Micheli Hinkle

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Micheli Hinkle

Liliana C. Melo

Professor: Patrick Payne

Principles of Management AMM 103

November 29, 2006

The merits of Affirmative Action Versus Reverse Discrimination

According to Robertson and Smith in their article “Personnel Selection”, the process of personnel selection is used to identify and hire individuals or groups of individuals to fill vacancies within an organization. Often based on an initial job analysis, the ultimate goal of personnel selection is to ensure an adequate return on investment--in other words, to make sure the productivity of the new hire warrants the costs spent on recruiting and training that hire (1). However, the government has interested in the personnel selection has become in order to prohibit discrimination in the selection of employees because federal and state employment laws prohibit discrimination against individuals who fall into certain protected classes. These protected classes include: age, disabilities, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, and veteran status. That is how the government through its Department of Labor has established laws and regulations to protect the employees. The U.S. Department of Labor has created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) as part of the Employment Standards Administration. OFCCP is responsible for ensuring that employers doing business with the Federal government comply with the laws and regulations requiring nondiscrimination and affirmative action. As a result, OFCCP requires federal contractors with contracts of at least $50,000 and with 50 or more employees to develop and follow an affirmative action plan.

The affirmative Action Plan (AAP) is a written document through which management assures that all persons have equal opportunities in recruitment, selection, appointment, promotion, training, discipline and related employment areas. The plan is tailored to the employer's work force and the skills available in the labor force. It prescribes specific actions, goals, timetables, responsibilities and describes resources to meet identified needs. The plan is a comprehensive results oriented program designed to achieve equal employment opportunity rather than merely to assure nondiscrimination.

Nevertheless, the use of affirmative action to ensure equal opportunity in employment has been controversial since its inception in the 1960s. This controversy is based on several questions that have been insufficiently gone into: “(a) Do public attitudes toward a self-defined “typical” affirmative action plan (AAP) differ from attitudes toward a tiebreak procedure that gives preference to a Black applicant over a White applicant only when qualifications are equal and Blacks are underrepresented? (b) Do the same factors predict attitudes toward these two versions of affirmative action? (c) Do the attitudes, the predictors, and their relationships differ substantially among White, Black, and Hispanic respondents?” (Crosby and Cordova 1)

In the article “Reactions to Two Versions of Affirmative Action Among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics” by David A. Kravitz and Stephen L. Klineberg establishes a conceptual model underlying (fig. 1) in order to explain the attitudes toward an affirmative action. In addition, these attitudes are affected by relevant beliefs and by individual characteristics. “Relevant beliefs include beliefs about the actions incorporated in a given AAP, the perceived fairness of affirmative action remedies in general, and the extent of workplace discrimination experienced by different demographic groups” (Kravitz and Klineberg 2).

Fig. 1. Conceptual model of determinants of attitudes toward an affirmative action plan (AAP).

There are three subcategories of individual characteristics that are likely to influence affirmative action attitudes. First, beneficiary status refers to the demographic characteristics that determine whether an individual or group will benefit from an AAP—among these characteristics we include ethnicity and gender. Second, personal variables are the individual's political orientation and his or her personal experiences with discrimination. Last, other demographic characteristics include such variables as age, education, and income. These individual characteristics may influence attitudes both directly and indirectly through their effects on the beliefs.

In addition, when hiring quotas are imposed without the sanction of an Affirmative Action plan, reverse discrimination can result; for example, when an employer illegally favors the hiring and promotion of protected groups of minorities and women while excluding other candidates from consideration. So reverse discrimination is itself a form of discrimination. Some also argue that affirmative action creates reverse discrimination; to prove this point the editors of the New Criterion (monthly journal of conservative opinion) examined the admission policy of Michigan State University where minority students are giving twenty extra points simply because of their ethnic origin. According to the New Criterion, such policy discriminates against whites.

There are hidden assumptions in the reverse discrimination discourse. In the section titled "Reduced (Balanced) Opportunity", Dr. Pincus writes, in part: "Dispensing with the concept of reverse discrimination does not mean that some whites, especially white males, may have fewer opportunities for jobs, promotions, college seats or government contracts as a result of affirmative action. In a zero-sum competitive society, if one group receives more opportunities, other groups will receive less. While affirmative action critics view this as reverse discrimination, it is also possible to see it as a relatively privileged group like white males losing some of their privileges."

It is very important to distinguish between reverse discrimination and reduced opportunity. In order to distinguish them, it is necessary to discredit the entire reverse discrimination discourse with its empirical and theoretical exaggerations and distortions. Discrimination against people of color and women is still the major problem according to the self-report data in the polls as well as the studies of formal complaints. Color-blind policies may resonate as powerful political symbols but they will not solve the existing problems. Preferences and quotas only account for a small portion of affirmative action policies. Using the term reverse discrimination, and others associated with this package, needlessly fans the flames of racism and sexism.

In conclusion, the society should learn to embrace diversity. People from different cultures have a lot to teach one another. The only way for this to happen is to maximize diversity in the workplace. While affirmative action is not the best way of going about this, there are other ways of promoting diversity; for example, encouraging minorities from a young age to pursue their goals and obtain a good education is an important start. In addition, understanding and accepting diversity is not the issue in question; the issue is the best way of going about creating a society where minorities and non-minorities can be judged based on merit and disposition, and not on the color of their skin.


Crosby, Faye and Cordova, Diana. “Words Worth of Wisdom: Toward an Understanding of Affirmative Action.” Journal of Social Issues 52 Issue 4 (1996): 33-49. Academic Search Premier EBSCOHost. LaGuardia Community Colll. Lib., Long Island City, NY. 24 November 2006.

Kravitz, David A.1 and Klineberg, Stephen L. “Reactions to Two Versions of Affirmative Action Among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics.” Journal of Applied Psychology 85 Issue 4 (2000): 597-611. Business Source Premier. EBSCOHost. LaGuardia Community Colll. Lib., Long Island City, NY. 24 November 2006.

Pincus, Fred L. “Reverse discrimination-dismantling the Myth.


Robertson, Ivan T. and Smith, Mike. “Personnel Selection.” Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology 74 Issue 4 (2001): p441-472. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCOHost. LaGuardia Community Colll. Lib., Long Island City, NY. 24 November 2006.


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