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Affirmative Action programs promote equal representation of minority groups in the American workplace and public schools. It seeks to remedy the effects of discrimination of specific groups through the force of laws and regulations. In practice, affirmative action can be a passive effort or an aggressive approach to correct historic patterns of racial discrimination. Affirmative Action programs are designed to give opportunities through programs like employee training and set-aside programs that make special efforts to include minorities and women. In theory it is an excellent idea; unfortunately, through the years, many feel affirmative action has changed from equal opportunity for everyone to preferential treatment of minority groups. Whites label it as reverse discrimination in which whites are now at a disadvantage. The original concept involved only passive efforts such as encouraging institutions to make deliberate attempts to include minorities in employment and in college enrollment. In recent years, affirmative action has become an aggressive effort that requires and measures minority representation. As a result, Affirmative Action has produced undesirable problems in the American culture.
An example of how the Government can level the playing field is to have certain set-asides in all Government contracts. An example of this happened in Alabama. The Detroit Symphony's usual hiring process of "blind" auditions, to prevent racial discrimination, was then abandoned to ensure black employment. An example of this is when one teacher in the business department at Piscataway High School, New Jersey had to be laid off. Affirmative Action has attached a stigma to black success. "ï¿½ Many blacks are at a disadvantage because their parents may not be as educated and they cannot provide a superb education for their children. Johnson also felt that programs were needed to actively change discrimination. Blacks and whites alike concede that it is still rampant despite Affirmative Action's attempts to alleviate it. Take, for example, the University of California at Berkeley. Blacks often complain they have to constantly prove themselves by overachieving and at the time they feel they got where they are because of government help, not because of who they are. He argues, "The problem is that right now there are still a fair number of very bright kids who meet all the admissions criteria except the test scores. The lawsuit was based on the fact that the test failed a disproportionate number of blacks.
It may appear that Affirmative Action gives minorities an advantage over the majority, but does it really? If you look at it on an individual basis it may seem as if it is unfair. Proponents of Affirmative Action would have you believe that if you were to view it in terms of the entire society you would clearly see that minorities are underrepresented in most areas in our society and something needs to be done to make it right.
White people today also feel the effects of racial discrimination. They contend that employers are in fact discriminating against white applicants on the basis of race. However, if equal representation of minority groups is to be achieved, employers must take race into account when hiring. In "Affirmative Discrimination", Lino Graglia points out: "Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] required, not that employment decisions be made without regard to race, but that they not be made without regard to race." Opponents of affirmative action proclaim that whites are experiencing "reverse discrimination." They feel they are carrying the burden of the historical wrongful acts of others. Without argument, those who object to affirmative action agree that blacks have been subjected to decades of slavery and then decades of segregation and discrimination. Yet they ask, "But why me? I didn't own slaves..."
Using discrimination to end discrimination is an obvious contradiction. Racial discrimination has a tight grip on American society. Blacks and whites alike concede that it is still rampant despite Affirmative Action's attempts to alleviate it. Affirmative action programs were established to fight racial discrimination. That need is still here today because affirmative action has not achieved its purpose. Affirmative action is an imperfect solution to the problem of racism, however, it is important to recognize that affirmative action has contributed greatly to the diversification of schools and businesses. It has played a big part in making America far richer in opportunity for minority groups than it was three decades ago. If it could be utilized as originally intended, people of different genders, races, and ethnicity would be treated as equals in the American workplace. Affirmative action has helped more minorities and women to attend institutions of higher education and obtain better jobs but has failed to reach the goal of alleviating racial discrimination. But that is not to say that America is not headed in the right direction. Justice Harry Blackmun said it best: "In order to get beyond racism we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat someone equally, we must first treat them differently."
What is the role of our Government after all? The Declaration of Independence states, "That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" The role of Government is to protect the rights of men, and Affirmative Action is a method that the Government can and should use to protect the rights of the minorities to ensure that they are able to fully participate in society.
Although some minorities may score lower on standardized tests. Affirmative Action can take into account the fact that minorities usually get a sub par education. Would this be giving minorities an unfair advantage or would it be giving minorities a fair chance? Minority students would remain subject to the same grade requirements when they get into the school. They just need to be given a fair chance to get into the school.
e action" was first used in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. He signed Executive Order 10925 that stated, "the contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin" Lyndon B. Johnson also felt that programs we
Reverse Discrimination: A Result of Affirmative action
Reverse discrimination is one of the problems that affirmative action creates. By creating an unequal opportunity playing field it has brought hiring on the basis of merit to its knees. Substituting one race for another just so that companies can have the appearance of political correctness is no answer for this situation. In order for racial equality to exist it must be equal not reversed. A case in point, a white male applied for a government position at a National Guard equipment maintenance site in Louisiana. He did not receive the position. He was told that the reason he was not hired was due to the fact that a black man had applied to the same position and that, in order to hire him instead of the black applicant, they would have to write a nine page essay to relate why they did not hire the minority applicant. That is a perfect example of reverse discrimination.
Affirmative action perpetuates biased practices instead of ending them. Most employers that have to hire minorities to fill some sort of quota are not concerned with the qualifications of applicants, but are merely filling a requirement in order to keep their own jobs. This, in turn, creates even more problems when the person doing the hiring is not the one to which the applicant will directly report. Take for example, gender equality, where a woman is expected to perform the same as a man. There are certain positions in which masculinity is expected, such as a fireman. It is difficult to imagine a woman rushing into a burning building to save an infant. It is also difficult to imagine a woman stabbing a bayonet into an enemy soldier's throat, in order to survive. There should be boundaries for these types of solutions. Instead of taking a good idea to the extreme, there needs to be a practical analysis done prior to any implementation efforts.
If there were not enough racial tension in the air, the general public's idea of affirmative action brings about additional tension and/or hostility. There are several racist groups in the United States of America that are simply looking for an excuse to start another civil war. While everyone is concerned with terrorists overseas, these groups are plotting and devising their own revolutions. Affirmative action not only feeds the fires, but also adds to the height of racism. Victims of reverse discrimination will often become racist in defense of their own needs. Unfortunately this much too frequent occurrence creates the very thing that affirmative action was designed to eliminate. The answer to these racial tensions is in unification - not segregation. The goal must be to become one society with equal people regardless of color, sex, or religious preference.
Once again, to reiterate, employers need to hire due to quality - not minority. When employers seek only to hire for minority, they lose a lot of things. First, they lose their own personal integrity by succumbing to the controlling body and denying themselves any control in the hiring process. Secondly, they lose the quality of work that they would have received if they had hired on the basis of merit. Finally, they generally lose because they are procreating the very problem that they are trying to eliminate - "discrimination."
Affirmative action Legislation and Regulation
To delve into the legislation and jurisprudence of the past few decades is, in itself, an insight into the need for clear, concise communication. The first major race-conscious legislation was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibited discrimination in employment, public accommodations, education, and by programs which receive financial assistance from the federal government. Title VII was the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 governed race-conscious employment efforts. In 1965, Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination against minority voters and required areas with a racially discriminatory history in voting to gain approval prior to changing their voting systems. In 1968, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination with respect to housing. Congress passed the (a) Equal Opportunity Act of 1972 and (b) Title IX in 1972, which (a) required federal agencies to publish affirmative action plans and (b) prohibited gender discrimination in any educational programs that received financial assistance from the federal government. In 1980, Congress enacted the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibited discrimination based on prior institutionalization. Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which prohibited discrimination based on disability with regards to employment, public programs, transportation, public accommodations, and communication facilities. Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which overturned previous Supreme Court decisions that had collapsed basic civil rights protections. (1)
As originally written, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 left too much room for interpretation and had vast ambiguities as related to future situations which would call on it. There have been considerable amendments to Title VII, with the latest being the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The first official use of the term "affirmative action" came in Executive Order 11246, in September of 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson regarding the employment practices of federal contractors. The first action towards race-conscious employment practices came in the announcement of the "Phildelphia Plan" by Assistance Secretary of Labor, Arthur Fletcher, in 1969. This plan called for the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance to measure the employment conditions and insure appropriate minority employment for several federal contracts in the Philadelphia area. Bidding federal contractors would be required to submit detailed plans for an increase in their employment of blacks to satisfy the strict requirements of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance. This instance led to the widespread adoption of this policy throughout federal agencies and contractors. Each were required to develop and submit plans for affirmative action to exhibit their resolve to create more employment opportunities for minorities.
In 1970, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines which made pre-employment testing harder to defend as a nondiscriminatory hiring practice. This guideline was upheld by the Supreme Court decision in Griggs v. Duke Power. Chief Justice Burger stated that "tests neutral on their face, and even neutral in terms of intent, cannot be maintained if they operate to "freeze" the status quo of prior discriminatory employment practices." Essentially, Justice Burger had declared that any testing that might have an unequal effect on any race, sex, or ethic group was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.(2) In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1972, which served to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include a requirement that all federal agencies submit affirmative action plans to the EEOC. These affirmative action plans were to contain a recruitment program by which they plan to eliminate the underrepresentation of minorities in certain job categories. Under the EOA of 1972, it was required of each agency to submit a yearly statistical analysis to show the results of their affirmative action plan. The EOA of 1972 was the source of the first mention of "quotas" as related to affirmative action. The EEOC continued to set guidelines for the voluntary practice of implementing temporary employment tools which recognized race, sex, or ethnic group to balance any previous discrimination and to equal the promotional pool within an organization. These guidelines were upheld by the Supreme Court in United Steelworkers of America v. Weber. In that case a federal contractor instituted a racial quota for admission to a training program to increase minority employment. The United Steelworkers of America contended that practice violated Title VII, but the Supreme Court decided that the quota was permissible as a temporary measure to alleviate a racial imbalance.(2) In 1978, the Civil Service Commission, EEOC, Department of Justice, and OFCC issued a joint declaration Ð¦ Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) - to give industry guidelines for the lawful use of selection procedures in employment. The guidelines also state that when the percentage of minorities in a company is less than 80 percent of their surrounding population, that fact will be sufficient evidence of adverse impact.(3) Several court decisions throughout the years following 1978 served to narrow the scope of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In light of that fact, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to strengthen the availability of remedies for discrimination and to update Title VII to include punitive measures for discriminatory actions. The entire Act was amended to represent a less passive policy, as opposed to the very passive policy of 1964.
One can see that the affirmative action policy envisioned in 1964 has been updated because of many landmark court cases and government mandates. The affirmative action of today does not call for non-discrimination, but requires strict adherence to a policy of anti-discrimination. The current anti-discrimination policy includes the verbiage to prohibit reverse discrimination. It might be in our federal government's best interest to discover a new, less politically adverse, term for the new anti-discrimination policies.
Alternative to Affirmative action
There are a few alternatives for replacing affirmative action. Our government could make efforts to augment the major related social programs. Minority communities would need some minor reconstruction regarding their view of the equalities and inequalities that exist in the United States. By achieving this, minority communities would begin to proliferate a more satisfied feeling of equality as opposed to harboring resentment for majority races. This would negate the need to continue on the current course of trying to make up for past discrimination. Community associations, schools, media and independent social agencies would need to fortify the outlook on equality of each community. This will help build a bright and successful future for minority children and increase their ability to compete for jobs on the basis of quality work and merit. The state would need to build the programs and provide needed funding, but it would be up to the communities and individuals to listen and embrace the ideas and theories presented.
Another alternative to affirmative action would be to work toward more broad-based, race-neutral economic policies. They can also have a national health reform, meaning all citizens would be entitled to some sort of basic medical care. The government could increase the earned income tax credit, which would put more money into the pockets of the lower class so they can better provide for their families financial needs. This could lead to better education and basically a better way of life. Child support assurance could be used for lower class families that do not make enough money to pay for daycare and are forced to stay home. This idea would also help substantially alleviate welfare abuse.
The benefits of these methods could be astonishing. If the government and society could formulate these support programs, both lower and middle-income families would be given a greater opportunity to become more contributing members to society. Delivering substantial benefits to minorities, based on economic condition, is simply not cutting it anymore. These efforts should be designed to coincide with the intermediate institutions. Thereby, they can and will, if implemented appropriately, contribute to the overall process of societal reconstruction and renewal. It would allow businesses to maximize quality from its employees, which would lead to maximum profit. These methods would not only provide opportunity to reduce poverty in the United States, but - more effectively - reduce the poverty among minority citizens/families.
Affirmative action is an issue that affects all people in the United States. Its broad-reaching theory has allowed for many misunderstandings and misinterpretations throughout the past several decades. A result of some of these misinterpretations is an equally serious injustice, reverse discrimination. However, over the past 10 years, the legislation related to the regulation of affirmative action - and civil rights in general - has begun to spawn a new, more strict understanding of the theory behind affirmative action. Beyond legislation, the United States government must enact some policy changes with regards to social programs. These social programs would serve to initiate equality in society's newest generations and combat the discrepancies in regulation that led older generations to despise the terminology. If appropriate reform and social changes are enacted in a timely manner, affirmative action could begin to stand for the social equality that it strives to create in theory.
Freedom Is Not Enough
President Lyndon B. Johnson said it best in 1965, and his words ring true today: "Freedom is not enough. â€¦ 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.
"Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. "This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom, but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result."
The essence of affirmative action is opportunity, and the need to keep the doors of opportunity open to disadvantaged women and minorities remains today.
Affirmative Action Addresses Continued Discrimination
Discrimination still exists. Now more than ever, the continued use of affirmative action is needed to address existing discrimination, break down barriers and ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their talents and abilities. In fiscal year 2007, 82,792 charges of discrimination were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, up from 75,768 in 2006.
Affirmative action prevents discrimination by encouraging efforts to investigate and eliminate barriers to equal opportunity before they become discriminatory acts. Affirmative action also calls on employers to diversify the pool of qualified individuals from which it makes a selection. It does not require quotas or preferences. Affirmative action eliminates race and gender preferences that some have enjoyed for centuries. Affirmative action gives everyone a chance to compete. As a nation, we have made significant progress in recent years in creating equal access to opportunity, but much work remains to be done. Affirmative action presents itself as a proven solution to addressing existing discrimination and promoting equal opportunity.
Ending affirmative action would end the dreams of opportunity for many. Policies and programs to ensure equality of opportunity provide the only assurance that many women, people of color, veterans and the disabled have that they can compete--and be evaluated fairly--for jobs and educational opportunities.
Consider Race to Get Beyond Racism
In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke upheld the use of race as one factor in choosing among qualified applicants for college admission. At the same time, it ruled unlawful the University of California at Davis' medical school practice of reserving seats in each entering class for disadvantaged minority students. In Bakke, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way."
Opposition Miscategorizes Affirmative Action
Affirmative action refers to positive steps aimed at increasing the inclusion of historically excluded groups in employment, education and business. Affirmative-action goals are not intended to achieve proportional representation or equal results. Numerical goals do not create guarantees for specific groups or preferences, nor are they designed to achieve proportional representation or equal results.
No requirement exists that any specific position be filled by a person of a particular race, gender or ethnicity. By casting a wider net and recruiting a diverse pool of qualified individuals, an affirmative-action employer eliminates preferences and levels the playing field for all. The essence of affirmative action is opportunity. In seeking to achieve its goals, an employer is never required to hire a person who does not have the qualifications needed to perform the job successfully. Affirmative action prevents discrimination; it does not cause it.
Changing Demographics Necessitate Continued Affirmative Action
Affirmative action will continue to be necessary because of the nation's changing demographics and the need to include these human resources for the sake of our domestic interests and international competitiveness.
The Census Bureau calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Diversity strategies (including affirmative action) will be essential to integrate all of these segments of society, from the entry level to the executive suite, in government as well as the private sector. Affirmative action will continue to be important as a means to promote representation and to effectively manage increasingly diverse employees in the workplace. Affirmative action and diversity programs will also be needed to admit an increasingly diverse group of qualified and talented students into institutions of higher education.
While discrimination continues to exist, its antidote, affirmative action, will be necessary: for inclusion and prevention and to remedy the effects of past discrimination.
First, Define "Affirmative Action"
Let's begin by defining "affirmative action," since it includes a variety of policies--many noncontroversial. For instance, the term originally meant taking positive steps to end discrimination. No one opposes that today. It can also mean "casting a wide net"--that is, recruiting far and wide to make sure that you are hiring the best qualified person. That's fine, too.
But if race or ethnicity is considered as a factor in admissions, hiring or promotion, or contracting, then we must acknowledge that discrimination is taking place. We can't dodge this fact by saying that rigid quotas aren't being used, that all those selected meet some minimum set of qualifications, that race is just one factor, or that alumni or athletes are also given preferences. Finally, we must acknowledge that the degree of preference given is often huge; race is not just a tiebreaker.
Too often, the debate focuses simply on whether there is some benefit to using racial preferences. As discussed below, we believe those purported benefits are unpersuasive. But even if you think there are benefits, you must also ask whether those benefits outweigh the costs.
Consider this example: Suppose someone argued against desegregation because he thought this would disrupt the coaching staff of the high-school football team, causing the team to lose more games. Even if this were so, we would conclude that getting rid of Jim Crow was much more important than the football team's record. Likewise, even if you believe there is some marginal benefit to classroom discussion by having a more "diverse" student body, you have to ask whether such benefits are worth the costs of something as divisive and unfair as racial discrimination.
No Legal Basis for Affirmative Discrimination
Two basic justifications are given for affirmative discrimination. The first, which has the most visceral appeal, is that it is needed to make up for past discrimination. There is, however, a legal and a policy problem with this argument. The legal problem is that the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected it, stating that racial preferences cannot be justified by pointing to broad societal or historical discrimination. And the Court was right to do so. Remember, those now receiving college-admissions preferences are not slaves, former slaves or individuals who were alive during the Jim Crow era. This does not mean that racial discrimination no longer exists, and perhaps some of these individuals can point in particular to socioeconomic disadvantages they suffer and can trace to discrimination. But people who suffer from socioeconomic disadvantages come in all colors, so why not include all of them in affirmative action programs? Conversely, the overwhelming majority (86 percent) of African-Americans given college admission preferences to select schools are not socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Racial Diversity Doesn't Guarantee True Diversity
The second justification is the benefit of having a student body or workforce that reflects a politically correct racial and ethnic mix. This presumes that we can use skin color and national origin to predict an individual's background, experiences and perspectives, and that the individual will interact with the rest of the group in a way that reflects those characteristics. In other words, it relies on stereotyping.
But we cannot and should not assume that, because a person is Latino, for instance, he or she will have a particular history or perspectives. If a company wants to hire someone who knows about how to market a product in the American Southwest, it should hire someone with that expertise (regardless of ethnicity), rather than assuming that any Latino (including, say, a Puerto Rican who grew up in New York City) will do.
The Costs Outweigh the Benefits
But suppose you believe there are some benefits to using racial preferences. You must then ask if they are worth the costs--and the costs are considerable:
Affirmative discrimination is personally unfair, passes over better-qualified individuals and sets a disturbing legal, political and moral precedent. It creates resentment. It stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, coworkers and employers. It fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence and encourages separatism.
In the case of college admissions, it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body. For employers, it lowers productivity by hiring and promoting those other than the best qualified. And it costs taxpayers money, by awarding contracts to those other than the lowest bidder, in the case of set-asides.
It creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation, or in employee evaluations. It breeds hypocrisy within schools and companies, and encourages a scofflaw attitude. It mismatches individuals and colleges or jobs, guaranteeing failure for many of the former.
It papers over and allows society to ignore the real social problem of why so many African-Americans and Latinos are uncompetitive for top schools and jobs. And it gets governments, companies and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored, which discriminated against, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership.
Preferential Treatment Takes America in the Wrong Direction
America is becoming increasingly multiracial and multiethnic. Individual Americans are becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial. In such a country, can we tolerate a legal regime that categorizes people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from--and then treats some better and others worse on that account?
The longer we have preferential treatment, the more entrenched it will become and the more it will reinforce stereotypes. Affirmative discrimination makes mutual respect more difficult, becomes more divisive as America becomes increasingly multiethnic, and feeds a vicious circle of failure and victim-mentality among those groups supposedly being benefited. The time to end affirmative discrimination is now.