Affirmative action provides a short-term plan to help diversify schools, fight racism

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Throughout history, institutional racism and sexism " which still exist widely today " have left certain groups disadvantaged. Our society can’t change this on its own.

For example, past practices have limited many black people from attending certain schools and gaining certain work experience, placing us at a disadvantage merit-wise. As well, despite good intentions, many jobs are granted based on referrals from employers or friends " and the current workforce isn’t very diverse. It has also been proven that employers are more likely to hire people from similar backgrounds " in other words, people from already “empowered” groups.

Affirmative action aims to counter such discrimination and is often used in the United States. However, it currently isn’t practised in Canada.

The main reason to support affirmative action is because it assists people disadvantaged by factors beyond their control; however, one of the major concerns about affirmative action is that it benefits the wrong people.

For example, if I checked the “visible minority” and “female” boxes on a job application at a company practising affirmative action, I could be considered ahead of many of my white, male peers with similar resumes.

But what if one of the people vying for the job is a white male who lacks education and work experience because he’s from a low-income bracket " a factor which is also out of his control?

I come from an upper-middle class family, live in the suburbs and am receiving a fancy education from the Richard Ivey School of Business " so doesn’t he need the help more than I do?

Or what about the white woman who has more work experience and education but isn’t hired because a company needs to fill their “black quota?”

While inequality in society can’t be fixed by affirmative action, that isn’t its goal. Affirmative action should only be implemented as a short-term plan to help diversify colleges and workplaces now so they can maintain diversity in the future.

The real inequality exists at a social level and should be stopped there. Instead of giving certain people handouts, Canada should provide more funding for inner-city schools, more scholarships for cash-strapped students and more education for people who hire employees based on prejudice.

Once a diverse workforce is obtained, these problems will start disappearing.

Affirmative action might not solve North America’s deeply rooted racism, but it will help those of us forced to live with it.

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