Affirmative Action 5 Essay, Research Paper
Affirmative action, by definition, is a program designed to favor minorities and remedy past discrimination (Cummings, p.192). It started in 1961 with President John F. Kennedy, by instructing the federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that all people are treated equally regardless of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Ever since it started, for more than thirty years now, it has been a controversial issue regarding employment practices (Anniston). This research paper will discuss the history of affirmative action, the pro’s and con’s of affirmative action in the workplace and in the educational system, and proposition 209.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy was the first to use affirmative action. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred discrimination by universities or others that received federal assistance (Cummings, p.192). After it came the Voting Act of 1965, Immigration Act of 1965, The Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Nieli, p.5). In 1978, President Carter created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program (OFCCP) to ensure compliance with the affirmative action policies by the department of labor (Brown). Also in 1978 was the Bakke v. Reagents of the University of California, where Supreme Court upheld that use of race as one factor in choosing among qualified applicants for admission and reserving certain seats in each entering class of students for disadvantaged minorities were unlawful. Affirmative action began to go downhill and fading away during the presidency of Ronald Reagan and later George Bush. The republicans in the White House and in congress ignored the affirmative action. Finally to the presidency of Bill Clinton, the republicans were attempting to scare people into changing their party lines by saying that affirmative action is nothing more than a quota or reverse discrimination (Brown). Just by watching the history of this issue, one can come to a conclusion that we’ve come a long way in regards to racial and gender discrimination.
Affirmative action programs offer individuals such as women and minorities a chance at equal employment opportunities and representation through positive, results-oriented practices that purposely take race and gender into account (Anniston). In the work force, minorities and women are source of cheap labor. The employers higher them to work with very little pay and little or no benefits. Higher paying jobs were always filled with white males. Even when women wanted to be as successful as that of men, they had a limit hanging over their head called the “glass-ceiling”. But through affirmative action, women and minorities were able to get higher paying jobs and even promotions and some even going up to the professional jobs. For example, women have made significant progress in recent year; in 1963, women earned fifty-nine cents for every dollar earned by men. Today, women earn on average seventy-one cents for every dollar earned by men (Curry, p.179). Affirmative action may reduce racial tension forcing people to interact together and work as a unit in a professional and intellectual level across racial lines (Lewis). This program gives the minorities the opportunity to join the competition in the “white” American society and to defy the stigmas and stereotypes cast upon them by others.
Some people believe that affirmative action is wrong because it discriminates. For example, and employer hires anyone because he/she is a minority, even if someone else is more qualified for the job. In this case, the employer is not discriminating against the minorities but against the majorities. Some also argue that affirmative action programs incite racial tension (Lewis). Since employers are very sensitive about affirmative action programs and if a white male is more qualified for the job than the minority, it may stir up some tension between those people involved. And because of the tension, the employers are more likely to higher a minority, who is less qualified for the job. By doing so, the employers may have a feeling that they are left with the short end of the stick and a lesser quality worker (Wit). If a workplace made decisions on hiring and promoting on the basis of ethnicity, such a workplace would go under. Decisions make in workplace should be merit-base; the eligibility and quality of the employee, not race-base.
The outcome of the case of Allen Bakke v. Reagents of the University of California in 1974, helped many minorities to go into college. Allan Bakke had applied for medical school in University of California at Davis in 1973 and in 1974 and was rejected because they only set aside 16 seats for minorities each year. He sued contending that he had been excluded on the basis of his race in violation of the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Cummings, p.193). The California Supreme Court called the act of the university unconstitutional and Bakke won along with other minorities who could not get into college. In the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that although the physical factors and tangible factors may be equal in public school systems, the children of the minority group were deprived of the equal education. Therefore they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment (Cummings, p.182). Even though the compliance of this law was very slow, eventually all states complied with the law and made public school available to the minorities. By 1969, all the public schools in the country were trying to comply with the law.
The history of the campaign against racial injustice since 1954, when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, is a history in a large part of failure (Nieli p.179). The law may have said to put an end to segregation and racism in public schools, but even now, the racism and the segregation still live in the hearts of American people. In 1979, the case was reopened because even twenty-five years later, schools were still segregated. Affirmative action is supposed to treat everyone as equals. But actually and in reality, it does not treat everyone with equality. When admitting a person to a college, in the registration form, it asks what race the person is. If it were to treat everyone equally, it wouldn’t ask that question. And because of the affirmative action law and trying to comply with it, the colleges will pick a minority, who may not be as qualified, to attend the school, therefore lowering the standard of the school to match that person’s standard. The standards for all the people should be the same no matter what.
Proposition 209 was proposed by Californians that wanted to outlaw programs based on affirmative action. It was passed by a narrow margin in the November 5,1996. Proposition abolished all public sector affirmative action programs in the state in employment, education and contracting. It also permits gender discrimination that is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public education, employment and contracting. This proposition means that people should not have special privileges on the basis of their race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in any kind of public services where it’s funded by the government. In regards to the affirmative action issue, this proposition makes it hard for people to get hired just because they are a minority. The proposition tries to bring balance between all the people not on the basis of their minority or majority but on their merits.
When I first started this research, I only did it because the subject was well known and easy to find. After finishing the research, my opinion towards affirmative action was swayed a little. I first thought that affirmative action was an absolute good that helps the minorities of the community to have the equal opportunity as that of others. But now, I feel that affirmative action itself was contributing to discrimination. It was discrimination against those who were more qualified in a job or in a college who couldn t’ get in because there was a minority and the rule had to be bent a little to accept those minorities. I believe that the standards should be the same for all people and the law shouldn’t be bent just because a minority couldn’t keep u with the standards of the society. If the person is not qualified for the field, then they shouldn’t be hired, because if they were, they’re robbing another wee qualified person their job and the opportunity to achieve their goal and do their best. It may be the case that a minority, picked over the more qualified person, might quit or get fired because they were way in over their heads. Affirmative action should not be something that the society would have to abide to. It should be a reference to when there are conflicts among controversial issues that is related to discrimination on workplace or in educational system. I believe that in the society that we live in, discrimination should be something that of the past. To believe in racism and discrimination against minorities, just wouldn t be America.