A reflection on affirmative actions and their perception in society.
By Nicole Di Maria / Matthew staff || Edited by Leila Baez
Oxford Languages Dictionary defines affirmative action as “the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against previously.” In simple terms, it is a policy enacted to improve the condition of minorities within societies, mainly used in the employment and educational fields. Affirmative action policy is a highly debated topic. Affirmative action opens disputes over morality, ethics, human rights, meritocracy, and historical consequences. But today a crucial inquiry seems to be whether society still needs this policy or not.
The most common critique over affirmative action is how minoritarian groups base this same policy on discriminatory assumptions. Indeed, some argue that this kind of policy favors minorities and discriminates against candidates who “better” deserve to be chosen for positions, examples include applying for employment or for entrance into a university. Opposers of affirmative action also stated that, since this behavior considers a specific category of people as “unjustly privileged,” it might be one of the first causes for discrimination. However, one could grant that it is not the fault of majoritarian groups to be born and raised in comfortable and wealthy environments that give them certain privileges.
History plays a leading role in what has been the achievement of today’s level of inclusion for minorities. For centuries, every minoritarian group, based on disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, etc., pursued battles to gain the same rights that majoritarian groups have (e.g., gay pride parades, fights against apartheid, sensibilization over disabilities, feminist movements, spreading education on diversity). And yet, societies still need more laws to protect minorities, and more inclusion policies, to counter standardized and corrupted systems, even in the twenty-first century.
To analyze affirmative action from a more philosophical point of view, it is interesting to consider Hegel’s dialectic understanding of history. He asserts that every historical process is based on the contradiction between a concept, named “thesis,” and its antithesis, which is resolved at a “higher level of truth” in an interpretive process, named “synthesis.” Following Hegel’s reasoning, the historical development of inclusivity could be built over three phases: first, the “thesis” of Caucasian, heterosexual, cisgender, and non-disabled men’s supremacy; second, the growing acknowledgment of minorities existence, that brings us to an “antithesis” in which majoritarian groups feel discriminated due to affirmative action policies; and finally, a “synthesis” in which the problem of inclusivity will not even exist anymore because the same rights and opportunities are assured to everyone.
But are affirmative actions still needed? The answer is subjective and depends on the life background of each individual. This policy helps develop diverse environments where minoritarian groups could contribute differently from majorities. In my opinion, everyone must acknowledge their own privileges and use them to reach the “synthesis” phase as fast as possible. The quicker we change today’s standardized and corrupt system, the better for everyone.