Why I Oppose Affirmative Action


Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

I believe affirmative action is something that should be opposed under any meritocratic society as it undermines agency as well as achievement and merit-based structuring.

This is done under the guise of positive discrimination. But let’s be clear: discrimination is still discrimination, regardless of how it’s sold. Therefore are we not forced to accepted that affirmative action is by its very definition racist and sexist? If this is the case, then we have a problem. Why? Because we live in what is meant to be a meritocracy. A meritocracy is great because it’s an ideology that focuses policies on rewarding skills rather than their race or sex. Therefore, the policies of affirmative action undermine this key value of meritocracy.

Many will argue the point of affirmative action is to combat the discrimination that exists within our society. I disagree for three reasons.

Firstly, although I accept the premise that there is sadly still a level of discrimination within our society, I do not accept that it is pervasive and strong enough to justify such an aggressive policy. I understand why affirmative action came about – it was introduced to correct the past issues of discrimination that were prevalent within Britain. However, I would like to highlight that for the most part within modern Britain, we are pretty tolerant and open-minded, especially when it comes to the notion of equality. This claim is also backed by the fact that we have laws against discrimination within the UK that protect people. Thanks to laws like the UK employment equality law, it’s illegal to discriminate against people based on ‘protected characteristics’ which include things like race and gender. For this reason, there’s no need to perform acts of positive discrimination as it’s illegal to not hire the person best suited for a job because of their race or sex.

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Secondly, I believe that affirmative action policies cause more harm than good for those they proclaim to help. The implicit suggestion made by many affirmative action laws is that the people who benefit from them wouldn’t have been able to make it without those laws.  This, to me, fundamentally legitimises the original discrimination. If a woman and a man apply for the same job, the woman could have got the job because she is the better applicant, but instead she receives the job because of her gender. This leads to the “she’s only here because they had to hire a woman” mentality. This, in turn, may stunt her ability to climb the career ladder as bosses are unlikely to see her as a true employee but instead as a box that has been ticked.

Thirdly, I believe that affirmative action creates paranoia when it comes to people’s attitude of society. The existence of the laws themselves implicitly teach people that their successes and achievements are not born out of accomplishments, but instead due to their race and sex. The instruction attached to these laws is that without them individuals would find it impossible to succeed on their own. Under such societal governance no person would succeed. It also creates an atmosphere where people are pitted against one another not based on skill, but on unchangeable characteristics. Ironically, this will create further divisions and grudges between both the sexes and different ethnicities.

Thus, affirmative action either negatively stigmatises those it attempts to help by burdening them with traits like box tickers, or it’s just of an aggressive use of government policy to attack. Finally, it only seems to undermine the meritocratic nature of our society which is detrimental in allocating work and resources. This seems to me like the exact opposite of what we want in a society, especially if we are saying that all people, regardless of sex or race, are equal.

Editor’s Note: An opposing opinion, supporting affirmative action, will be published tomorrow.


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