Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently stated that the Department of Justice intends to challenge affirmative action. The DOJ will be probing an admissions case at Harvard University.
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, tensions arose between him and President Donald Trump. The early Trump administration has been rocked by a number of changes in staff, with many people being fired, leading to a great deal of confusion and uncertainty.
Some have speculated that Sessions is challenging affirmative action in order to appease the president. If that is the case, Sessions is addressing the matter out of his own self-interest in keeping his job. That is not how controversial subjects such as this should be discussed, which shows that the current administration is incapable of addressing matters such as affirmative action with the careful examination they deserve.
Affirmative action refers to policies meant to reduce discrimination in schools and the workplace by preventing minorities from being excluded from education or employment. At its core, the idea behind affirmative action truly is well-intended. Historically, affirmative action policies were first put into place with the intent of reducing discrimination against people of color and, later, women. Today, affirmative action policies also impact other minority groups. Including people from various backgrounds together leads to greater potential for education, inside and outside the classroom.
Given the history of discrimination in the U.S., it is clear that something needed to be done to reduce discrimination. Affirmative action is nonetheless controversial. Just as there are clear reasons for people to support these policies, there are also reasonable arguments to be made that affirmative action is not the solution to discrimination.
Some people argue that affirmative action can lead to less qualified individuals getting positions because employers or universities are required to accept minorities due to the policy. Some have said that this possibility makes affirmative action violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
It is possible that affirmative action policies can sometimes be discriminatory themselves, though unintentionally. Others are opposed to affirmative action because they feel there is a quota established that a certain number of positions are reserved for minorities, leaving less opportunities for others, regardless of capability.
It should be noted that the Supreme Court has upheld affirmative action, though it did rule that quotas were unconstitutional. Today, affirmative action does not use quotas, but instead refers to “targeted goals” of reducing discrimination and broadening society. The exact details of these “targeted goals” can be unclear.
It is wrong to discriminate and exclude others based on race, gender, or other minority status. People should be evaluated for employment and higher education based on their capabilities and content of character. While affirmative action was created with the best of intentions, it seems to have unintentionally increased tensions between people of different backgrounds. Perhaps a better solution will become apparent. One can hope we will eventually have a society free of discrimination, one without any laws necessary to make it that way.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via flickr