The history of this Nation is being carved with the chisels of our incessant struggle towards freedom and equality. Evidently, that struggle has continually propelled us scores of years away from slavery and flagrant bigotry. Yes, we can not deny to ourselves that our odyssey to the realms of crystal-clear equality has not yet ended. Though, attempting to surpass the craters of injustice with fabricated bridges of unequal treatment will merely make our journey that much more treacherous and insurmountable.
No matter how benevolently intended, practicing preferential treatment based on race, ethnicity, and gender ultimately results in great social discomfort to everyone involved. Initially, in the mid 1960’s, Affirmative Action programs were intended to protect minorities from racial and gender discrimination. Today, we need to demonstrate to ourselves that we have truly progressed towards a gender and color-blind society, since the inception of Affirmative Action. To materialize that goal, we must start adopting feasible alternatives that may allow us to value and select the most suitable individuals, among ourselves, based solely on the merit of our abilities and actions, and Not on our God-given skin-pigment and/or gender.
Affirmative Action Programs have ingrained and extended into a very wide array of social programs and minority groups in the United States. Therefore, It would be impossible to fit every Affirmative Action issue within the length and scope of this research assignment. As a result, I will confine the discussion in this paper to the general philosophical ideology that serves as the core of Affirmative Action. That is preferential treatment based solely on race and gender, in the workplace. For instance, the following issue is commonplace in today’s workplace:
“Two business education teachers –one black, one white– were hired on the same day by the Piscaway School Board. When the board was forced to fire one eight years later, it dismissed the white teacher rather than her black colleague, who was at the time the only black teacher in the 10-member department. In the past, the decision would have been settled by a coin-toss. Sharon Taxman, the white teacher, filed a reverse discrimination suit with the support of the Bush administration Justice Department. But under president Clinton, the Department switched sides and argued that the school district could take race into account in this instance” (United States, Courts Establish Boundaries 1).
Clearly, that was an example of how the American society has lost the notion of plain common-sense, as it has striven to maintain “racial and gender balance”. Instead of making decisions based on our people’s merits and abilities, it has chosen to do it in a way that would supposedly foster race and gender harmony. Unfortunately, it has achieved quite the opposite: Abrogating social perception and uneasiness about race and gender.
How did America drift from the ideal of a color blind society into the current environment of quotas, goals, timetables, set-asides, diversity training, and the like?.
Affirmative Action Programs, –Like other Federal Government Programs, for instance, Welfare, Social Security and Bilingual Education.– were started as under-funded pilot-programs, or small reform-initiatives. As decades went by, many U.S. Presidents and Congresses had their opportunity “to enhance” those programs with larger funds and non-sense intricacies, so they grew –slowly. Until one day, these small, underfed initiatives, developed into colossal, unmanageable, dollar-guzzler, mindless programs. Today, those nonsensical federal programs need to be drastically trimmed and re-programmed, or even, terminated.
Initially the effort came from The White House and Congress, as a result of flagrant and despicable acts of race discrimination, prevalent for many decades. In 1964, Congress enacted the “1964 Civil Rights Act. Specifically, Title VII of the Act, Marked a huge advance for the principle of non-discrimination based on race, ethnicity and gender in the workplace” (United States, A 30 year Experiment 1).
However, since Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is very vague and broad in its language, many proposals con or pro Affirmative Action are ultimately challenged in court. For instance, In November 1996, the majority of people of the State of California voted YES on Proposition-209. That Proposition effectively banned Affirmative Action Programs mandated by the State. The initiative for that Proposition was undertaken by two white, male, and politically moderate professors in the California State University System (Puddington, 1). A few weeks later, a California District Court Judge (Afro-American) halted the implementation of Proposition-209, on the grounds that its legality and constitutionality must be established first. Evidently, that was another prime example of the increasing disparity between the people’s democratic decisions and their government’s inability to implement them. Because our own laws no longer fulfill what we benevolently enacted them for, in the past: To treat everyone equally without regard to race and gender. Instead, our own laws have severely divided us in two bands, either, con or pro Affirmative Action.
On one hand, we have people like “Thurgood Marshall, an outspoken champion of preference while on the Supreme Court, who is reported to have blurted-out during an in-chambers discussion that blacks would need Affirmative Action for a hundred years” (Puddington, 2). Supporters of Affirmative Action, like Mr. Marshall, wrongly believe that women and minorities still need special Government Programs. Apparently, minorities and women need Affirmative Action “to get even” because they were victims of blatant discrimination and under-representation for decades. Allegedly, that was a perfectly valid argument during the first six or seven decades of this century when minorities and women were systematically kept-out of better-paying jobs in the private industry and federal government, or were generally under-represented in every political and social sphere.
However, nowadays, women, Latinos, Asia-American and especially blacks play a critical role in every aspect of the American society. Therefore, we may reasonably concur that affirmative Action meant equal treatment for women and minorities from the 1960’s to the late 1980’s. Most importantly, we must also understand that the impact of Affirmative Action in today’s changed world is also different, And in most cases counter-productive.
On the other hand, people against Affirmative Action (I am one of them) have noticed during the last seven years, that the benefits of Affirmative Action have reached the point of “diminishing returns”. In other words, Affirmative Action successfully overcame racial and gender bigotry against minorities, with government-endorsed discrimination, for some time. But, already has reached the point that it is causing a greater deal of discrimination and social disharmony than It is solving. That is how opposing advocates (the average white male or female) feel about Affirmative action. Also, that is how the impartial, pragmatic and analytical citizen (like me, though not white) feels about it. Evidently, the time to reaffirm our philosophical beliefs on merit, justice and equality, has come.
Finding straight, flawless and painless solutions to the current Affirmative Action dilemmas will not be easy. Nonetheless, one initially viable alternative could be to implement “the works of Charles Moskos of NorthWestern University, who recently met with President Clinton to discuss Affirmative Action. Mr. Moskos Works are based on the three core principles of Affirmative Action in The Armed Forces” (Sullivan, 3). Since I served in the US Navy for nine years, and never experience or practice any racial or gender discrimination, I am a very strong advocate of these three principles. Essentially, these three principles are:
•First, no promotion quotas are used. However, an effort is made to promote minorities equivalent to their percentage of fully qualified and capable applicants.
•Second, everyone is held to same aptitude standards, without regard to their race, ethnicity or gender.
•Last, there are no time-tables to meet promotional goals, when not enough candidates are available, the Military does not relax its standards.
Unfortunately, these principles are not the epitome of a color-blind system. However, they may serve, as a transition, between the current Affirmative Action philosophy and the ideology that will free us from racial and gender issues. Albeit, developing the ideology of a color and gender blind society can take us a couple of American generations (in my opinion).
The mentality of human beings does not change easily. Generally, It takes a family one generation to transform the prejudicial mind-set of its members. Especially, when we deal with profound issues, such as, the kind–and level–of family interaction with people from different races, or the opposite genders. We must keep in mind that it took the American society nearly 30 years to mix the workplace –harmoniously– with people of different color and gender. Therefore, the ultimate system that will end our journey towards a Crystal-clear, color-blind American society is, at the very least, three generations away from materializing. As result we will need:
•One generation to make the transitional system work.
•A second generation to gestate the ultimate color-blind system.
•A third one to assimilate it.