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Legal Aspect of Affirmative Action Essay

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Affirmative action programs are often misunderstood. Each person has their own idea of what affirmative action really entails. This paper will provide an overview of the legal aspect of affirmative action. The differences between affirmative action programs and equal opportunity legislation will be explained. The positive arguments will be presented along with the negative arguments. The affects affirmative action has on the society of the United States will be analyzed. Finally the reactions of beneficiaries of affirmative action will be discussed.


Affirmative action has many definitions and can be approached from multiple viewpoints. The controversy surrounding affirmative action can be linked to misunderstandings of what exactly affirmative action entails. Affirmative action is multiple social programs that have the goal of creating equal opportunity and preventing discrimination against ethnic minorities and women. The goal of affirmative action is to “create a society, workplaces, and educational institutions in which individuals or groups are not stigmatized or excluded from opportunities on the basis of race/ethnicity or gender.” (Soni, 1999, p. 577) Affirmative action also has the goal to attempt to redress the effects of previous discrimination. An employer that follows affirmative action standards will “act positively, affirmatively, and aggressively to remove all barriers, however informal or subtle, that prevent minorities and women from having equal access to all levels of the nations educational, industrial, and governmental institutions.” (Soni, 1999, p. 579)

In a legal sense affirmative action became a full-fledged policy when Executive Order 11246 was passed in 1965. Many insti...


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...ies of affirmative action develop unfavorable self views and feel stigmatized in the eyes of others. (Soni, 1999) Other beneficiaries report the exact opposite. These beneficiaries realize that affirmative action has provided them with additional opportunities and enjoy working for employers with affirmative action programs. This illustrates the point that individuals will react differently to the idea of affirmative action depending on how it is defined. A common ground needs to be established to ensure that benefits affirmative action do not come at too high of cost. The goals of affirmative action and the need for these programs should be reevaluated to reflect the needs of our current society. Our social programs should develop with our society to work to improve it. The question is whether affirmative action benefits our society or harms it.





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