Affirmative Action was created by President John F. Kennedy through an executive order in 1961 and continued through Lyndon B. Johnson presidency and so on. The reasoning behind affirmative action was to promote diversity and to end job discrimination. It was a way to even the playing field so that minorities had a chance to purse higher education or a career field. It was to level the social inequality that many oppressed minority groups had to face at a point in time the United States history. There has been opposition to the policy and has become quite controversial on both sides of the majority and minority. This paper will show the history and present of the policy and how it effects Americans till this day. Description of the problem that necessitated the policy “Affirmative action has the same goal as equal opportunity, but differs from equal opportunity in being proactive. Equal opportunity is a passive policy that seeks to ensure that discrimination will not be tolerated once it is detected. In contrast, with affirmative action, organizations use established practices not only to subvert, but also to avert, discrimination.(Crosby, Iyer, & Sincharoen, 2006).
Affirmative action is intended to end discrimination with jobs and higher education opportunities whether it is based on race or gender. It has developed into many other branches such as disabled, religion, sexual orientation, etc. “Affirmative action policies are necessary in order to compensate for centuries of racial, social, and economic oppression. Generally, individuals with higher socioeconomic status have more opportunities than those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Supporters believe that certain racial or ethnic groups are disadvantaged because they are frequently in lower income brackets and consequently are not exposed to the same resources as students from higher socioeconomic classes. Advocates support the notion of competition between students based on merit, but argue that affirmative action compensates for economic disparities.(Nation Conference of State Legislatures, 2014). Affirmative action is affected by the majority and minorities. Some of the attitudes towards the policy is that it hurts minorities rather than help them and can cause reverse racism where a qualified candidate will be overlooked to meet a certain quota of race applicants who are not as qualified. According to Wallace and Allen (2016), Caucasians associates affirmative action to reverse racism and causes more negative feelings towards mainly blacks and other minorities. Caucasians believe that minorities are not in the pediment that minorities face in the past so therefor affirmative action should be dismantled as a policy.
Historical Background of the policy From the discovery of America in the 1400 s-1600s there has been enslavement and brutal treatment of Native Americans, Africans, and numerous other minorities. Many minority groups faced separation from family and friends, death, rape, torture, and beatings. Native Americans were forced to uproot their lives and land into small communities which people call now a reserve. They also had to be separated from family to go to certain schools to assimilate thus loosing their heritage and native tongue. Africans were sold or captured and brought across the sea to enslavement and were forced to work day in and day out. Chinese immigrants came over and worked in brutal conditions to build railroads and other inventions. Americas history is a history of oppression to minority groups and unequal treatment. Affirmative action was intended to right the wrongs of the disadvantage groups.
The introduction of affirmative action sought good intentions changed throughout policies of each presidency. President Kennedy brought forth the use of affirmative action during the civil rights era to combat the wave of discrimination, mainly in the workforce. Over time the use of affirmative action leaped from other aspects like higher education and politics. According to Anderson (2005), Lyndon B. Johnson did not believe in state mandated quotas like the previous administration. He created Title VII which “banned discrimination in small businesses, and the executive order abolished all previous orders and became the guiding legislation for the future of affirmative action. With President Nixon term he implemented the Philadelphia Plan. “Contrary to previous attempts, this plan had a direct correlation to the population of the area in which it was implemented and focused on goals and timetables to reach its achievements; he also established a set-aside program which “granted “set-asides” and contracts to “socially disadvantaged” firms, at first in the ghettos and later throughout the nation (Anderson, 2005, p. 119). Under President Reagan and Bush presidency the affirmative action policy began to take a lower status to the public and was deemed not needed. During these terms the public and the conservative presidents wanted more of a neutral ground, but did not try to mend anything. The perception of the policy changed throughout history because many Americans think it is not a necessity as it was in the 60s. Policy Description Affirmative Action initially created a system that destroys wrongful discrimination, fix and repairs the effects of discrimination, and to prevent any acts of it as well in the future for people looking into educational programs or employment. (Cornell Law University,1992).
The policy has been in place for 57 years and has seen multiple court cases, but is still prominent in some states and has developed into race-neutral policies in other states. The need for diversity helps people look at others perspective and can promote harmony among different races, religions, nationalities, etc. America is considered the melting pot because of the different nationalities and culture that exist within the country. “The anticipated outcomes of affirmative action policies include improved educational opportunities for students regardless of race or gender, increased diversity in enrollment, and positive effects of both learning and democratic outcomes.” (Garrison-Wade and Lewis 2003). Affirmative action programs that generate quotas result in debates across the countries because of the fairness of the policy. The general public has thought of it as preferential treatment to a minority even if a caucasian is more qualified either in an admission to a higher education or professional employment. ( Antwi-Boasiako,2017).
Affirmative Action stemmed from the civil rights movement which is similar to human rights. It is more than just for different races especially in employment. According to the U.S Department of Labor federal employment advances qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and veterans. (U.S Department of Labor, 2018). That is a step for many oppressed groups that have a history of and still do of lower wages related to race and gender, higher chances of discrimination, and unfair treatment. Affirmative action has improved with outreach efforts, training programs, etc to help groups that could be taken advantage of. Since Affirmative Action has integrated into equal opportunity and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, spreading diversity is becoming more prominent among the United States. Policy Analysis In the past decades multiple court cases have conflicted with the policy that was established in 1961. The most recent and public court case was Fisher V University of Texas in 2013. According to Oyez (2013): Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian female, applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas in 2008. Fisher was not in the top ten percent of her class, so she competed for admission with other non-top ten percent in-state applicants. The University of Texas denied Fisher’s application. Fisher filed suit against the university and other related defendants, claiming that the University of Texas’ use of race as a consideration in admission decisions was in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The university argued that its use of race was a narrowly tailored means of pursuing greater diversity.(p. 11-34) The case was won in favor of University of Texas. It did shed light on how people judge affirmative action through higher education opportunities and how race place a smaller role in picking who comes to the universities.