The term affirmative action describes policies aimed at a historically socio-politically non-dominant group (typically, minority men or women of all races) intended to promote access to education or employment. Motivation for affirmative action is a desire to redress the effects of past and current discrimination that is regarded as unfair.[who?] It also serves to encourage public institutions such as universities, hospitals and police forces to be more representative of the population.
This is commonly achieved through targeted recruitment programs aimed at applicants from socio-politically disadvantaged groups. In some cases affirmative action involves giving preferential treatment to these groups. Opponents of affirmative action policies argue that they are based on collectivism and merely another equal form of discrimination because they can result in qualified applicants being denied entry to higher education or employment because they belong to a particular social group (usually the historically socio-politically dominant group; typically majority races and men, regardless of social standing or financial need.) They also argue that preferential treatment should be based upon current social and economical standing, not that of one's ancestors. Some opponents say that affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen because of the social group they belong to rather than their qualifications.
Opponents of affirmative action call it reverse discrimination because affirmative action requires the very discrimination it is seeking to eliminate in order to work. This contradiction makes affirmative action counter-productive. It promotes prejudice by increasing resentment toward those who are the beneficiaries of affirmative action from those who have been adversely affected by the policy (such as poor white). (Read Thomas Sowell's Affirmative Action Around The World and Basic and Applied Economics) It also causes unprepared applicants to be accepted in highly demanding educational institution or jobs which result in eventual failure. (See, for example, Richard Sander's study of affirmative action in Law School and bar exam). Lastly, by lowering the bar, it denies those who strive for excellence on their own merit the sense of real achievement. (See, for example, Clarence Thomas' "My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir".) Some argue that affirmative action itself has some merit when it is targeted to true cause of social deprivation such as poverty while race, ethnicity or gender based affirmative action is misguided.
Some opponents claim that affirmative action is not necessary when looking at how past groups that suffered from extensive oppression like Asian, Jewish, Arab, Irish, Eastern European and Southern European Americans, all of whom are groups of people that were also discriminated against within society in the past and never received any benefits from an...