Affirmative Action

Auburn Drive High School
Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia

By Brad T. (Grade 12)

In theory, affirmative action is a great idea. However, as is the case with many things, reality and theory differ drastically. The idea behind affirmative action is to remedy the effects of past job discrimination and to end such discrimination.

Regardless, when other individuals are forced to take a back seat for the benefit of others, the policy becomes contradictory. Most affirmative action programs include special efforts to hire and promote women, members of minority groups, and handicapped persons. Employees should not be either hired or promoted based solely on sex or minority status. Instead, employment and promotion should be conducted on the qualifications, abilities, and accomplishments of that individual. If executed properly, I would not only agree with, but would support, many aspects of this policy. Nonetheless, when these guidelines are not followed, affirmative action ultimately does what it was intended to stop: discrimination.

One concept I can accept is that the number of minorities hired should be proportional to the ethnic composition of the community. One example of this is the RCMP. A certain program hires high school and university students for the duration of the summer. A total of forty people were accepted into the program in Nova Scotia. Of those, forty individuals, there were no white people. I'm not a mathematician, but somehow that doesn't seem proportional to me. Not one white person was accepted. When I read this in the "Mail Star", I was incensed. It was beyond my comprehension. Now, if everyone accepted were more qualified than every single white person that applied, that's great. But somehow I don't think that was the case. As a matter of fact, I know that wasn't the case. No matter from what angle you approach it, when someone's ethnicity, religion, or sex is a determining factor in the selection process, that is wrong. Quite simply, it is unjust for a candidate with more qualifications, whether it be education, experience or interpersonal skills, to be rejected because their competition is a minority.

One of the more famous cases of affirmative action in the United States is that of "The University of California vs. Allan Bakke". Bakke, a white engineer, was refused admission to the University of California Medical School twice, in both 1973 and 1974. He later learned that his grades and test scores were higher than those of several applicants who had been admitted under a special program for members of minority groups. Bakke then sued the university, claiming that his application had been rejected only because he was white. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In the 1978 decision, the court ruled that university admission policies may not use quotas to achieve racial balance. As a result, Bakke was ordered admitted into the medical school.

In conclusion, it is great to see women and other minorities advancing in the work place. These advancements should be based on accomplishment rather than on special status. No matter what person is trying to get a job, the hiring policies should not be discriminatory towards either white males or minorities. A work place, whether it be in government or the private sector, should consist of the most qualified employees. This way, the company will not hire people simply because they are a minority.

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