Affirmative Action is nothing to be proud of

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave an interview recently praising Affirmative Action as the gateway to her personal success.  This isn’t an uncommon life story, many minorities have gained success through the Affirmative Action process.  It’s supposed to prevent discrimination in areas of life where such discrimination might hold a person back.  Personally, I don’t believe it is needed any longer and racial discrimination, by and large, is a thing of the past.

(CBS News) — In her first broadcast interview, Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells Scott Pelley how affirmative action affected her life leading up to her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.


“[F]or me, it was a door-opener that changed the course of my life,”


Affirmative action played a role in her admittance to Princeton, she recalls, and she remembers it drawing the scrutiny of an adult at her Catholic school in the Bronx. “The first day I received in high school a card from Princeton telling me that it was possible that I was going to get in, I was stopped by the school nurse and asked why I was sent a possible and the number one and the number two in the class were not,” she recalls. “Now I didn’t know about affirmative action. But from the tone of her question I understood that she thought there was something wrong with them looking at me and not looking at those other two students,” says Sotomayor. The same is true today she says. “You can’t be a minority in this society without having someone express disapproval about affirmative action.”

In the era in which Affirmative Action was introduced, it was a reasonable policy, for the most part.  I’m not convinced legislation was necessary since the American culture was already moving away from the institutionalized racism it was trying to combat.  Regardless, Justice Sotomayor is right, the Affirmative Action of yesteryear is not the Affirmative action of today.

Associate Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor

Associate Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor

As it is implemented today, Affirmative Action props up and advances people who are otherwise unqualified for the employment or education for which they are applying.  In order to meet quotas and protect against lawsuits, businesses and universities hire and enroll based on minority status rather than merit.  In essence, minorities who take advantage of Affirmative Action, were not qualified to make it on their own merits.

Honestly, that’s not something to brag about, is it?  Wouldn’t it mean more to you if you made it in life because you were good enough and not just a member of the right minority group, I find that quite condescending.  “It’s a good thing you’re Black (or Hispanic  or Native American, etc.), ’cause you weren’t good enough to make it otherwise”.  There is no nobility in succeeding based on something you had no control over.  If you really want to know your value, leave the race and gender box unchecked, there is more dignity in making it on your own because you’re good enough.


  1. I lost out on one job due to affirmative action (they needed more beans in there bean count and the judge said they couldn’t hire another white until the percentage of blacks on the force equaled the percentage of blacks in the city).

    I almost lost out on another job due to affirmative action (another facility picked up the female who was also bidding on the job I got).

    The whole idea is nothing but reverse discrimination. It was wrong to discriminate before, but now it’s proper to discriminate.

    Liberals are such hypocrites.

  2. “Wouldn’t it mean more to you if you made it in life because you were good enough and not just a member of the right minority group,”

    That’s not really the option is it? Imagine it like a video game. There are different difficult settings – easy, medium, and hard – so that different players can be successful with different skill levels.

    The idea of affirmative action is to change the difficulty level from hard to medium. Those who already have the difficulty level set on easy, like white males, shouldn’t be complaining.

    • Jason, are you saying that minorities are discriminated against in the workplace to the degree where this is still needed?

    • Jason,
      In my both my experiences, education was a factor as well as experience. Since I had only a high school education, there was no excuse for women or people with darker skin to not have the same education; if the school was too difficult for them, then they aren’t qualified for the job.

      The first job I was denied was because I wasn’t black. The police department I applied for hired as many black applicants as applied and were qualified, but since they weren’t getting enough applications from qualified black people, they were forced to suspend hiring white people until more blacks were hired. It didn’t matter that they weren’t getting applications – all that matter is that the numbers of blacks on the force was the same percentage as the blacks in the city. That is an asinine requirement. You can’t force people to apply, nor should you accept applications from people who don’t have at least a high school education!

      In the second job AA applied, I was bidding on a supervisor’s job. I was bidding against a black man and a white woman. In order to hire me, the manager had to file all sorts of paperwork demonstrating why I should be hired instead of the black or woman. It was fairly easy to demonstrate that my experience was well beyond either one of the others, but that wasn’t enough. Not hiring the black man was easily justified by his overall lack of initiative in the job he was at, and his demonstrated lack of management skills. But with the woman, she was qualified in every way – except I had many more years of experience in the job we were to supervise, and I had many more awards for performance, etc. All these things are given point values in the application, and I out-pointed her almost 3 to 1, yet the manager hiring was told he had to select her over me. I only lucked out because she had applied for the same job at another facility, and they needed her for bean-counting more than my facility did, so they took her.

      The only difficulty level 90% of AA “fixes” is laziness. No one should be picked because they are members of a particular group. All selections should be based on merit – are you or are you not the most qualified. If the job is too difficult for you, why should an employer have to select you and then spend money training you so as to bring your level up to someone else he could have hired?

  3. Jason,

    It is just as bad to assume that whites have it easy because they are white. Work and effort still need to be expended in order to succeed.

  4. Hi Jason,
    My reply below is for an assignment for a Business Ethics course I am currently completing and as such my response below may be a bit out of the norm for a blog post. Posting the comment is part of the requirements for the assignment. Regards Anna
    Affirmative action is stated as being an action or policy favouring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, esp in relation to employment or education; positive discrimination (Google Dictionary).
    Discrimination can be any factors such as race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin, although we usually associate affirmative action with race and gender discrimination.
    Affirmative action was first introduced in America in 1961 as a method of remedying discrimination that persisted even after pieces of legislation such as the civil rights laws and The Constitution had been put into place (Brunner, 2007). The idea was to make sure that any hiring and employment practices were free of racial bias.
    Your blog raises the question of whether affirmative action is something to brag about, as individuals are ‘propped’ up and advanced into jobs and education that they would otherwise be to under qualified for.
    Affirmative action is about creating fairness and needs to be used correctly as a tool to help break down barriers and years of historic injustice. Attracting minority students from privileged backgrounds isn’t the point of affirmative action; neither is employing a black person or a woman over someone more qualified. We need to be careful we don’t create a system based on racial categories (Leonhardt, 2012), which I believe is the issue you have with affirmative action.
    To select an unqualified female, or someone from minority group, over a candidate who is qualified is called preferential treatment and should not be mistaken with affirmative action (Plous, 2003).
    Preferential treatment forfeits affirmative action when the focus becomes on the persons group/class and not on their merit.
    Legal forms of affirmative action do not permit the selection of unqualified candidates over qualified ones and goes against the legislation that lays out the ground work for affirmative action programs (Plous, 2003).
    Although affirmative action may not be something to ‘brag’ about it definitely has its place in society as a method of opening doors of opportunities to people who have inherited lives of poverty and injustice due to historic discrimination.
    President Lyndon B. Johnson’s famously said in his 1965 speech to the Howard University “But freedom is not enough…………You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.”
    Although we have liberated our society and boast that we have opened the gates of opportunity for all, this does not mean every person has the ability to take up those opportunities. This is what affirmative action was brought in to remedy.
    You state that you don’t believe affirmative action is needed any longer as racial discrimination is a thing of the past. Although progress has been made by minorities in recent years the playing field is far from level. According to New Zealand’s 2006 Census, Woman on average are still earning 39% less than men (Quick Stats About Income – Personal income by sex, 2006) and individuals that identified with being of the Maori/Pacific island ethnicity earned on average 18% less than Europeans (QuickStats About Incomes – Personal income by ethnic group, 2006). Although these statistics aren’t conclusive proof the difference in salaries is due to discrimination, these figures do agree with many other reports that have been released around the world in regards to the differing remuneration levels of minority groups.

    A report completed by the American Association of University Woman showed that woman are earning less than men (Why woman earn less than men a year out of school, 2012). They went on to set out various reasons for this but it was clear that due to woman’s history of discrimination and being considered lower citizens of society, woman lacked the conviction and the ability to sell themselves and negotiate pay levels. They did not have the same starting posts that males have when going for jobs that require the same skills and expertise.

    The most effective way to cure society’s tendency to exclude minorities is to make a special effort to include.
    Only by implementing such sweeping reforms such as affirmative action do we begin to see a change in people’s attitudes towards discrimination of minority groups (Plous, 2003). If we didn’t have the extremist feminists marching for reform with the women’s vote, we would not have seen as much progress towards women’s rights today, so is the same for affirmative action programs. Affirmative action was never going to solve the issues of discrimination it was more a tool to help bring to employers attention the need to smooth out the playing field and open the doors of equality.
    Barron, J. (2013, January 15). Affirmative Action is nothing to be proud of. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from sifting reality:
    Brunner, B. (2007). Affirmative Action History. Retrieved January 20, 2013, from Infoplease:
    Google Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2013, from Google:
    Leonhardt, D. (2012, October 13). Rethinking Affirmative Action. Retrieved January 22, 2013, from The New York Times Sunday Review:
    Plous, S. (2003). Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination. Journal of Social Issues , 206-212.
    Quick Stats About Income – Personal income by sex. (2006). Retrieved January 22, 2013, from Statistics New Zealand:
    QuickStats About Incomes – Personal income by ethnic group. (2006). Retrieved January 22, 2013, from Statistics NZ:

  5. Donna Ching-Tregidga says:

    Dear Jason,
    Below is a response to your blog “Affirmative Action is nothing to be proud of”. My response, like others, is part of a Business Ethics paper that I am completing and therefore is more detailed than a normal blog response. Regards, Donna
    Affirmative Action: A tool for justice
    There has always been heated debate around affirmative action (AA), with a deep division between advocates and critics. The biggest debate appears to be around what AA actually is.
    According to The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (2013, M2, p. 23), AA are policies where support is affirmed for people who belong to a specified group or groups, either through according preference or through offering support in other ways.
    It is important to recognize there are varying degrees of AA policy. The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (2012, M2, p. 23) outlines Professor Thomas Nagel’s description of two types: weak and strong. Firstly, weak AA is where there are candidates of equal ability and the socially less-advantaged candidate is appointed. Secondly, strong AA is where there are two candidates, both capable of doing the job, but the candidate from the socially less-advantaged group is appointed even though the other candidate is more able.
    I am an advocate of weak AA policy, which I view as assisting with equality for socially disadvantaged individuals via support programmes that ensure they are included, where, in the past, they were excluded. I am less supportive of strong AA policy, which overtly prefers one group at the expense of another, risking the individual from the majority group feeling they have been discriminated against.
    You state, “As it is implemented today, AA props up and advances people who are otherwise unqualified for the employment or education for which they are applying”. I disagree with this, as AA is not about employing under qualified employees. Beauchamp (2004, p. 356) states, “The goal is simply fair opportunity and equal consideration”. Whilst Beauchamp (2004, p. 356), concedes in some situations a less-qualified person may be hired or promoted, AA is not about hiring below the level of basically qualified.
    Your blog assumes the socially disadvantaged person is incapable of fulfilling the role. If this were the case, there are risks, and I would not advocate for this. Nagel (as cited in The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2012, M2, p. 24) identifies three concerns with employing people under strong AA policies:
    1. Inefficiency through employing people with less experience/qualifications;
    2. Injustice in judging people on the group you allocate them to; &
    3. Injury done to the person’s self-esteem via their knowledge they weren’t appointed on merit.
    However as stated above, AA is not about hiring below the threshold and appropriate AA policy should not advocate for this.

    Your blog seems to link AA only with race and gender. It is important to note that AA also considers equality in terms of ethnicity, age, people with disabilities and sexual orientation.
    In response to your comment “racial discrimination is a thing of the past”, although progress has been made, there is ongoing work required. For example, in New Zealand, Statistics New Zealand (2012) reports one in ten people aged 15 or over (343,000 people) experienced some form of discrimination in the last year. When considering gender equality, the New Zealand Census (Statistics New Zealand, 2013) reports that men’s median income was 1.6 times that of women’s. Clearly still a way to go and the question is what would these statistics be if we abolished AA?
    I believe when developing AA policy, you need to consider that discrimination may differ between countries, communities, industries and between companies. Beauchamp (2004, p. 356) suggests that often a significant issue with AA, which divides people, is about the breadth, depth and embeddedness of discrimination. In some settings discriminatory attitudes and practices may be deep-rooted whilst in others it may be almost non-existent. I agree with Beauchamp’s’ (2004, p. 356) suggestion that where it is shallow and obvious, the focus should be on equal opportunity around formulas but where more deep, disguised and embedded, the focus should be on measurable outcomes. This highlights the need to consider the greater environment when drafting AA policies.
    AA policy makes good business sense. Beauchamp (2004, p. 357) outlines three reasons why proactive AA strategies are advantageous for business:
    1. An improved workforce ensuring all qualified people are considered;
    2. Preservation of a bias-free corporate atmosphere. Without an AA plan, management may not see their own biases and stereotypes; &
    3. Congeniality to managerial planning. Good AA policies have been decades in the making. Organisations understand reporting on goals/timetables and feel comfortable with this management approach.
    In addition, in today’s global village, with growing affluence of citizens from newly industrialised countries, it makes good business sense that a workforce reflects the marketplace and customer base.
    Whilst I am an advocate for AA, I believe consideration needs to be given to an individual’s merit. As an example, in areas of preferential access or scholarships for education, consideration needs to be given to a range of indicators including income. Consider New Zealand’s refugee community. Many members of these communities have lived in refugee camps for years with little education. How can they be assisted to live a life of economic and social value? For me it is about education AA policies that provide access and financial support. If first generation refugees are educated and become, for example, lawyers or accountants, then they can provide opportunities for their children in the future.
    “The goal of affirmative action should be to fight poverty, and to fight poverty, more students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds of ALL races should be given priority in college admission and aid” The Economist (2013).
    However, should the grandchildren of these now educated and wealthy refugees benefit from a race based AA policy that provides access to financial benefits through educational scholarships? My view is no, if they are now affluent members of the community and can pay, then they should, leaving the financial assistance to those more financially needy. That does not mean they should not be supported by AA policy to ensure they have equal rights to education or work, it just means they should not receive financial benefits of AA policy if there is not a need.
    In summary, I believe there is a need for weak AA policy to ensure equality, and without these specific policies, our statistics for equality will worsen.
    Beauchamp, T. L. (2004). Goals and quotas in hiring and promotion. In T. L. Beauchamp & N.E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (7th ed., p. 352-360). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education
    Beauchamp, T. L., Bowie, N. E., Arnold, D. G. (2009). Ethical Theory and Business (8th ed.). New Jersey, United States: Pearson Prentice Hall Ltd
    Statistics New Zealand (2012), Working Together: Racial discrimination in New Zealand, retrieved from, sourced 22 April 2014
    The Economist (2013), Time to scrap affirmative action, retrieved from, sourced 20 April 2014
    The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (2013). 71203: Business Ethics. Lower Hutt, New Zealand: Author

  6. Hayley Potts says:

    Affirmative action is a social policy which aims to allow minority groups the chance to succeed. Minority groups are socially disadvantaged groups that may be disadvantaged based on gender, race, or religion to name a few. Affirmative action is a tool used to discourage discrimination to minority groups. The article above suggests affirmative action is no longer relevant. It seems there are a number of flaws in this argument and there are three ideas that will be discussed in further detail.

    Firstly, it is stated “I don’t believe it [affirmative action] is needed any longer and racial discrimination, by and large, is a thing of the past” (Barron, 2013). What evidence can be provided that racial discrimination no longer exists? Racial discrimination dates a long way back in history, to slavery and beyond. Racism today is not as extreme as it was all those years ago. It is fair to say the divide is becoming smaller. However, racism certainly still exists in today’s society. Beauchamp (2004) states “that a significant racial gap in unemployment statistics is a consistent pattern in the United States” (p. 355). Further evidence supports this, latest figures given in the Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor (2014) show that whites account for 5.8% of unemployment, while blacks account for 12.4% of unemployment in America. It clearly shows black unemployment is more than double that of white. This gives firm evidence that discrimination is still present in today’s society. Since affirmative action contributes to closing the inequality gap, affirmative action must continue until a time where inequality no longer exists.

    Secondly, the article claims “Affirmative Action props up and advances people who are otherwise unqualified for the employment or education for which they are applying” (Barron, 2013). Affirmative action does not believe a candidate should be hired or admittance granted to a person who is unqualified and who will perform poorly. That would contradict the business principle of productivity and efficiency. Who would will that one undergo business in such a way to sabotage their own business? That would contradict the purpose of being in business to make a profit.

    Affirmative action at most, suggests that when two candidates will be able to perform a task at a satisfactory level, preference goes to the underdog to account for past social injustices. Without a doubt Sonia Sotomayor had the necessary skills to satisfactory complete her education. Apply the same principle to a discus competition. Both men and woman may be qualified to enter the competition. However, different weights are given for throwing. Men’s weights are double that of a women. The reason for this is to even out the playing field, the same reason for which can be applied for allowing Sonia Sotomayor entrance to Princeton University. The purpose is to give qualified applicants the chance they may not have had otherwise, due to discrimination which as was showed earlier is still present in society today.

    Finally, the article gives the opinion that “There is no nobility in succeeding based on something you had no control over” (Barron, 2013). When a person from a minority group succeeds, surely would it not be empowering for them to stand up and say I succeeded? Not only that but I succeeded when the odds were against me. Succeeding as a minority would empower others from minority groups to think, if that person succeeded then so can I. These role models would provide a flow on effect for future generations of minority groups and encourage growth towards equality.

    Nobility is considered being from a social class with privileges higher than those of other classes. If this is the case, is it permissible to fail based on something you had no control over? Is it permissible that minority groups continue to lose out based purely on their genetic makeup? Human Rights Act 1993 lists the prohibited grounds of discrimination to try and combat these factors which applicants have no control over. The grounds for prohibited discrimination according to the Human Rights Act 1993 include; sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origins among others. These are all factors which are not chosen by the applicant or Sonia Sotomayor in this case. Affirmative action aims to reverse these factors by allowing minorities the chance to succeed.

    An opponent of affirmative action may argue this provides reverse discrimination to the majority. In reply, it would be asked at what cost? At what cost, should one discriminate against another? Should predominately white males continue to succeed at the cost of minority groups? This would continue to increase the economic inequality which may have many detrimental effects to society such as extreme poverty. An ideal society would see fairness among all. A society where equality is present and the welfare of all considered important. There may always be some social injustice, whether it be past or present. However, it is not considered fair that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. If this were to happen it would provide the reverse effect for what affirmative action is trying to combat.

    In conclusion, it has been shown that discrimination still exists in today’s society. Affirmative action should continue as a social policy until a time that there is no measurable discrimination present between groups within society. At this time society must consider each individual as equal to another. Only then would it be fair that a person be pursued upon merit alone and affirmative action would no longer be necessary. It would be fairer to live in a society promoting equality without prejudice so that society can flourish together.

    Barron, J. (2013). Affirmative Action is nothing to be proud of. Retrieved from

    Beauchamp, T. L. (2004). Goals and quotas in hiring and promotion. In T.L. Beauchamp & N. E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (7th ed., pp.355). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

    Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor. (2014, April 4). The Employment Situation – March 2014. Retrieved from

    Human Rights Act 1993, ss21-22.

    • Hayley,

      Affirmative action does nothing more that discriminate against white males. Those who suffered discrimination in the past are not benefited by AA. Those who are benefiting by AA were not victims of discrimination. It is unfair to say that because someone’s grandparents were discriminated against, they should therefore be able to be pushed to the head of the line regardless of qualifications.

      AA tells the beneficiary of the program that they are too stupid to make it on merit. THAT is a racist attitude.

      When I applied for a supervisory position there were two others who also applied – a white female and a black male. Because the black male’s credentials were sorely lacking, the manager easily justified not selecting him. So he had a choice between me and the woman. I had qualifications, experience, longevity, awards for performance, etc all outpointing her, yet the manager had to justify why he wanted to select me instead of her! He was stuck by the AA rules and had to hire her for the position. As luck would have it, she had also applied for the same position at another facility and THEY picked her up, allowing the manager to put me in the position I had earned on my merit!

      The reason blacks still account for a large portion of unemployment is because of the culture they are being raised in – to believe they don’t have to do anything because the government will take care of them.

      I suggest you acquire and peruse carefully the book, by Taleeb Starkes, “The Un-Civil War: Blacks vs Niggers.” Here’s a quote from page 26:

      “NIGGER parents don’t mind if their children fail to adjust to society’s measures of success because they inherently believe that America is rigged by WHITES for African-Americans to fail. In the NIGGER subculture, failure is always an option because of their belief that racism is so pervasive that no amount of individual effort will overcome it. Furthermore, failure is routinely embraced because it navigates their kids toward that reliable path of government handouts, which generationally has been the financial pillar of their subculture. … Oklahoma State representative, Sally Kern (R), expressed similar sentiment regarding the subculture’s outlook by stating, “We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.” Although she makes the common mistake of mis-labeling NIGGERS as BLACKS, she is spot-on with her observation.”

      Affirmative Action is a liberal idea trying make everything “equal” when there is no such thing as total “equality” — proper equality treats everyone the same and demands the proper qualifications for employment. Qualifications should never include gender or skin color, and CERTAINLY should never give preference to someone because they like having sex with someone of the same gender!

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