Essay, Research Paper
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, EQUAL OPPORTUNITY OR SPECIAL TREATMENT The 1960’s brought about a great revolution in Civil Rights in the United States. Rights for women and minorities were questioned and evaluated. The fact was women and minorities did not have the same rights as white men. Among their many issues that were being assessed was the opportunities, or lack thereof, for their education or employment. This set the stage for what we know as affirmative action. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order #11246. This order required federal contractors to undertake “affirmative action” to increase the number of minorities that they employed. Hence the name affirmative action. This policy was put in a condensed form in a speech he gave at Howard University. He stated, “We want all Americans to engage in the race (advancement and prosperity) but some are not able to do so because they arrive at the starting line with shackles on their leg”. (Mosley) Understandably, legislation and laws were needed to enforce equal opportunity for women and minorities because of the prejudice mentality that seem to cloud the majority of the people back then. However, affirmative action today seems to mean if you are female or a minority, you will receive special treatment. This is very noticeable by looking at college entrance evaluations and Grimm 2 major corporations (including the state and federal government) hiring practices. Upon asking the questions why this is allowed to continue at present, the two of the most popular answers are: retribution for past mistakes and to eliminate discrimination in the work force. I do believe there was a time when affirmative action laws were necessary, but in today’s society affirmative action does not equal opportunity but rather special treatment. On every college application there is a question. It is a simple one word question that seems very harmless in its self. That question is “RACE”. I remember the first time I answered that question, I did not think twice about it. Later, I wondered what would be the significant impact of my answer. I learned that schools evaluate the number of applicants from each race before they accept anyone. This is a policy most colleges and universities have and call it their affirmative action policy. It is said that the objectives of this policy is for the school to promote diversity by having a certain predetermined number of minorities attending. I am in favor of diversity and providing opportunities to minorities. What I am not in favor of the separate standards that make this possible. In order for schools to abide by its affirmative action policies, two different grade point averages (GPA) and ACT scores (college entrance examinations) are acceptable, one for whites and one for minorities. Reviewing the University of California at Berkley admission facts, the average white student that was rejected had a high school GPA of 3.66 and an ACT score of 1142. On the other hand, the average African American student accepted had a high school GPA of 3.66 and an ACT score of 1030 (Affirmative Action). The justification for this is that minorities do not have the same opportunity to receive the same quality of education of whites. I understand that some school systems are better than others but they all must follow a certain set of guidelines. There are federal laws that require and regulate the Grimm 3 curriculum and academic standards of every private, public, and home school. This is to ensure that every graduating senior, be it from an inner city school in Chicago or a rural school in Iowa, has the same basic preparation for either employment or continued education. Therefore I do not agree with having two separate standards. If there is such a huge difference in the levels of high school education, I believe it to be the responsibility of the high school to make changes and not up to universities to lower standards for certain individuals. Just as in my college application, I noticed that my first employment application I had ever completed had the same question “RACE”. Unlike the first time I encountered this question, I was concerned and questioned its presence on an employment application. I could not understand why my hopeful future employer would need to know my race. I was under the impression that the more assets (in the form of experience and the history of being honest and hard working) I had to offer a company, the better the chances I had of getting the job. What did my race have to do with my abilities? After investigation, I found out that most major employers have what is called an “affirmative action” program. This essentially means the same thing as it did in college. The employers wanted a certain number of people from each race to be on its payroll. My understanding was that this meant the employers had a certain quota to follow but later found out that quotas were illegal and the use of them were prohibited according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead of using the word “quota” company’s affirmative action policy expressed it as “goals and timetables for work force diversification”. Therefore, some companies have been faced with a dilemma of hiring the most qualified person or hiring a person to fulfill the company’s affirmative action goal (Affirmative Action Myths). In a 1984 poll, one out of every ten white males have been refused employment due to a lesser qualified minority applicant. (Brimelow)
Grimm 4 Another interesting case was in 1977. After the adoption of an affirmative action policy, the Northern National Gas Company of Omaha, Nebraska, released sixty-five white male workers in order to make room for minority employees. (Nebraska Advisory Committee) Supporters of affirmative action would defend this by saying that women and minorities did not have the same opportunities to get a good education and work experience as a white male. Therefore, to have the same standards for hiring would be unfair. I appreciate the fact that this might have been the case years ago but not today. I, like most children, went to a public school. My understanding of a public school is just that. It is a school for the public and no one is denied access based on their race. As a matter of fact, there are laws stating that a child must attend school up to a certain age. When I was in school, there were just as many girls as there were boys in each of my classes. Therefore, I believe that everyone has had the same opportunity to get a high school diploma as I had. As for work experience, I received most of my experience in the military, which is open to anyone regardless of sex or ethnic background. It is simply not true and absurd to accept the excuse that females and minorities did not have the same opportunities as a white male to get an education and gain work experience. Therefore, special preference for females and minorities in the job market is unfair and unjustifiable. Intrigued, I began to investigate why these practices of affirmative action are still in place. According to Nicholas Mill in his book Debating Affirmative Action when the Civil Rights Laws were passed, minorities, especially African Americans, believed they should receive retribution for years of hardships they endured at the hands of white men. (Mills) This implies that the special treatment today would make up for past years of suffering. This way of thinking is ludicrous. In the first place, minorities today are not the same individuals that endured such hardships as Grimm 5 slavery. Second, the white men expected to pay this retribution personally and individually had nothing to do with invoking hardships that minorities had been made to suffer. In my case, I am first generation American. My family was not even in this country when these hardships took place. Yet, because I am a white male, I must pay retributions for something that I, nor any member of my family, had anything to do with. Another reason, given by faithful defenders of affirmative action, to keep these policies in place is because it helps fight the battle to end discrimination. According to Author Paul Ong affirmative action eliminates discrimination in the work force. (Ong) The Webster Dictionary defines discrimination as specific actions issued as the result of separating or singling out based upon ones appearance. In the past, when someone was not getting something because of their sex and/or their skin color, it was called discrimination. Today, when someone gets something because of their sex and/or skin color, we call it affirmative action. Whether you gain something or not is irrelevant. The fact is, the decision was made based on your sex and/or skin color. No matter how you look at it, it is still discrimination. Affirmative action does not eliminate discrimination, it is merely has disguised it. I agree that in the past legislation and laws were needed in order for people to receive fair and equal treatment and opportunity. But today, affirmative action seems to be more of a hand out than a hand up. Universities and colleges around the country are granting admission based upon sex and skin color rather than academic standards. Major corporations are doing the same by giving jobs to unqualified individuals just so they meet certain policy requirements. To say that this is done in order to give retribution to individuals is nothing more than trying to get something for nothing. Being judged because of your sex or skin color, whether you get the job or not, is Grimm 6 still discrimination. I believe that affirmative action had its place and time but today affirmative action seems to only equal one thing and that is not opportunity, but special treatment.