A Guide to Affirmative Action

Members of certain races, ethnicities, and other groups are often discriminated against. This is not just a matter of looking down on someone’s country of origin or opinion, it is full-blown attack, focused on denying people their basic human rights. One of the issues of this type of discrimination is not allowing someone to have equal employment opportunities. Affirmative action, in theory, is supposed to be a solution to this problem, a way to balance the scales (but not the way Thanos would do it).


Affirmative action as a term first appeared in 1961 in an executive order by President John F. Kennedy that made contractors employ people based on their expertise alone, disregarding someone’s race, creed, or origin. Six years later, women also made it onto this list. The full effect of this decision was felt mainly during the 70s and 80s until the political tides shifted.

How Many Do We Have to Take In?

Some countries, like India with their reservation system, decided to approach the problem systematically. A certain number of jobs and places in educational institutions would be reserved for the people who belong to discriminated groups. It is interesting to point out that India, with its strong caste system, started implementing this concept long before the US – way back in the 1950s. That being said, the program was not very inclusive – being a woman or belonging to a certain religious group would not grant you reservation, regardless of the amount of discrimination you may have faced.


The idea behind affirmative action is a noble one, though it is not without its faults and opportunities to manipulate or undermine the system through inadequate implementation.

One of the issues of affirmative action is that, as some believe, it leads to reverse discrimination. In other words, qualified individuals that happen to belong to the majority are discriminated against in favor of minority groups, even if their qualifications and accomplishments make them more than suitable for certain positions.

This is especially a problem in the quota-like implementation of the policy – in order to reach the quota, qualified individuals are disregarded in the hopes of promoting equality, or just pursuing political agenda. Many individuals belonging to a minority end up in positions that may be beyond their abilities. This is known as mismatching.

Another problem is the so-called creamy layer. It is a belief that there can be no equal opportunity presented to all the members of an oppressed group, as the elite of the group will reap all the benefits. This means that the individuals who are at a disadvantage the most still get the short end of the stick, while the creamy layer rests comfortably in their newfound position in society.