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Affirmative Action Essay Research Paper As Nick

Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper

As Nick Catoggio went to his mailbox, he knew that his acceptance letter from

Harvard University had arrived. Although Nick was nervous, he knew that his hard

work in high school had gained him admission into one of the world?s most

prestigious institutions of higher learning. Because of his grade point average

of 4.0 in high school, his numerous extracurricular activities, and a combined

score of 1440 on his SATs, Nick believed that he would almost be guaranteed

admission to Harvard. When he opened the letter however, he was shattered when

he read the words, ?We regret to inform you ?? He immediately called his

friend Richard Sahk, who had also applied, to tell him his news and to see if

Richard had received his letter from Harvard. Richard said, ?Yeah Nick, I got

in!? Nick was astonished. Richard?s GPA was only 3.7, and he receive a

combined score of 1100 on his SATs. After a long pause he replied, ?It?s

because I?m black, Nick,? Richard felt bad for his friend. Both he and Nick

had realized that he was accepted by Harvard because of his race. Nick was mad

because he was qualified and didn?t get in; Richard felt upset because he

wasn?t as qualified as Nick but was admitted because of his race. This is an

anecdotal example of one of the many criticisms of affirmative action. In fact,

the whole controversy over preferences based on race and gender has been debated

ever since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. I believe that Affirmative

action should be discontinued, this program is a new kind of discrimination to

counter the past discrimination and this defeats the whole idea of the program.

Affirmative action is defined, as a program ensuring that a predetermined

proportion of jobs or college admissions go to African Americans and presumably,

other minorities and women as well (Woods 102). Also, James Q. Wilson in the

winter 1996 issue of The New Republic takes affirmative action to mean the

selecting of persons based on their group membership (23). Nicholas Lehman

writes that affirmative action today refers to " stuff that helps black

people." By this, he says that affirmative action today has come to mean

everything from "preferential college admissions to the way news is covered

to what’s hung in museums to corporate promotional practices" (84).

According to Nicholas Lehman, affirmative action started out as Executive Order

10925. Lyndon Johnson, the incoming vice President asked Hobart Taylor Jr., the

lawyer son of one of his friends, to work on a draft of an executive order that

would ban discriminatory hiring by Federal contractors. Taylor later said that

he "was searching for something that would give a sense of positiveness to

performance under executive order, and I was torn between the words ‘positive

action’ and the words ‘affirmative action.? . . . And I took ‘affirmative

action’ because it was alliterative" (40). Even during Johnson’s proposal

of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issue of racial quotas was controversial.

Said then-Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, "… I know what will

happen if the bill is passed. I know what will happen if there is a choice

between hiring a white man or hiring a Negro both having equal qualifications. I

know who will get the job. It will not be the white man" (Lehman 40). The

people who seek to abolish affirmative action claim that more qualified students

are being displaced by less-qualified students. But there are no more or less

qualified students, only students who can benefit from attending a university

such as Michigan get a chance, and no one knows in advance who they are. The

opinions that accompany the various Supreme Court cases concerning affirmative

action have been perplexing, and, at times, contradictory. Woods Geraldine

referred to the opinions of the justices as pieces of a puzzle that no one,

including the court itself, knows how to solve completely (65). This confusion

is probably the result of disagreement among the justices. Many of the cases

involving affirmative action have been decided by very close votes. Even when

the justices vote the same way, their separate opinions often explain what they

agreed for entirely different reasons. Let?s take the example of the case,

?The Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.? On October 12, 1977,

the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear case no.76-811. Both proponents and

opponents of affirmative action waited to hear arguments about whether a white

male, Allan Bakke, should be admitted to medical school at U.C. Davis. On the

application form, Bakke noticed that there was an item that stated,

"Applicants for economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds

are evaluated by a special subcommittee of the admissions committee. If you wish

your application to be considered by this group, please check this space."

A special taskforce had been created by the University to help bring in more

minorities and economically disadvantaged students into the school. This task

force was included in the admissions process and was charged with helping to

evaluate the applications of minorities and economically disadvantaged persons.

After being rejected by Davis several times, Bakke sued the school claiming that

he had been discriminated against because of his race. Bakke believed that some

of the students that had been accepted by Davis were less qualified, looking at

MCAT scores, than himself but were admitted because they were members of

minority groups. The University countered Bakke’s argument by explaining that

all the students at Davis were fully qualified. Because society’s past

discrimination against minorities, the school claimed that it was justified in

considering race as one of the factors in the admissions process. The University

also stated that it trained physicians who were more likely to serve

disadvantaged communities after graduation. In June 1978, after several lower

courts had ruled in favor of Bakke and the subsequent appeals of the University

of California, the court announced its decision. Four justices voted to admit

Bakke to the medical school at U.C. Davis. Another four justices voted in favor

of the University of California. In their view, the school’s admissions program

was constitutional and Bakke’s rights had not been violated. Justice Powell

broke the deadlock. He agreed that Bakke should be admitted because the

admissions process was unfair, but he did not rule against affirmative action.

He said that those types of programs could not assign a particular number of

places to minority candidates, however they could take race or ethnic background

into consideration as a positive factor in their consideration of candidates

(Woods 68). For years, this colleges and universities have interpreted this

ruling as meaning that they could use race, ethnicity, and gender as criteria in

the admissions process. As Lemann put it, "The decision may have been a

statesman like piece of juris prudence, but in admissions office circles, it is

widely viewed as meaning that it’s O.K. to reverse discriminate as long as

you’re not really obvious about it" (85). Proposition 209 is a California

ballot initiative voted on in November, 1996. It will change the constitution of

the state of California. This proposition prohibits discrimination or

preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin

in public employment, education, and contracting. The so-called California Civil

Right’s Initiative, which is neither civil nor right, is really a deceptive

attempt to constitutionalize gender discrimination and slam shut the doors of

opportunity that both women and people of color have fought so hard to open. It

places a hurdle to minorities and women that is not placed to others who seek

legislation to benefit them. he elimination of affirmative action programs for

women and minorities run by the state or local governments in the areas of

public employment, contracting, and education that give ?preferential

treatment? on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, or national origin

would have a devastating affect on the minorities in the society but at the same

time we need to keep in mind that the common person is also existing in this

society to be successful and not to be denied what he/she deserves just because

there were injustices done to the minorities and these injustices should be

reversed. As for a review of surveys and polls regarding affirmative action,

Charlotte Steeh and Maria Krysan have reviewed the major polls and surveys

conducted by major organizations over the past 25 years. Among the polls and

surveys they looked at the following: ? ABC News/Washington Post surveys ?

Associated Press/Media General surveys ? CBS News/New York Times surveys ?

Detroit Area Study ? The Gallup Poll ? General Social Survey ? Harris and

Associates surveys ? Los Angeles Times surveys ? NBC News/ Wall Street Journal

surveys ? National Election Studies ? Princeton Survey Research Associates

surveys ? Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press surveys One of their

discoveries is that there were very few systematic attempts to survey public

attitudes about affirmative action in the first twenty years of affirmative

action. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that there were systematic attempts to

identify trends in public opinion concerning affirmative action. Despite this

lack of replicated data, the authors were able to come to some conclusions. 1.

Public opinion towards affirmative action is fluid. The deciding factor in

whether people support affirmative action programs or not depends upon the

wording of survey questions. If a question is worded to emphasize the preference

or quota aspect of affirmative action, then people will tend not to support

these types of programs. Also, questions that are worded so that they tap into

the individualistic aspect of what the authors call the "American

creed" tend to be result in lower support for affirmative action. 2. There

is a large difference between the levels of support for affirmative action

programs between blacks and whites. Black support for preferences and economic

aid exceeds 40 percent in all of the surveys and polls studied. White support

for these same types of affirmative action, however, generally is below 20

percent. It should be noted, however, that black support for economic assistance

for blacks and other minorities dropped from about 80 percent at the start of

the 1970s to about 40 percent at the start of the 1980s. 3. More people believe

that reverse discrimination occurs than actually is reported. Between 64 and 80

percent of people believe that reverse discrimination occurs at least

occasionally. This is contrasted to roughly 5 to 20 percent of whites who

reported that they themselves or someone in their families had been denied a job

or promotion (27). Looking at these surveys in more detail, Alpern noted that

women were divided on the issue of affirmative action. Only 49 percent of women

polled thought that a policy that ensures equal opportunities for women should

be continued. Forty-one percent thought that this kind of policy should be

discontinued. Nonwhite women, however, tended to support affirmative action

policies. Roughly 75 percent of nonwhite women favored a policy to ensure equal

opportunities for both women and blacks. On the other hand, Alpern noted that

very few women believed that they themselves had benefited from affirmative

action policies. The Hart-Teeter poll showed that only 9 percent of all women

and 11 percent of working women responded that they had themselves benefited

from such programs. In a Newsweek poll conducted by the Princeton Survey

Research Associates in March of 1995, 27 percent of women thought that their

gender had been helped "a lot" by affirmative action programs (68).

Contrary to previous findings, however, roughly half of respondents in the

Hart-Teeter poll were against requiring employers to seek out qualified minority

and female applicants for jobs. Once again, however, the word

"required" may have affected respondents’ affitudes towards

compensatory type of affirmative action programs. In summary, the results of

surveys and polls regarding approval of affirmative action programs differ

dependingpn how survey questions are worded and also the race, gender, and

political orientaion of respondents. After my examination of the history of

Affirmative Action and the various court cases and surveys, I found Out that

equality of oppurtunity has become a basic economic ideal for United States.

Americans appear in general agreement that merit should be the only criterion

for advancement in life. Yet it is also widely ackhowledged that women and

blacks and also members of various other racial, ethnic, and religious

minorities in this country are seriously handicapped by their sex or origin

rather than merely by any lack of ability when they seek career advancement.

It’s here that affirmative action comes into the scenario. Instead of providing

a path for these minorities and women to get on a level plane with the other so

called "preferred" people these types of programs actually drift them

even further apart. Some women and members of minority may feel insulted by this

preferential treatment or may always find themselves in a position to prove

their worth. On the other hand, the deprived people may increase their prejudice

against them to a further degree because they feel that they lost out, not to a

better suited person, but to a privileged unworthy person. Therefore plans like

these must be done away with because they defeat their very purpose, as they

appear to be just as racist and sexist as the injustices they are designed to

remedy. It’s just another name for discrimination or even reverse

discrimination. Discrimination for a "good" reason is just as terrible

as discrimination for a "bad" reason. Affirmative action denies women

and minorities the right to compete as equals; indeed it actually assumes that

they cannot compete as equals, which is I am sure not its purpose. When

countering the statement that this kind discrimination is necessary to make up

for past it justices, I can all but simply defend my belief by appropriately

saying that "Two wrongs don’t make a right". Or, as the wise saying

goes, "You can’t use alcohol to treat alcoholism.?

Kreitner, Robert, Kinicki, Angelo. Organizational Behavior New York: Bryant

and Dillon published, 1998 Lehman, Nicholas. ?Affirmative Action.? NEW York

Times 18 June.1995: 40-42,84 Steeh, Charlotte. Krysan, Maria. ?Review of

Surveys and Polls? Poll Trends, 1970-1995 1996 Wilson, James Q. ?An

Affirmative Action?.? The New Republic winter. 1996: 102 Woods, Geraldine.

Affirmative Action. New York, London, Sydney : Franklin Watts, 1989. Steeh,

Charlotte. Krysan, Maria. ?Review of Surveys and Polls? Poll Trends,

1970-1995 1996 Argument in Favour of Proposition 209 ,

?Why are we opposed to Proposition 209??. FAQs about California votes no on

209 Feburary 18, 2000