The Black Lives Matter movement and contemporary conversations on race class and sexuality have in 2020 put the focus on structural redress. This brief article will serve as a basis for understanding what affirmative action is, its arguments, and ultimately where we stand as an organization on the issue of AA.
What is affirmative action?
Affirmative action also is known as a form of positive discrimination is a practice of using race, class, and gender as hallmarks in the appointment of individuals in organizational functions who historically have been marginalized due to historical injustices.
On a practical level, affirmative action is manifested in different ways but most commonly through Quotas that set a requirement on the hiring of specific groups of people. An example of this is the position taken recently by the European Commission to make sure that at least 40 percent of non-directorship roles in large listed companies are filled by women. This action is a direct response to socially established norms that have kept women away from the corporate space. AA has also been expressed through scorecard systems in which a person’s race class and gender alongside their qualification and experience are used to tabulate points in which the individual with the most getting preference for hire in an organization.
Why the controversy?
Various criticisms have formed against Affirmative Action policies, the most prominent entailing these criticisms:
*Affirmative action discriminates against individuals of the majority who in some instances had no direct involvement in the subjugation of victims of historical injustices.
*Affirmative action removes meritocracy from the system and therefore leads to the best-qualified people being frozen out of the hiring process.
*Society as a whole suffers when the best people are not hired for positions since it can lead to less than optimal services provided to the wider public.
This criticism presented have been refuted by those who advocate and support the use of AA measures by these three correlating counter-responses:
*The descendants of people who subjugated another for their own upliftment still enjoy the benefits through generational wealth and structural transfers. Inversely the descendants of those subjugated are found limited by inherited structural asymmetries given to them upon birth.
*One counter-argument to the perceived notion of lack of meritocracy is the reality that even in spaces in which Affirmative Action measures are taken to task, spaces of employment are overwhelmingly still dominated by previously historically advantaged groups. The very presence of such groups in said spaces is a consequence of a lack of meritocratic structures and therefore AA measures are seen as a tool to enforce greater parity between groups of people.
*The argument that society as a whole suffers due to not having the "best “people in their positions is one that is argued to be false since expanding the scope of those who can engage with positions of power and monetary gain helps directly create new pools of information and monetary capacity in marginalized communities. This in effect helps society as a whole since more people can effectively engage with both public and private functions of society due to greater representation and economic mobility.
Where do we stand on the debate?
As an organization, we strongly believe in affirmative action as a means of providing greater equity marginalized people based principally on two pillars that being Justice and demonstrable net gains through equitable redistribution. The case of justice is one in which we hold dear. Even if an argument is provided that certain injustices had occurred in a previous generation from the present, the truth is injustices do not decay over time especially if they have a measurable connection to current struggles faced today. If past injustice affects and deprives people of attaining equity and equality, it becomes a moral imperative to fix it. The truth is Affirmative Action does not seek out radical transformation but one that is incremental in nature since most affirmative action policies seek the gradual incorporation of marginalized groups within the organizational and structural framework.
At NSI we also believe that affirmative action has the capacity to provide demonstrable net gains. A recent example of this has been seen in Brazil through its affirmative action policies at institutes of higher learning. It was discovered through a study that universities that adopted Affirmative Action had increased marginalized groupings enrolment by a significant amount. Between 2004 -2012 using the data of 163,889 1st years students, there was an increase of
*9.8 percent increase of black and mixed-race students
*10.7 percent increase of public high school students
*14.9 percent increase of students of lower socio-economic backgrounds
Examples such as these show the power of affirmative action and since education is an important determiner of social mobility ,giving marginalized people greater access to educational institutions directly impacts entire families and communities
The purpose of this brief article was to explain what affirmative action is but also why we as an organization consider it extremely important when crafting human-centered policy. We as an organization believe that justice and material equity are important when improving human livelihoods and therefore central to our organization's goals.