When they were first initiated, affirmative action policies were
needed to address the discrimination faced by women and members of minority
ethnic groups. These policies have enabled many people to secure better
employment and educational opportunities. In their wake, however,
affirmative action policies have also spawned criticisms of reverse
discrimination, and given rise to charges that in the long run, these
policies harm the people they were intended to help.
This paper argues that while affirmative action policies were
necessary in 1965, they are no longer appropriate in 2003. In fact, this
paper presents arguments why affirmative action policies are ineffective in
addressing the discrimination problems faced by African Americans, Latinos
1. Race is not a sharply-defined category.
Many critics of affirmative action point to the problem of "racial
boxing" that these policies inherently promote. Linda Chavez, for example,
argues that race categories are arbitrary concepts, which are fluid and
This problem is best illustrated in the arbitrary definitions of what
constitutes being "Latino" or "Hispanic." An Argentinean person of Spanish
ancestry, for example, would most likely be considered "Caucasian."
However, if the same person speaks fluent Spanish instead of fluid English,
he automatically becomes "Hispanic."
Such arbitrary classifications are also at work among other racial
groups. All Asians are usually lumped together because of the way they
look. Such a catchall category, however glosses over important cultural
differences and even makes light of deep-seated cleavages between groups
like the Japanese and Koreans. Even Caucasian people of Eastern European
descent are asserting their distinctness from other Caucasians.
Just as it is impossible to classify who belongs to what ethnic group,
it is also virt...