This article reviews the basis for the policy of affirmative action within the context of changing social values. Both the aims and unanticipated consequences of affirmative action are explored, the latter of which have resulted in substantial backlash and the real possibility of policy overturn. Within this context, the position of the social welfare community toward and involvement in affirmative action is traced. An agenda for social work in current and future debates about affirmative action is offered which takes into account the original social problem-discrimination-within redefined societal values and political realities. Alternative remedies to affirmative action, it is argued, can be congruent with the mission and values of the social welfare community in its quest to achieve social justice. Such options include targeting specific professions that interface with the inner city African-American underclass; reframing the purpose of affirmative action from that of correcting injustice for the victims of racial discrimination to social engineering; and targeting specific geographical areas which are characterized by economic deprivation.

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