According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, affirmative action is "an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women." In practical terms, affirmative action involves laws, policies, and guidelines that stipulate special consideration for minorities or women to counterbalance historical discrimination.
The first practical consideration of affirmative action occurred after the Civil War, when General Sherman proposed that land in the South be divided and each African American family be given "forty acres and a mule." This policy was never implemented due to its lack of popularity. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy used the term "affirmative action" in an executive order against discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination in the workplace, and in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order for federal contractors to practice affirmative action.
Since then, affirmative action has been widely used as a method of offsetting discrimination towards African Americans, although it is banned in several states. It is a highly controversial topic that incites fervent debate for and against its implementation. Since your question is subjective and involves personal opinion, we'll present some of the most common arguments for and against using affirmative action as a method of addressing racial injustice towards African Americans, and then you can decide which side you want to adopt in your answer.
First we'll examine some of the main arguments in favor of affirmative action. Although in a perfect world affirmative action should be unnecessary, as everyone would be judged on their merits, in practice this does not happen. If there is no such policy, many employers and educational institutions will continue with the discrimination that they have used for centuries when vetting candidates. Diversity cannot be left to chance. Prospective employees and students who are at a disadvantage need to be given a boost in order to succeed and break into fields in which they have historically been excluded. Without legal mandates, some people will feel justified in continuing their practices of discrimination.
As for arguments against affirmative action, one of the most prevalent is that it is a form of reverse discrimination. It requires employers and schools to take on African Americans whether or not they are as qualified as other candidates. This can lower standards when employers and schools must accept people based on their background instead of their ability. It demeans real African American success when acceptance is based on race rather than achievements. In fact, African Americans are well able to meet the standards of education and employment in order to be accepted even without affirmative action.
These arguments for and against affirmative action should enable you to make a decision one way or the other and write a paper to back it up.