Public Policy: Affirmative Action in the USA


A policy refers to a collectively agreed-upon plan of action or principles that govern the activities of a person or a group of people. The public policies are very important and the policy-making process should be given enough attention mainly because the public policies define the type and the level of services that will be provided by the government to the public (Brunner para. 2). It also defines the kind of development activities that will be carried out in an area; it generally determines the prospects of a given society.

The public policy process

The public policy-making process is normally done by the top officials in the municipalities, metropolitans, and county councils. The public policy-making process is normally a highly decentralized activity because the opinions of many individuals are normally sought to come up with the policy. However, the public policy-making process has been termed as being disorganized and confused since it involves the sampling of the interests of many individuals, all of whom want their opinions to be incorporated into the policy (Brunner para. 3). A public policy in essence is a result of the decisions of the people holding authoritative positions in the government such as the president, minister, or governors.

Affirmative action description

Affirmative action refers to the set of policies and interventions that were aimed at reducing bigotry based on race, gender, religious affiliation, and nationality (Brunner para. 3). It was introduced in the United States by President J. F. Kennedy as a measure to eliminate racial bias which continued despite the establishment of strict civil rights policies and was focused on promoting equality in access to education and employment opportunities for both the minority groups in the United States and the whites. This policy was meant to allow the minorities to have access to educational sponsorship, job promotion, increment in salaries, and financial assistance to a student that had been meant for the whites (Brunner para. 4).

Affirmative action against racial discrimination

For quite some time, affirmative action provided a solution to the problem of racial discrimination. In the early seventies, the shortcomings of this policy had started surfacing; one of these demerits is what was referred to as reverse bias that involves discrimination of the whites in favor of the minorities (Anonymous para. 2). An example of this was brought into the limelight when a white person who had acquired the entry marks for joining a medical school was denied the opportunity since a portion of the vacancies had been reserved for the minority students who in the real sense had scored lower marks than him.

The result of this discrimination was an increased debate on the practicability of affirmative action. Most of the whites were arguing that the Asians and the Jews were able to adapt to the American lifestyle and were able to achieve just like the whites; they thought that the blacks should not be favored since self-sufficiency was one of the greatest values in America. While the conservatives are seriously criticizing affirmative action, the liberals are arguing that the blacks who got into America in chains should never be compared to the Asians and the Jews who arrived on ships and started trading (Anonymous para. 3). The liberals have been able to comprehend the unfairness in affirmative action like in the case where blacks were allowed to keep their jobs while the whites, some of whom were in top posts, were retrenched. The conservatives though are not relenting in their fight against affirmative action; they still feel that strict rules should be put in place to govern activities in America.

The justice in the Supreme Court in America has remained divided on the issue of affirmative action due to varying political opinions. Therefore, in most of the cases regarding affirmative action, most of the justices have proffered to settle for the smaller portions of the policy and not the whole since it is quite complex (Anonymous, 2009, 5). For instance, the case of the student who missed a chance to join the medical school because a number of the positions were reserved for the minorities is a good illustration of this. The public expected a landmark decision making on this case but was greatly disappointed when the judges became divided over the issue. The only judge who has been named to have succeeded in handling the cases concerning affirmative action is Sandra Day O’Connor (Anonymous para. 5); this is because she can juggle up the opinions of both the conservatives and the liberals.

A milestone ruling was made on affirmative action in 2003 about the affirmative action policies of Michigan University. In this ruling, the court supported the university’s policy that uses race among other things to select and admit learners into its law school but rejected its policy that rated students using points and awarded the minorities additional points. Sandra Day argued that awarding the students extra free marks is not right since if such students grow up to become leaders, their legitimacy may be questioned by the general public; she added that the way to real leadership needs to be accessible to all students who are gifted and competent regardless of their ethnic background (Anonymous para. 7).

Affirmative action remains one of the most debated subjects in the US today. Despite the election of President Barrack Obama as the president of America, nothing much has changed in the opinions of different people on the affirmative action policy. Even after the court issue involving Blake and California University and several other court cases regarding affirmative action, the major question remains whether affirmative action is meant to protect minorities or discriminate against whites. This puzzle remains unresolved. Even though the law prohibits any form of discrimination against any American citizen, people are still of the opinion that a significant change has not been experienced yet. The strict racial quotas were illegal since they were not part of the law but affirmative action is legitimate while the Supreme Court still finds the affirmative action quite complex and has never achieved considerable clarity in its rulings.

The court has therefore ruled that affirmative action is constitutional and is important in enhancing diversity in schools, universities, and workplaces (Anonymous para.15). The court has though made a ruling against the quota system that promoted discrimination and the program in some universities that awarded free extra marks for the minority students. Its argument, in this case, was that such an action may make the students’ competence be questioned. Judging from how the courts have been handling the issues on affirmative action, it is quite clear that the courts are not ready yet to make a general ruling on affirmative action. This is because most of the justices in the courts are of divided opinions regarding the policy.

Research done on the salaries earned by various people in America suggests that the Blacks and the Hispanics generally earn lower salaries than the whites and it does not matter even if they have acquired a university degree. This has been attributed to the low ranks that are held by the blacks and the Hispanics in various workplaces, where they have also been shown to have less experience relative to the whites. Still, on the issue of pay disparities, several studies done seem to suggest that even when the blacks and the whites working in a company have the same qualifications and level of experience, the whites are still offered bigger salaries than the blacks and the Hispanics; these researchers, therefore, argue that this, without any sense of doubt, is as a result of racism that is still deeply rooted in many companies.

Affirmative action may be reversed to be in support of the whites and discriminate against the minority groups (Zeigler, Harmon and Dye 241). For instance, the University of California changed its policies to include a set of rules that determine those that qualify to be considered for admission. Such an initiative according to the critics will only result in several minority students being blocked from joining the university. Up to now, that affirmative action has not been resolved yet and this is simply a result of the difference in the races and political views of many individuals. For instance, President Barrack Obama publicly declared his support for affirmative action while Senator John McCain, back in 2008 in an interview, said that he would vote for the dissolution of affirmative action. Though McCain says that he is against the quota system in employment companies, he has also only supported affirmative action in very few instances.

The public policy model

The public policy model that can be applied to this policy is the group model. In this model, the public policy is put into place as a result of several disagreeing opinions from two groups of people (Dye 176). The demand is normally put on the government or the administrative body by the interested parties. This kind of pressure normally leaves the governing body unsure as to whether the policies that they are putting in place are going to benefit everyone or just the interest groups. Such groups, therefore, act as a link between the government and the people. A person will be considered worthy in politics when he is part of the group or acts as a representative of the group.

The role of the government, therefore, is to come up with the regulations to govern the policy, stabilize the varying interests of the groups involved, enhance cooperation to enhance the understanding of the policy, and promote the concession in the public policy. The group that wins is determined by the number of people in the group, financial capability, leadership skills, and solidarity among the members (Dye 176). In addition, the policymakers will make decisions regarding the policy by either consultation or concession between the conflicting interests of the groups. This structure believes that the general public will support the policy; it also assumes that the public will have overlapping opinions and will not dwell on the extremes of the policy; and that there are natural controls that will govern the interests of the groups (Dye 176).

The group public policy model resembles the affirmative action policy in the sense that affirmative action was put in place to cater to the interest of the minorities in the United States. The conflicting interests were that the blacks were feeling discriminated against and subordinated by the whites while the whites were also feeling that they had more rights as the citizens of America than the blacks whom they perceived as immigrants. Affirmative action just like in the model has resulted in a lot of debates especially on whether it serves the interests of all Americans or just a few minorities. The model suggests that a person’s stand in the political arena is determined by their position on the policy; the affirmative action too attracted varied views from the political aspirants in the United States and this determined the support they acquired from the public.

The group model explains that the group that wins will be the one that is better placed in terms of numbers and wealth and can show a sense of solidarity. The blacks have been fighting for their rights as citizens of America by advocating for equal rights in access to education, employment, and state facilities. The fight for a common goal resulted in a sense of solidarity among the blacks, which was one of the factors that prompted the creation of the affirmative action policy.


The primary aim of the introduction of affirmative action was to eliminate racial bias which was continuous despite the establishment of strict civil rights policies. Affirmative action focused on promoting equality in access to education and employment opportunities for both the minority groups in the United States and the whites. However, since its establishment in the 1960s, it has faced criticism from some people who argue that it has resulted in the oppression of the whites. Judging from how the courts have been handling the issues on affirmative action, it is quite clear that the courts have weakness in providing a general ruling on the affirmative action policy.

Works Cited

Anonymous. “Where affirmative action stands today.” Contexts.Org. 2009. Web.

Brunner, Brogna. “Affirmative action history.” Infoplease. 2007. Web.

Dye, Thomas. Understanding public policy. Edition 8. California, Prentice Hall.1995

Zeigler, Harmon and Dye, Thomas. The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. London, Cengage publishers. 2008.

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