Affirmative Action and Its Concequences

In 1961, Affirmative action was signed into action by John F. Kenndy.  It was created March 6, 1961 from executive order 10925 in reaction to non-discrimination against any employee applicant.  As defined by US Legal, affirmative action is the process of a business or governmental agency in which it gives special rights to hiring or advancement to ethnic minorities to make up for past discrimination against that minority.  In short, the intent of the law is to open up opportunities for those in employment, educational and other categories alike by creating policies and procedures to take minority status into thought and consideration and to give members of those minority groups superior treatment as a direct reply to guarantee that discriminatory practices of the past are no longer an obstacle to employment or acceptance to higher education institutions.  This is not to be confused with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, passed in 1978 that led the ground work for affirmative action, as EEO prohibits the discrimination against gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, etc., upon interview and hiring.  Affirmative action considers these minorities in its hiring process.  Most employers are subject to EEO as they set out to find employees for open positions.  However, private employers who receive no public funding are not required to adopt affirmative action policies.  Although, the creation of this act was to ensure equal opportunities to all in the hiring process or even admission into school, it has been argued that this causes reverse discrimination.  By accepting someone based off the need to improve the basis of your marginalized group, you could be pushing away someone more qualified or has more experience or even both.  For qualified minorities, affirmative action requires training, outreach efforts, and other positive efforts as they are incorporated into the company’s written policies.  While good in intention, affirmative action may cause more than it helps and violates the constitution.

There have been numerous occasions where someone has felt a rejection to a place of employment or of higher education was unjust.  In 2008, Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas at Austin for her rejection upon admissions for she believed it was due to the color of her skin. The University defended itself proclaiming it was her grades, not her race, that proposed her rejection to the school. Although the assumption of a new example being made have not been met, the Supreme Court departed from the case and called back to the Fifth Circuit Court for a reconsideration of the standards of admission to the University in a seven to one decision.  The constitutionality of polices that have directed towards the achievement of racial diversity have not been spoken upon in this case.  Affirmative action has seen the Supreme Court before in cases such as Grutter v. Bollinger (2013), Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), where the supreme court ruled that university could not use fixed quotas in making admissions decisions, and Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2013).

When affirmative action was created, it was hoped it would insure the hiring process and employment practices would be free of racial bias. In 1965, president Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order that established enforcement guidelines and documentation procedures for federal contractors called executive order 11246.  The order was then improved to add gender in 1967.  However, in the late 1970s, courts began to strike down affirmative action programs that were designed to give minorities an opportunity to compete for federal contracts by challenging program that utilized quotas.  Discrimination lawsuits arose as the way affirmative action was viewed changed in the 1970s. Racist intent was almost always denied by the defendants as the standard for proving discrimination changed.  The intent became the basis for determining discrimination.  In the 1970s, the racial census categories included Chinese, Philipino, Hawaiian, Indian American, Japanese, African American, White Hispanic of any race, White Non-Hispanic, handicapped, and other.  Mexicans counted as white from 1930 to 1970 when they were re-entered into the census as Hispanic.  In the 1980s, groups other than African Americans began to file discrimination lawsuits based on statistical proportionality.  As the public began to see its complexity, the debate about affirmative action has grown more difficult and questionable.

Although education is largely the focus in today’s affirmative action debate, the origin of the term is rooted with the jargon in employment law.  There are now eight states as of today who have banned the use of affirmative action in their admissions in their universities. These states include California, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, and Oklahoma.  Not only do they try to benefit the underrepresent group, they even reach out to members of the underrepresented group and coarse them into applying to their university.   By basing their admission decisions on race and gender and giving members of the minority groups special treatment, others are being denied opportunities because of the color of their skin or their gender.  In the lawsuits of these cases, the people are declaring that this is reverse discrimination. The same can be argued in the work place.  There have been numerous occasions where African American’s have kept their jobs while whites, who have superiority and more experience have lost their jobs, like the case of Wygant 1986.  While these minorities are benefiting from this law, a lot are hurting from it.

Many see the negatives of the application of affirmative action while others feel compelled to focus on the positives.  Many feel that the law is in place to compensate for centuries of racial and gender oppression.  In this case, the law is implemented to provide a way to repay their descendants for the immoralities done to their ancestors.  The policy was formed as a way of helping fix the many years of oppression, to eradicate some races being “held in their race.  Not only does this law make sure that doesn’t happen, it promotes diversity and equality in the work place and in schools as well.  Students who started at a disadvantage, involving mostly minorities, usually coming from lower-income families, need a boost.  Affirmative action makes sure to even the opportunities for these students.  With the policies behind affirmative action, all students of any ethnic background or of any minority, are encouraged to enter an advanced educational system.  The policy opens opportunities for disadvantaged people coming from other parts of the country. Where they come from, there aren’t many opportunities open to them, this helps them to be able to advance where they could not.  But most importantly, affirmative action was set in place to offer protection from hatred. Though nothing can shield every individual from every encounter of hatred throughout their life, affirmative action can inflict strict and sometimes harsh punishments on those found guilty of personal assault of any kind due to the race, gender, etc., of their victim.  Again, while good in intention, these policies may be doing more harm than good.

Though affirmative action is set in place to stop stereotyping and racism, it does not completely eradicate it.  Those who are given a position solely based on the preconditions of this policy are often not qualified and the idea that all people under that race are all underqualified is preserved.  These policies imply that anyone having the same color of skin are of lower class and, therefore, need help. This permanently embeds into the country’s system.  It is often believed true when it is said minority groups need affirmative action to succeed.  Giving preferential treatment to these individuals in a hiring process or in admissions to schools could be completely misunderstood. It could potentially be insulting or even condescending to mean that minorities could not obtain their objectives with just their abilities and hard work.  By setting lower standards in hiring or admission processes, the level of accountability is lowered as well. An extra push or incentives is often needed to do push them to do their best.  However, lowering expectations for minority groups could cause more problems than one.  Having diversity in a work place or school system doesn’t necessarily mean diversity of opinion is achieved.  Just because someone has the same color of skin, does not mean they share the same beliefs, opinions, or even culture.

As times change, society will learn and grow. Racism will dissolve over time and discrimination will become a thing of the past.  Or so many believe.  In an article called “Black progress: how far we’ve come and how far we have to go., written by Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Therstrom, the progress we have made since the 1960’s is touched upon. The article talks about how the number of African American domestic servants has dropped from sixty percent to a mere two-point-two percent. The percentages of White to African American friendships have drastically increased.

It states that “Progress is the largely supressed story of race and race relations over the past half-century. And thus it’s new that more than percent of African Americans now consider themselves members of the middle class. Forty-two percent own their own homes, a figure that rises to seventy-five percent if we look just at African American married couples.  African AMerican two-parent families earn only thirteen percent less than those who are White. Almost a third of the African American population lives in suburbia..  They go on to talk about how they believe affirmative action doesn’t work.  In their article, it states that every significant advance began before the affirmative action era and that the belief of race aware policies is not clear. Important differences separate pre-1970s and post-1970 period making comparison hard and hat some gains are likely because of race-conscious educational and employment policies.

In her article “The Historical Roots of Affirmative Action, Professor Martha S. West says “The story of affirmative action begins with the story of American slavery.  Although many of the participants in today’s debates over affirmative action would have us divorce the term from its historical context, it is misleading and disingenuous to do so.  Consequently, we begin our historical examination of affirmative action’s legal origins with slavery and it’s premise of white supremacy.

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