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Affirmative Action4

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Affirmative action works. There are thousands of examples of situations where people

of color, white women, and working class women and men of all races who were

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previously excluded from jobs or educational opportunities, or were denied opportunities

once admitted, have gained access through affirmative action. When these policies

received executive branch and judicial support, vast numbers of people of color, white

women and men have gained access they would not otherwise have had. These gains

have led to very real changes.

Affirmative action programs have not eliminated racism,

nor have they always been implemented without problems. However, there would be no

struggle to roll back the gains achieved if affirmative action policies were ineffective.

The implementation of affirmative action was America’s first honest attempt at solving

a problem, it had previously chosen to ignore. In a variety of areas, from the quality of

health care to the rate of employment, blacks still remain far behind whites. Their

representation in the more prestigious professions is still almost insignificant.

Comparable imbalances exist for other racial and ethnic minorities as well as for women.

Yet, to truly understand the importance of affirmative action, one must look at

America’s past discrimination to see why, at this point in history, we must become more

History Of Discrimination In America: Events Leading To Affirmative Action.

The Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal.” Yet America

is scarred by a long history of legally imposed inequality. Snatched from their native

land, transported thousands of miles-in a nightmare of disease and death-and sold into

slavery, blacks in America were reduced to the legal status of farm animals. A Supreme

Court opinion, Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), made this official by classifying slaves as

Even after slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, American

blacks, other minorities, and women continued to be deprived of some of the most

elementary right of citizenship. During the Reconstruction, after the end of the Civil

War, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868, making blacks citizens and

promised them the “equal protection of the laws.” In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment

was passed, which gave blacks the right to vote. Congress also passed a number of

civil rights laws barring discrimination against blacks in hotels, theaters, and other

places. However, the South reacted by passing the “Black Codes, ” which severely

limited the rights of the newly freed slaves, preventing them in most states from

testifying in courts against whites, limiting their opportunities to find work, and

generally assigning them to the status of second or third class citizen. White vigilante

groups like the Klu Klux Klan began to appear, by murdering and terrorizing blacks who

tried to exercise their new rights. “Legal” ways were also found for circumventing the

new laws; these included “grandfather clauses”, poll taxes, white only primary

elections, and constant social discrimination against and intimidation of blacks, who

were excluded form education and from any job except the most menial.

In 1883, the Supreme Court declared a key civil rights statute, one that prohibits

discrimination in public accommodations, unconstitutional. And in 1896, Plessy v.

Ferguson (163 U.S. 537 [1896]), the Court declared that the state of Louisiana had the

right to segregate their races in every public facility. Thus began the heyday of “Jim

Crow” legislation. In Justice John Marshall Harlan’s lone dissent, he realized it was a

mockery. He wrote, ” We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our peoples above all other

peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which,

practically, puts a brand of servitude and degregation upon a large class of our fellow

citizens, our equals before the law. This thin disguise of ‘equal’ accommodations for

passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead anyone, or atone for the wrong this day

Not until sixty years later, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (347 U.S.

483 [1954]), was Plessy overturned. Chief Justice earl Warren declared the unanimous

opinion of the court by saying: “We cannot turn the clock back to 1868, when the

Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896, when Plessy v. Ferguson was written.” In

today’s world, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

This decision sparked racial tensions all across America. in 1957, President Eisenhower

had to call federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, after the state’s governor forcibly

barred black children from entering white schools. In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested and

fined, for not moving to the back of a public bus, setting a pattern of boycotts by

black of bus companies. And a number of “sit in” were being held by blacks in still

segregated restaurants in the South. Responding to those and other incidents,

Congress passed a variety of new laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the

Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Civil Rights Act of

1964, particularly titles VI and VII, seem to prohibit any form of racial discrimination.

Affirmative action existed in obscurity for years before current-day affirmative action

was executed after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246. As

conceived, current day affirmative action was to promote greater equality of

opportunity by expanding access and increasing inclusiveness. President Johnson, in his

4 June 1964 commencement speech at Howard University, addressed the motivation

behind Executive Order 11246, which he signed into law a few months after this

speech. He said, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains

and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free

to compete with all the others’ and still justly believe that you have been completely

fair.” Adding, he said that the U.S. must have “not just equality as a right and a theory

but equality as a fact and equality as a result.” (Pinkerton, James P. “Ending Quotas

Should Help End Racism” in Los Angeles Times, 4 June 1995, p. M5)

In 1969, the Department of Labor exposed widespread racial discrimination of the

Construction Department so President Richard M. Nixon decided to incorporate a system

of “goals and timetables” to evaluate federal construction companies according to

affirmative action. This idea of “goals and timetables” provided guidelines for companies

to follow and comply with affirmative action regulations.

During the presidency of Gerald R. Ford, he extended affirmative action to people with

disabilities and Vietnam veterans but there were no goals or timetables for these two

groups. This type of affirmative action required recruitment efforts, accessibility,

accommodation and reviews of physical and mental job qualifications.

President Jimmy Carter consolidated all federal agencies that were required by law to

follow the affirmative action play into the Department of Labor. Before Carter did this,

each agency handled affirmative action in its own individual way, some were not as

consistent as other agencies were. He created the Office of Federal Contract

Compliance Program (OFCCP) in 1978 to ensure compliance with the affirmative action

The first Supreme Court case to directly deal with affirmative action was Regents of

California v. Bakke (438 U.S. 265 [1978]). Alan Bakke, a white male, was turned down

for admission, even though his test scores and grades were higher that those of some

candidates admitted through a “special” program. Bakke argued that he was a victim of

reverse discrimination because he was white. Four members of the Supreme Court took

the view that admission to a state medical school must be on a completely “color blind”

basis; another four contended that “a racial criteria may be used by a state for the

purpose of overcoming the chronic minority underrepresentation in the medical

profession.” The remaining justice, Lewis Powel, had the controlling opinion in the case.

Powell agreed in part with both sides. He believed that a “legitimate justification might

exist for using race as a criterion in medical school admission,” yet he opposed “explicit”

Another landmark case about affirmative action was United Steelworkers of America v.

Weber (433 U.S. 193 [1979]). Unlike Bakke, Weber deals with a private company who

voluntarily creates a affirmative action policy. Brian Weber, a white worker, was passed

over for admission to a training program in favor for a black worker less seniority. He

bought suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court ruled

against Weber on two grounds: 1) the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was aimed at relieving

the plight of blacks, not whites 2) the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “did not intend wholly to

prohibit private and voluntary affirmative action efforts.”

Affirmative action began to go downhill when Ronald Reagan and later George Bush

came into office. Affirmative action lost some gains it had made and was more or less

ignored by the Republicans in the White House and in Congress. Affirmative action was

silently being “killed” by our federal administrators. But among this destruction there

was one positive aspect, the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Finally to the Presidency of Bill Clinton. The Republicans are attempting to scare people

into changing their party lines by misusing affirmative action. They are saying that

affirmative action is nothing more than a quota or reverse discrimination. President

Clinton supports affirmative action, but he clearly states: “I’m against quotas. I’m

against reverse discrimination. I’m against giving anybody unqualified anything they’re

not qualified for. But I am for making a conscious effort to bring the American people

together.” (Speech on September 4, 1995, quoted by Michael K. Frisby, Wall Street

Journal, September 6, 1995, p. A4). Further, President Clinton added: The purpose of

affirmative action is to give our nation a way to finally address the systemic exclusion

of individuals of talent, on the basis of their gender or race, from opportunities to

develop, perform, achieve and contribute. Affirmative action is an effort to develop a

systematic approach to open the doors of education, employment, and business

development opportunities to qualified individuals who happen to be members of groups

that have experienced long-standing and persistent discrimination. (New York Times,

“Excerpts From Clinton Talk on Affirmative Action” July 20, 1995, p. A9).

Affirmative action has had its greatest amount of success in city, state, and

government jobs. Since the 1960s the area of law enforcement witnessed the greatest

increase in minority applicants, and in jobs offered to minorities. This should be viewed

as an extremely positive thing, because prior to affirmative action these jobs were

almost completely closed off to minorities and woman. The influx has been greatest in

the area of government, state and city, because this type of work is easier for

affirmative action to watch over and regulate. Affirmative action has experienced

considerably less success in integration in big business. This is do to the fact that big

business has been more resistant to affirmative action and harder to regulate. I believe

that increasing minority and female applicant flow would be very easy for a company to

do. They simply need to include minority colleges and universities in campus recruitment

programs, place employment opportunities in minority oriented print and broadcast

media, and retain applications of unhired minority applicants to be reviewed as a

position opens. This would be a great opportunity for applicants and employers.

Affirmative action is also needed to help black women to compete in today’s corporate

world. Black women in corporate America are still scarce: According to the Bureau of

Labor Statistic’s report for 1984, among the classification “executive, administrative,

managerial, and professional, specialty,” there were only 1,474,000 black women 5.9%

of the total, as opposed to 22,250,000 white women, 91% of the total number of

working women in this category (Cyrus, Virginia. Experiencing Race, Class, and Gender

in the United States. Second Edition. 1997. p. 122).

Another area affirmative action addresses is preferential hiring programs. Many times

people of color have been excluded from hiring pools, overtly discriminated against,

unfairly eliminated because of inappropriate qualification standards, or have been

rendered unqualified because of discrimination in education and housing. Court decisions

on affirmative action have rendered illegal those qualifications that are not relevant to

one’s ability to do the job. They have also mandated hiring goals so that those

employed begin to reflect the racial mix of the general population from which workers

are drawn. There is no legal requirement to ever hire an unqualified person. There is a

mandate that in choosing between qualified candidates, the hiring preference should be

for a person of color when past discrimination has resulted in white people receiving

Sometimes people and companies argue that affirmative action means the best qualified

person will not be hired. However, it has been demonstrated many times in hiring and

academic recruitment that test and educational qualifications are not necessarily the

best predictors of future success. This does not mean unqualified people should be

hired. It means basically qualified people who may not have the highest test scores or

grades, but who are ready to do the job may be hired. Employers have traditionally

hired people not only on test scores, but on personal appearance, family and personal

connections, school ties and on race and gender preferences, demonstrating that

talent or desirability can be defined in many ways. These practices have all contributed

to a segregated work force where whites hold the best jobs, and people of color work

in the least desirable and most poorly paid positions. Affirmative action policies serve as

a corrective to such patterns of discrimination. They keep score on progress toward

proportional representation and place the burden of proof on organizations to show why

Opponents of affirmative action want to see the “most qualified” people be hired,

regardless of sex, race, age, etc. However, a person’s experience should be taken into

consideration during the hiring process and if certain groups are blocked from

competeing, when they are finally allowed to compete they may have every other

qualification, but will lack what they were blocked at competeing in the first place

While companies continue to permit discrimination in the hiring process they are

overlooking a very staggering reality. According to a Workforce 2000 study by the

Hudson Institute for the U.S. Department of Labor., it is estimated that 85% of the 26

million net new American workers in this decade will consist of women, minorities, and

immigrants. The companies that refuse to share power with those discriminated against

may be shooting themselves in the foot, compared to the companies who choose and

promote a more diversified workforce {Cyrus, p. 463).

Another argument raised against affirmative action is that individual white people, often

white males, have to pay for past discrimination and may not get the jobs they

deserve. It is true that specific white people may not get specific job opportunities

because of affirmative action policies and may suffer as a result. This lack of

opportunity is unfortunate; the structural factors which produce a lack of decent jobs

needs to be addressed. It must not be forgotten that millions of specific people of color

have also lost specific job opportunities as a result of racial discrimination. To be

concerned only with the white applicants who don’t get the job, and not with the

people of color who don’t, I believe, is also showing racial preference.

But how true is it that white male candidates are being discriminated against or are

losing out because of affirmative action programs? If one looks at the composition of

various professions such as law, medicine, architecture, academics and journalism, or

at corporate management, or at higher-level government positions or if one looks

overall at the average income levels of white men one immediately notices that people

of color are still significantly underrepresented and underpaid in every category. People

of color don’t make up the proportions of these jobs even remotely equal to their

percentage of the population. They don’t earn wages comparable to white men. White

men are tremendously overrepresented in almost any category of work that is highly

rewarded except for professional athletics.

According to a 1995 government report, white males make up only 29 percent of the

workforce, but they hold 95 percent of senior management positions (Sklar, Holly.

Chaos or Community?:Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats for Bad Economics.Boston.

South End Press. 1995. p. 115). Until there is both equal opportunity and fair

distribution of education, training and advancement to all Americans, affirmative action

for people of color will be necessary to counter the hundreds of years of affirmative

action that has been directed at white males. It cannot reasonably be argued that

white males are discriminated against as a group if they are overrepresented in most

Affirmative action is not a cure all. It will not eliminate racial discrimination, nor will it

eliminate competition for scarce resources. Affirmative action programs can only ensure

that everyone has a fair chance at what is available. I believe, the larger question

should be to ask is why are there not enough decent paying, challenging and safe jobs

for everyone? Why are there not enough seats in the universities for everyone who

wants an education? Expanding opportunity for people of color means expanding not

only their access to existing jobs, education and housing , but also removing the

obstacles that cause them from obtaining their goals. I believe, affirmative action is the

best shot they have in order to achieve their dreams.

Cite this Affirmative Action4

Affirmative Action4. (2018, Aug 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/affirmative-action4-essay/

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