Affirmative action, like many issues, has many supporters as well as many individuals in opposition. Affirmative action as well as workforce diversity have one goal in mind. That goal is equality; Equality regardless of race, religion, gender, or any other differences among people. The key to understanding and coming to appreciate affirmative action is to understand the history of it as well as the principles on which it was developed. Furthermore, workforce diversity should be embraced and even encouraged. With diversity comes creativity, innovation, and lifelong connections that otherwise would have never happened. With Affirmative action comes anti-discrimination, equality, opportunities, and success for individuals that may have missed out on their life-long dreams and career endeavors otherwise. Working in Public Administration, it is imperative that one come to understand these issues and why they are important.
“Affirmative action itself has been defined as ‘any measure, beyond simple termination of a discriminatory practice, adopted to correct or compensate for past or present discrimination or to prevent discrimination from recurring in the future.’ (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Statement on Affirmative Action, October 1977.)” (About Affirmative Action, 2016). Discrimination as well as anti-discrimination laws date back to right after the Civil War. In 1965, President Johnson assigned the authority of ensuring equal opportunity, anti-discrimination, and affirmative action to the Secretary of Labor in Executive Order 10925. President Johnson was a very strong advocate for affirmative action and made it publicly known that he felt freedom was not enough if actions were not taken to ensure those who were not given opportunities in the past, were now given ample opportunity, even if that meant more opportunity than previously favored candidates (About Affirmative Action, 2016).
As stated previously, there are both supporters and opponents to affirmative action as well as workforce diversity. Supporters will likely quote President Kennedy and organizations such as American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity and the American Civil Liberties Union. Supporters indicate that affirmative action levels the playing field for individuals of all races. Rather than the Government encouraging organizations, Government entities, and educational institutions to be fair in their selection among various races, the Government sets safeguards, rules, and tests to ensure individuals are not being discriminated against based on race. Public Administration is at the fore front of the country and as so, must set a precedent of what is accepted and what is to be expected. Furthermore, public sector jobs must ensure anti-discrimination policies are being followed. Therefore, organizations in public administration must implement and adhere to anti-discrimination, workforce diversity, and affirmative action.
Opponents will likely quote sources that seek to prove affirmative action is further injuring the system it set out to fix. Opponents have several arguments as to why they do not approve of affirmative action. Some of the arguments of opponents are that affirmative action is actually racial discrimination; individuals of color will be assumed to have gotten their position based on color rather than merit; Asian students are harmed by affirmative action; and the affirmative action system is very broken and not worth administering (Quinlan, 2015). Individuals further state that discrimination is occurring through affirmative action because individuals are being selected purely based on their race. In turn, others are being turned down because they are not the right race to meet the quota (Strauss, 2014).
Workforce diversity enables individuals to step out of their comfort zone and become more creative, innovative, and open minded. It further allows organizations to become more efficient and productive. Affirmative action was developed out of a need for anti-discrimination in the work place as well as in Government contracts and educational institutions. “For federal contractors and subcontractors, affirmative action must be taken by covered employers to recruit and advance qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans” (Department of Labor, 2016). Controls and safeguards in anti-discrimination were developed for a very good reason, and it is the Public Administrator’s job to ensure implementation.