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Victoria Reeve
Jessica McCallum
Junior Humanities
16 November 2016
Argument Against Affirmative Action
Independence. We all want it; it is like the right of passage into adulthood. Living on
one's own, being dependable on only oneself and being recognized as a capable individual.
Affirmative action takes this away. One no longer is being 100% dependable on his/herself, but
on a system that says they need their help to do things. Then one is also no longer recognized as
capable, when others base one’s achievements and failures on the color or their skin or their
gender. We do not need affirmative action. Affirmative Action was made to provide more equal
opportunities for minorities and women that white males typically are more prone to acquiring.
The policy came from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s executive
order 11246, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
( Affirmative action has the right intention. Yet in some ways it only
aggravates the problem of racial equality by introducing reverse racism, bringing down the
confidence of minorities while causing their achievements to be overlooked, and by making
assumption about their social status based on their race.
Affirmative action is promoting the very thing that people of minorities have been
working so hard to get abolish: preferential treatment based on the color of one’s skin or gender.
In his essay, "What is Wrong with Reverse Discrimination," Edwin C. Hettinger comments,
"Reverse discrimination against white males is the same evil as traditional discrimination against
women and blacks. The only difference is that in this case it is the white male that is being
discriminated against. Thus if additional racism and sexism is wrong, so is reverse
discrimination, and for the very same reasons" (pp. 305-306). One cannot fix a wrong with

another wrong. Is it not unfair that one judges people just by their race? Just by their
appearance? Is it not unfair that a person only gets into a certain establishment because they are
of the minority? Or that one does not get into an establishment because they are of a majority?
One does not get to choose what body they are born into, so why are we judged on something we
have no control over instead of being judged on the things that we do have control over, like
character and effort. In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech he ardently
proclaimed, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they
will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" (para. 15). Even
someone as wise as Dr. Martin Luther King recognized there should be no preferential treatment
based on color.
With affirmative action, we cause people of minorities to be even less appreciated by
shadowing their accomplishments and generalizing their mistakes, all the while bringing down
their confidence and self worth. “Surely when these individuals fail, their failure will be viewed
as confirmation of their inadequacy. Then again, when some of these people do succeed on their
own merit, it will be assumed they were the recipients of special treatment.” recognized Gabriel
Wasson. This kind of thinking brings down people’s confidence. People's accomplishments
should be celebrated not overlooked. The worst part is that people of minorities begin to believe
in this as well. In her essay, "Affirmative Action: The Price of Preference," Shelby Steel (1997)
comments, " [Affirmative action] indirectly encourages blacks to exploit their own past
victimization as a source of power and privilege. Victimization is what justifies preference, so
that to receive the benefits of preferential treatment one must become invested in the view of
one's self as a victim" (319). Affirmative action is trying to create equality among all. So isn't it
working against progress to make people believe that they are victims or inferior. If we continue
to let them believe in this, the problem will never be solved. We want minorities to see
themselves as equal, not as victims that personally believe equality is not achievable.

A common argument for affirmative action is that we need affirmative action because minorities
do not have the same opportunities as the majorities because they are poor:
Although the groups covered by affirmative action tend to be poorer than their
neighbours, the individuals who benefit are often not. One American federal-contracting
programme favours businesses owned by “socially and economically disadvantaged”
people. Such people can be 87 times richer than the average American family and still be
deemed “disadvantaged” if their skin is the right colour.
If the goal is in fact to help people of minorities because they're poor, then is the issue not more
about wealth rather than race? Should we not be focusing on creating equal opportunity for the
economically disadvantaged rather than race? Cheryl Hopwood grew up poor and struggled
through school only to be denied by the school she had applied to because they had prioritized
people of minorities, some of which were more economically advantaged. “Why should an
African American from an affluent Houston suburb get an edge over Cheryl Hopwood, who may
actually have faced tougher economic struggle?” (Sandel 170) These cases happen all the time.
When an African American, who went to a better school and lived in a better neighborhood with
some better support get into places over people who went to worse school, lived in a worse
neighborhood with lack of support and worked harder. Affirmative action is looking in the wrong
Former United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart noted in his dissenting
opinion in Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U.S. 448 (1980) :
This history contains one clear lesson. Under our Constitution, the government may
never act to the detriment of a person solely because of that person’s race. The color of a
person’s skin and the country of his origin are immutable facts that bear no relation to
ability, disadvantage, moral culpability, or any other characteristics of constitutionally

permissible interest to government…. the rule cannot be any different when the persons
injured by a racially biased law are not members of a racial minority.
Affirmative action has the right intention, yet it is just not a suitable way to solve this problem. It
does not work, as it only worsens the problem with the introduction of reverse discrimination and
creating a negative mindset for both groups involved. When will we live in a world where
everyone, regardless of race or gender, is seen as dependable and capable of success in life?


Works Cited
"Affirmative Action." Affirmative Action. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Hettinger, E.c. (1997). What is wrong with reverse discrimination? In T. A. Mappes and J. S.
Zembaty (Eds.), Social ethics: Morality and social policy (305-306). New York:
King, Martin Luther, Jr. "I Have a Dream." Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 15 Nov. 2016. Speech.
Steele, S. (1997). Affirmative action: The price of preference. In T. A. Mappes and J. S. Zembaty
(Eds.), Social ethics: Morality and social policy (319). New Yark: MacGraw-Hill.
Sandel, Michael. “Arguing Affirmative Action.” Justice: What's the Right Thing to do? New
York: Farrar Straus, and Groux, 2009.
"Time to Scrap Affirmative Action." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 27 Apr. 2013.
Web. 3 Nov. 2016. <>.
"United States American History." United States American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov.
2016. <>.
Wasson, Gabriel Patrick. "Affirmative Action: Equality or Reverse Discrimination." N.p.,
Spring 2004. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.