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In 1961, United States President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925, which contained the first modern use of the phrase affirmative action. Just four years later, in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which added on to the existing affirmative action legislation by adding religion onto Kennedy's original protection against things like national origin, color, and race. In 1967, gender became yet another identifying characteristic that could not legally be discriminated against via Executive Order 11375. 

So What Exactly Is Affirmative Action, Anyway? 

For thousands of years, humans across the planet have been discriminated for the same things that they're discriminated for today: gender, religion, ethnic origin, and countless other characteristics. 

In the context of the United States of America, White people have historically been the most privileged race across the nation. Blacks are still disproportionately spread across low-income housing objects that are full of things like drug dealers, gang activity, and open-air prostitution. The same can be said for people of Latino origin. Further, although Asians have higher incomes than any other race in the United States, many Japanese people were held in internment camps on the West Coast from 1942 to 1946. 

We can also look at political offices across the nation - they're generally filled with White people. This current fact of life also holds true for the executive suites of the country's largest companies. 

Affirmative action is essentially reverse discrimination. 

Let's Dig Into An Example Of Affirmative Action In College 

When institutes of higher education seek out new students, they often use affirmative action policies to enroll more applicants who claim to be minorities as compared to their White counterparts. 

Even if all the White applicants, when combined and averaged out, scored an average of three points higher on the ACT than their minority counterparts, the school would still likely bring a widely disproportionate number of minorities into their programs. 

This example can be applied to a group of people who are seeking entry into businesses or government agencies. Either way, decision-makers still lean towards minorities in making hiring decisions. This isn't because those minorities are better-suited for the jobs they're applying for, however; it's because the United States federal government's policy of affirmative action forces them to do so or they could face punishment. 

What Are The Ups And Downs Of Affirmative Action In Schools? 

Pro - For Countless Years, Some People Have Been Seriously Oppressed 

Just 50-odd years ago, Black people were attacked by vicious police dogs that were trained to be violent, high-pressure water cannons to keep them out of places where White people didn't welcome them, and physically by White people who resisted their integration into American society as equals. These Black protestors were part of the Civil Rights Movement. They effectively fought to the death for their right to even begin to be considered equal to White Americans. 

Rather than compounding the historical accomplishments of White people over time - many Black people would end up with very little, if not nothing, as a result of such compounding because they never had much in the first place - it was unarguably fair to grant Black people a wider level of access to the same institutions of education that White people had become oh-so-accustomed to. 

Pro - Diversity Helps Prepare People For Experiences In Real Life 

Through affirmative action, schools can more or less make sure that every classroom will be evenly mixed with students who hail from all sorts of backgrounds. Students are more likely to take valuable lessons with them throughout their lifetimes when exposed to such environments, as not everybody has been exposed to true diversity and become accustomed to it. 

Pro - People From Certain Areas Should Be Given The Same Opportunity As People From Other Areas 

There are countless places across the United States of America that are home to throngs of people who haven't widely managed to obtain things like employment at places of work that pay significantly more than minimum wage, high school diplomas, and - this one is especially true for people who are born and raised in these areas - college degrees. 

Thanks to the power of affirmative action, these people - it's worth noting that they often hail from a wide range of races - find their way into colleges and universities, typically becoming the first in their families or hometowns to earn degrees and certificates from institutions of higher education. 

Con - Low-Income, Disadvantaged White People Get The Short End Of The Stick 

Traditionally, White households have averaged a much greater household income than their Latino, Black, Native American, and Pacific Islander counterparts. When it comes to being discriminated against, White people usually have it better than the other four races above. 

Without affirmative action, these low-income White people who apply to a given school would likely be considered for admission, especially if they had high marks on entrance exams. However, since the United States is home to affirmative action, these disadvantaged applicants often get left out of contention. 

Con - People Should Be Assigned To Roles They're Qualified For 

In colleges and universities, many graduate students try to lower their tuition by working for those schools as graduate assistants, research aides, or teaching assistants. Since these people are directly involved in the advancement of research and education, they should be as best qualified for their roles as humanly possible. 

For example, don't you think that a student in a graduate program would prefer to work alongside a graduate assistant who scored great on an entrance exam rather than a graduate assistant who is considered average by every stretch of the imagination? As such, isn't hiring the average candidate to work as a graduate assistant unfair to the students who are paying to attend that program? 

When people are assigned to positions based either partially or wholly on their race, ethnic origin, religion, or another protected characteristic, they're more likely to not perform as well as their more-qualified counterparts. 

Con - Affirmative Action Is Effectively Discrimination 

The purpose of affirmative action is to help people of races and ethnicities who have been behind the curve for decades, if not centuries, get on a level playing field with their better-off counterparts. However, granting students admission into schools based on race, whether the race-based decision allows a historically oppressed Black person who has lower scores than a historically better-off White person with higher scores or the other way around, race shouldn't be involved in the evaluation process. 

Con - These Policies Promote Stereotyping And Exercising Racist Views 

Assume that a school gets in trouble for not accepting students with affirmative action in mind. For example, that school didn't bring in many Black or Latino applicants because their scores and applications were generally weaker than their counterparts. 

The next year, the school has a significantly higher proportion of Black and Latino students walking its halls. People who had attended the school for both years would be likely to develop feelings of hatred and disgust towards Black and Latino people because they found their way into such schools because of something they have no control over. Further, these two-year attendees are also more likely to enforce stereotypes in their thinking and decision-making processes.

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