AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is believed to be one of the most effective tools for re-addressing the injustices caused by our nation’s historic discrimination against people of color and women, and for leveling what has long been an uneven playing field. However the other side believes that it has done exactly what it was set out to eradicate. It is no secret that our great nation has a centuries-long legacy of racism and sexism that has not been eradicated despite the gains made during the civil rights era. Avenues of opportunity for those previously excluded remain narrow. It is believed that adjustment are needed to the legislation so that it can correct wrongs and not potentate them against those of other races. The question is do we need affirmative action now more than ever?
The timeline of Affirmative action began in 1791 The “Original Sin” of the Constitution and Bill of Rights legitimizes slavery. In 1860s although the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 abolishes slavery, the southern states revive slave time codes, creating unattainable prerequisites for blacks to live, work or participate in society. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 invalidates these codes, conferring “the rights of citizenship” on all people. The Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to everyone born in the U.S., forbids states from denying “life, liberty or property” without due process of law, and guarantees equal protection under the laws. It wasn’t until The Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 that gives free men the right to vote, and the 1875 Civil Rights Act guaranteeing equal access to public accommodations regardless of race or color. This is when white supremacist groups, embarked upon a campaign of terror against blacks and their white supporters that the real sins began. Leaping forward to 1954 the court case of Brown v. Board of Education that ends legal school segregation and setting a precedent for widespread desegregation. That paved the way for progress made in the civil rights movement which up until then did not exist. One year later, 4.9% of college student’s aged 18-24 were black.
In 1961 President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, prohibiting discrimination in federal government hiring on the basis of race, religion or national origin. It wasn’t until 1964 that the Civil Rights Act seeks to end discrimination by large private employers on the basis of race and gender whether or not they have government contracts. Title VII of the Act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In the year of 1965 The term “affirmative action” is used for the first time, by President Johnson in E.O. 11246, requiring federal contractors to take “affirmative action” to ensure equality of employment. This Executive Order is extended to women in 1968. Than in 1969 President Nixon’s “Philadelphia Order” presents “goals and timetables” for reaching equal employment opportunity in construction trades. It is extended in 1970 to non-construction federal contractors. By this time, 7.8% of college student’s aged 18-24 are black. 1972 Title IX of the Education Amendments Act prohibits discrimination against girls and women in federally funded education, including athletic programs. Also in 1972 the Equal opportunity act was implemented which extended the EEO to State and Local governments. This act also allowed the EEOC to sue employers in court and enforce the provisions of the act. This streamlined the once slow process to be speeded up. In 1978 University of California v. Bakke sets the parameters of educational affirmative action, saying that quotas are unconstitutional, but that minority status can be used as a factor in admissions. It wasn’t until the 1990s as black college enrollment reaches an all-time high (11.3% in 1990); a backlash against affirmative action began. In the court case Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., that the Supreme Court ruled set-aside programs unconstitutional unless specific industry-wide discrimination can be proven.
Undermined affirmative action. 1996 The U.S. Court of Appeals, in Hopwood vs. University of Texas School of Law, ruled that UT’s affirmative action program was unconstitutional. This caused Latino admissions to drop 64% and African American admissions drop 88% in one year, this was attributed to the widespread preference of minorities over non-minority admissions.
In 1997 the anti-affirmative action initiative Proposition 209 narrowly passed in California. This caused an even sharper decline in the enrollment of colored students in the University of California system. The following year Washington State passed I-200, a similar anti-affirmative action initiative. 1999 Governor Jeb Bush of Florida issued Executive Order 99-281, ending affirmative action in state contracting and higher education.
There are three myths most commonly believed in today’s society concerning Affirmative Action. The first being “We don’t need affirmative action any more”. While those making this statement are rarely educated on the facts and statistics supporting the past. Therefore we must say that this statement is false. Though progress has been made, people of color and women are still more likely to be un-employed, employed at lower wages, and hold jobs with a lower base pay. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Glass Ceiling Commission Report of 1995 states that while white men make up 43% of the Fortune 2000 workforce, they hold 95% of senior management jobs. The second belief is that Affirmative Action favors people of color and women, leading to reverse discrimination. In some cases it has been shown that it is more difficult in some professions for white citizens to acquire positions, however it is still overwhelmingly believed that Affirmative action merely enables people who might otherwise be shut out, to get their foot in the door. Affirmative action permits factors such as race, gender and national origin to be considered when hiring or admitting qualified applicants, the ideal goal is to keep the doors of opportunity open for all races not just a select race. It has been suggested that race be removed altogether from an application to prevent reverse discrimination so that the best-qualified candidate will be chosen. The third mis-conception is that Affirmative action is just another term for quotas. The condition of quotas are illegal, but with affirmative action, federal contractors and employers must establish goals and timetables and make good faith efforts to meet them. Keep in mind a legal Affirmative action plan does not include quotas.
Slavery was this country’s original sin, infecting the Constitution at its conception. It took more than 75 years after the Constitution was adopted and bloody civil wars before civil rights amendments were added to the Bill of Rights. It would take another hundred years after that before laws were passed outlawing racial discrimination in employment, housing, public education and accommodations, and voting. Despite its progress the promise of fair and equal treatment for all people remains out of reach.
In some regions of the country, our schools are as segregated and unequal as they were when the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in its Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. The war on crime and drugs has targeted people of color for arrest, prosecution and long, mandatory prison sentences so that today, one-third of all black men in there twenties are either behind bars, on probation or parole. Segregation and discrimination in housing opportunity still exists, and a backlash against affirmative action in employment and education threatens to slam the door of opportunity in the faces of those who are seeking.
We have come a long way since Jim Crow ruled the South, but deeply entrenched discrimination and racial violence are still with us and affect not only African-Americans, but Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Arab Americans as well. The ACLU’s historic commitment to racial equality remains a centerpiece of its work in the courts and the legislatures, and in the arenas of public policy and public education.
On the other hand as we all know, affirmative action was implemented with the idea and hope that America would finally become truly equal. So far, it has lasted for thirty years and has failed to solve any of our current problems concerning equal rights. Affirmative action was created with the intention of using reverse discrimination to solve the problem of discrimination. In that, in some cases minority groups are being chosen over other fully qualified workers who are not in the minority. This reversal of roles in racial discrimination does nothing but cause arguments and problems for both those for white males and those in the minority.
Some arguments for affirmative action may be that for hundreds of years minorities were forced into servitude, and slavery by the white race, and now minorities are simply being “repaid” for all of those years of torture. In reality though, should men and women that have nothing to do with that oppression be forced to “repay” the minorities for their forefather’s sufferings” Another counter argument to the abolition of affirmative action is that minorities for the most part are brought up in poor neighborhoods and therefore their education is not as good as most of the white people whose income level is higher and subsequently have better schools. Well if that is a reason for affirmative action why not make it to where all children, regardless of race, who are in the poorer communities reap the benefits of affirmative action. Education more than anything decides the potential for success in a person’s life, and if most minorities are poor and need help then they should get it but poor Asian, Latino and White families should also receive those benefits.
Despite the fact that affirmative action has some positive points that truly do contribute to society. It is still a flawed system that merely turns the tables of racism. Affirmative action should definitely be looked into with greater depth. In order to create a system that is fair. The government needs to do additional research in improving its present situation. Affirmative action should be based on the fact that it is giving equal opportunity with equal results. It should not be increasing racism. If we continue to differentiate people based on the their color, gender, or nationality, then we have not achieved anything. We would not be any different than our ancestors. Times have changed, and as it has changed, so shall we. We should head into the future, not with hatred toward others, but instead with love and dignity.