Affirmative Action: Overview

As much as we desire diversity, it will not occur if left to chance. We educate ourselves when we learn to interact with people of different colors and nationalities. During the last election, the majority of Americans voted for an African American President. Why then do we continue to use affirmative action to fight inequality? It is not so easy to wipe away centuries of inferiority, shame, and scars, by simply anointing one minority to the highest position in the land. It will take positive steps to increase the representation of minorities in the areas of employment and education.
One of the disadvantages of affirmative action is bypassing the very people that the program was designed to help because it was created on the basis of race not socioeconomic preferences, a failure that has undermined the nature of equality. The criticism that affirmative action is an unfair reward given to minority students because of their skin color, points to one of the disadvantages of ending affirmative action, which begs to ask if the end actually justifies the meanns.
However, if skin color is used to discriminate against African Americans, then the same skin color must be used to level the playing field, and give African Americans a better shot at the American Dream. For African Americans to achieve this dream, the myths about affirmative action must be dispelled. One of the most controversial issues about affirmative action is the argument that the program uses quotas. According to Ethnic Majority (2012) “Affirmative action programs should: a) verify that inequities exist, b) set goals to eliminate the inequities, c) set timetables to meet the goals, d) disband the program after the goals are met.”

If a company like Verizon for example, knows it has huge disparity between African Americans and the general population in its workforce, then the company may use affirmative action in its recruiting efforts to identify how many African Americans to hire, and then determine the levels and timeframe to hire them. Glazer, N. (1973) states “Goals or targets must be set on the basis of an estimate of the relevant labor pool for each underutilized group. ” Opponents of affirmative action may argue that Verizon is setting a goal, and thereby instituting a quota.
If that were true, Verizon would have to mandate that Call Center Supervisor jobs must go to African Americans or a specific number of African Americans must be hired, for that would be instituting a quota. What any company should do is comply with the affirmative action programs through its efforts more so than its results. Using affirmative action to set goals and target is not the same as using it as a quota. Affirmative action also has one important objective, to equalize opportunities in a system rive with inequality.
Opponents of affirmative action calls it reversed discrimination. According to Kangas, S. (n. d. ), “those who use the term “reversed discrimination “are actually engaging in moral absolutism, a completely unworkable concept that has never been practiced by any society in history. ” Steve Kangas has a compelling argument. Let us suppose that the government pass a law that no one person can forcefully take a property from the possession of another. However, one day, a person goes to a neighbor’s house with a gun and forcefully takes the property of his neighbor.
Having identified the culprit, the neighbor called the police. The person who took the property refuses to give it back, whereupon the police pull their guns to forcefully retrieve the property. It would be illogical for the person who took the property from his neighbor to claim that the police broke the law for forcefully removing the property from his possession. Conversely, it is not reversed discrimination to seek to reconcile the injustices and terrible atrocities that include slavery and the refusal of the rights of women and minorities to vote. (Kangas, S. n. d. ).
It is like saying that the person who forcefully removes his neighbor’s property can evoke moral absolutism in order to avoid giving it up. The same logic makes the reversed discrimination argument invalid because correcting injustice is neither immoral nor against the law. The question of fairness is what makes affirmation action controversial. The program suffers a setback when the Supreme Court ruled against using race to integrate schools in Parents v Seattle and Meredith v Jefferson cases.
A bitterly divided court did rule 5-4, “that programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. , which tried to maintain diversity in schools by considering race when assigning students to schools, are unconstitutional” (Yardley, W. and Lewin, T. , n. d. ). In spite of this setback, both sides of this argument have yet to answer all the important questions surrounding fairness. Education is the primary means of upward social mobility in America, and the fact that its costs have skyrocketed to such unprecedented levels means that only a select few can afford such a luxury. (Larity, 2010).
If on the basis two applicants, one white and one black, both applying for one job, or a place in college, should the black applicant’s race be used as one of the factors in his favor? What about that white person? Would he not be denied a job or a place in college if the black applicant’s race were used as a decisive factor? These are deeply troubling questions, and of all minorities, African Americans are acutely sensitive to them, having lived through difficult conditions, and denied equal rights for over 300 years.”
In 1896 the Supreme Court sanctioned legal separation of the races by its ruling in H. A. Plessy v. J. H. Ferguson, which held that separate but equal facilities did not violate the U. S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment” (Library of Congress, n. d. ). President Johnson in his commencement speech in 1965 said that equality of opportunity required more than simply ending discrimination. He felt that affirmative action could be interpreted in such a way that it would assure equality. (Affirmative Action, n. d. ).
Affirmative action might be seen as injustice to some, but the absence of fairness is in itself, an injustice to those who have been denied equality for so long. Through affirmative action, public policies and practices were designed to increase the presence of minorities in the competition of life where they have been historically excluded. The forbiddance of education for African Americans had deep roots in American history.
In Virginia for example, the 1847 Virginia Criminal Code forbid any white person to assemble Negros for the purpose instructing them to read or write, an infraction that was punishable by confinement in jail and monetary fine. It was under this code that Margaret Douglass, of Norfolk, Virginia, a former slaveholder, “was arrested, imprisoned, and fined when authorities discovered that she was teaching “free colored children” of the Christ’s Church Sunday school to read and write” (Library of Congress, n. d. ). Many U. S.
Presidents have weighed in and put their stamps on the issues surrounding affirmation action. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order to remove discrimination of African-Americans in the employment opportunities. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy passed Executive Order to provide indiscriminate employment opportunities and equal treatment of the employees, irrespective of a person’s race, color, origin, and creed. In 1971, President Richard Nixon gave the contractors of construction industries, incentive to hire minority.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan, passed an Executive Order to implement Minority Business Enterprise development. In 1995, President Bill Clinton, declared his full support for affirmative action by restoring economic opportunity. In 2000, President George W. Bush said that using race to include or exclude people from higher education… is divisive. However, the Supreme Court gave its support to the issue of compensation for past discrimination in university admissions and declared it, constitutional. (Brunner, B. , n. d. ). In spite of the efforts by former U. S.
Presidents to influence affirmative action during their terms in office, the program continues to go through many radical changes, and today, opponents believe that it is time the affirmative action law changed. The proponents of affirmative action made a mistake by simply focusing on race than the disadvantages of the program. If an institution that uses affirmative action cannot claim to bring white, black, and other minority students to the same leveled playing field, then the institution is simply creating a system that is solely depended on racial categories. Even Dr.
Martin Luther King understood the disadvantages of today’s affirmative action when he said, “Many white workers whose economic condition is not too far removed from the economic condition of his black brother will find it difficult to accept special consideration to the Negro in the context of unemployment, joblessness, etc. and does not take into sufficient account their plight (that of the white worker)” (Larity, 2010). Another disadvantage that is often not talked about is instituting a program like affirmation that is based on race rather than socioeconomic level of all applicants.
This has given the wealthy among the minorities an opportunity to exploit the program. A minority student who comes for a wealthy family takes advantage of the program because of race, and thereby splitting up the minority population as a wealthy minority student rise higher in the social ranks, than a poor minority student who slips further into abject poverty. (Larity, 2010).
The losers of course are the forgotten poor white students who face similar difficulties in employment and education inherent in poverty, and are yet they received no help because of race. Dr. Martin Luther King said it best, “It is a simple matter of justice that America, in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness, should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor. ” (Larity, 2010). For this reason, many white parents and supporters of affirmative have joined other less privileged minorities in a match to Washington to support affirmative action. (See Appendix 1). Opponents of affirmative action may argue that the goals of affirmative action have been met, and the time has come to disband the program and change the law.
After all, an African American has achieved the ultimate or intended goal of the affirmative action program. The assertions that the current leader of the free world, President Obama was admitted to Columbia University despite undistinguished grades, became a U. S. Senator despite a mediocre record in Illinois, and was given a free pass in 2008 when he became the first African American President because American people wanted to bring historical diversity to the position (Education News, n. d. ) are utterly without merit disingenuous.
It is true that under the constitution, equal protection is guaranteed for all citizens. Where the issue lies is the distinction that is based on race, and programs that critics of affirmation believe cannot pass constitutional muster until “the identified interest is served with the least harm to those who have not suffered discrimination” (Richardson, A. 2008). President Clinton once stated that affirmative action should not go on forever. In his remark, he suggested that we determine “what affirmative action is and what it isn’t” (Affirmative Action, 1995).
Minorities have, for so long, been considered inferior and less capable than their white counterparts have. Affirmative action program afforded African Americans the opportunity to prove that given a chance, they were just as capable, and a young black man from Hawaii can in fact become the leader of the free world. That is what affirmative action is. What it is not, is the argument that affirmative action had nothing to do with Colin Power and Barack Obama achieving their respective positions.
The point that should not be missed is that affirmative action made it possible to change stereotypes, and will continue to change as long as the program is not completely changed. The solution to the affirmative action problem will only be found when we come to the realization that it is not an issue of race, but rather an issue of class.
Universities are not racist – their eagerness to comply with the directives of affirmative action clearly demonstrates this fact. by instituting a program of socioeconomic affirmative action, we will be aiding great numbers of poor minorities (whose poverty, not race, puts them at a disadvantage), and at the same time we shall extend this aid to the hordes of poor white people who have been neglected, as well.
Unless action is taken and affirmative action programs are altered to work on the basis of socioeconomic level, America’s poor – black, white, and Latino alike – will continue to be denied the means of upward mobility It is true today that an African American man called Barack Obama sits in the oval office, and he even nominated an opponent of different race that he narrowly defeated to a cabinet position.
Given the pervasiveness of racial discrimination, a white man applying for a job, or a place in college, may not have engaged in any racial prejudice in his life. Although, he may be unaware of it, but by dints of his color, he has enjoyed a social, economic, and psychological advantage that has given him a head start in the competition of life. Politicians and the court must not depart from their earlier position of support for affirmative employment and admission.
Sometimes resistance to discrimination takes so many forms that only rigid numerical rule like affirmative action can overcome it. If given the opportunity, children of color are capable of achieving their individual goals, not by receiving inferior education in public schools that are poorly funded, but by giving them the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with their privileged counterparts. It is clear that ethnic minorities are significantly under represented at selective institutions, and that something must be done to change this.
However, it also holds true that to give an advantage to one student over another simply on the basis of race undermines the very nature of equality. When examined from this perspective, it appears that this controversy will never be decided to everyone’s satisfaction. Removing racial barriers to educational opportunities can only increase equity in education. Affirmative action is a tool that must be used to, not only achieve equal opportunity, but more importantly, to attain diversity.

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