that they both do, so both are qualified. The fact that one of them may have additional skills that are desirable but not required for the position is not a factor to consider when determining minimum qualifications. Now what the organization has to do, according to affirmative action is to look at their demographics and see what group they are under represented. If we were to take a cut and dry approach, then if you need a qualified black, you hire him. But if what you need is a qualified woman than you hire her. This is the last consideration that comes into play.

In an ideal world the only thing that we should be considering is an applicants ability to do the job. Affirmative action does not require a company to hire a less qualified applicant on the fact that they're white, black, male or female. If a white woman has better skills than a black male or a white male or a white female, for that matter, then I believe she is the one who should be employed.

However we are not living in an ideal world and employers still unfairly take these group differences into account when making their decisions. This is why affirmative action is still necessary. Further, the Warren makes it all too clear that employers are incorrectly applying a quota system instead of a goal system. This is what is creating the perception of reverse discrimination and inequality.

"The distinction between such weak quotas and higher quotas is crucial, since although higher quotas have in practice rarely been implemented, the apparent injustice implied by what are typically assumed to be higher quotas has generated a backlash which threatens to undermine affirmative action entirely. If quotas are abandoned, of if they are nominally adopted but never enforced, then employers will be free to continue using secondary and even primary sexist hiring criteria, and it is probable that none of us will see the day when women enjoy job opportunities commensurate with their abilities and qualifications." (Warren, 374).

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