As I stated in the other discussion, white women are the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action: http://www.understandingprejudice.org/readroom/articles/affirm.htm
As other editors have commented, affirmative action is actually extremely problematic in terms of "solving" one set of racial problems only by creating a whole new set of racial problems through what is known as positive discrimination. This is something of a misnomer, as there can be no discrimination that is actually positive. Employing a black person over a white person because of the colour of their skin alone makes a travesty of racial equality in my opinion.
I agree that affirmative action is a political ideal that looks good on paper but fails in reality. The law, by its very nature, keeps prejudice in the foreground. Someone who is more qualified for a job might be turned down because the business needs to racially diversify its staff. This creates a new kind of prejudice and keeps some old prejudices alive. There needs to be some form of legal regulations for racial equality, I just don't think affirmative action is really working.
I agree that affirmative actions looks "good on paper," but the reality (as other posters have stated) is that it simply cannot be globally achieved (or even achieved in the United States). Just because a law regarding discrimination exists, it is impossible to change the minds of people who hold prejudices.
We're discussing two different issues here. Affirmative Action can create the legal structure that requires implementation of policies and practices allowing for access to opportunities. Whether or not that access is equal frequently is debatable, as it is difficult to define which circumstances might impact a person's ability to perform as a student, for example - should some students be allowed admission to a college program with a different GPA than others because of a difference in ethnic background?
Affirmative Action can not change the opinions and biases in peoples' hearts and heads. Only time, exposure, and experience with diversity can bring about the changes in thought patterns that will some day, God willing, make Affirmative Action unneeded because we will all truly and fully accept each other as being equal.
There is also another way of thinking about it, that is, from the perspective of the workforce as a whole. It seems to me that we have a stake in a diverse workforce and more importantly, in a diverse student body on college campuses and universities. To the extent that affirmative action policies can help bring this about, I think they are a good idea.
This is a hard question. I believe that in the past Affirmative Action was necessary (where injustices were blatant), but now we are moving past this. Many minorities communities are faring well. In addition, public education is not perfect, but it is available. There are also many programs in place to help people in all areas of life. In light of these points, Affirmative Action may not be as necessary. In addition, you want the best people in all areas. For this to happen, we might want to consider getting rid of things like Affirmative Action.
There are good arguments to be made on both sides of this issue, but the most impressive arguments against were made by Shelby Steele, in a book called The Content of our Character. It's been many years since I have read it, but one of the most compelling arguments is that affirmative action victimizes its recipients, not only in the eyes of others, but also in the eyes of those who benefit. Though I am not a person of color, my late husband was, and my children are biracial. So my stake in this is a little more personal than that of most white people. I would never want my sons to perceive themselves as victims, nor do I believe it is good for anyone to have that self-perception. It is a great book, and if you are doing research on this issue, I would highly recommend it.
I don't think it helps, and I say this as a "person of color." I think it would help except for the fact that it makes many white people even less well-disposed towards non-whites. It makes whites feel like non-whites A) need help to compete and B) are getting unfair help from the government. Neither of these is likely to help achieve racial equality. Instead, they are more likely to breed racial prejudice and resentment.
I believe it is impossible to achieve racial equality in anything other than the legal sense of the term. Racial equality is an ideal, and while we have certainly come closer to that ideal in the past half century, quite clearly we are not there yet, and I think human nature will always be susceptible to racism. What I believe Affirmative Action does is not create racial equality, but make economic equality more possible, as it can break the cycle of poverty, lack of education and limited earning potential of minorities and women. As those economic equalities lessen, I do believe we will get closer to the ideal of racial equality as well.