Affirmative Action: What Is It And How Does It Affect America? Essay, Research Paper
Everyone in America has certain rights today written in a government document called the U.S. Constitution, but who is to say that they are enforced? One could turn on the television, read the newspaper, or listen to the radio only to hear about how someone is treated unfairly due to this evil action referred to as discrimination. Almost everybody in this great country has experienced some form of discrimination be it age, sex, race, or ethnic background. Whose job is it to protect the citizens of America from being treated unfairly? This answer is best defined by two words: Affirmative Action. Interesting questions arise while speaking about this subject such as: What is Affirmative Action and where did it begin? What are some of the positive and negative aspects of this plan and what examples show Affirmative Action working toward its purpose? How does it affect America as a whole? What does the government have to say about it according to the White House Staff Report on Affirmative Action (Is There a Need For it)?
Affirmative Action is, generally speaking, a way to reduce America’s discrimination towards minorities and woman. It is comprised of subjects primarily, but not restricted to, equal opportunity in the work force and in education. The government decided to begin the seemingly impossible endeavor of ending discrimination in the United States. Though this dream is unrealized, that is not to say that one day the U.S. will have all of the country’s problems solved and Affirmative Action can put us one step closer to that dream. The developers of Affirmative Action had that dream in mind during it beginning in 1964.
Although there is opposition, most political scientists concur that the roots of Affirmative Action can be traced to the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. As stated in the “Online Directory of Supreme Court Decisions”, the Supreme Court overturned the ’separate but equal’ doctrine saying that it violated the fourteenth amendment. The statement ‘Affirmative Action’ actually originated from president Kennedy:
“The phrase ‘affirmative action’ was first used in a racial discrimination context in Executive Order No. 10,925 issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. This executive order indicated that federal contractors should take affirmative action to ensure that job applicants and employees are treated ‘without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin’(J.F.K.)”(Pasour p.5).
Then in 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations and by employers, unions, and voting registrars. It also barred discriminatory poll taxes that Afro-Americans were required to pay in order to vote”(de Wit p.1). This act paved the way Affirmative Action. In years to come the citizens of America would cry for Affirmative Action for situations such as: Vietnam veterans, people with disabilities, and minorities in the work force and surprisingly the government agreed to answer these pleas.
President after president has come up with bills to push Affirmative Action. In 1969, president Nixon incorporated a series of ‘goals and timetables’ to enforce equal opportunity for minorities in the workplace. President Ford is responsible for extending Affirmative action to the veterans of Vietnam and to people with disabilities. President Carter constructed the OFCCP in 1978, which ensured that all company would conform to the policies of Affirmative Action. Even with its accomplishments one cannot even begin to see the full potential of this plan without first evaluating its positive aspects.
Many aspects of Affirmative Action have been successful in contributing to an “equal” America. Minority groups and woman now attain jobs just as easily as any other qualified worker. This is important because until this plan was put into effect, these very same companies would turn applicants away simply based on their race or sex. An interesting example of how Affirmative Action has helped minorities occurred in the 1970 court case, NAACP vs. Allen. Basically, the court recorded the fact that in the thirty-seven year history of highway patrol in the state of Alabama, none of the officers hired were black. The court found this fact a form of discrimination and issued an order that said the highway patrol must hire one black for every white until the minority comprises twenty-five percent of the workforce. The Supreme Court later affirmed this order. Minorities were not the only ones to benefit from Affirmative Action.
Women have also come a long way thanks to this anti-discrimination plan. Many positions are occupied by women that never would have twenty years ago. Women have filled many “dangerous” positions as well.
“In 1979, women represented only 4 percent of the entry-level officers in the San Francisco police department. By 1985,under an affirmative action plan ordered in a case in which the DOJ sued the City for discrimination, the number of women in the entry class had risen to 175, or 14.5 percent”(White House? p.2).
Women have even been given promotions to executive positions. In the past a woman could never become the president of a company. A major aspect shared by both groups is the increase in education.
Almost everyone would agree that education is one of society’s most important missions in life. The need for American education is ever constant in our world today due to the competence of our family and leaders and the competition with other nations for an indefinite amount of reasons. According to the Affirmative Action in Focus Census composed on Monday, February 2, 1999, the rates of minority applications have increased substantially over the years. While twenty-eight percent of college graduates are white, fourteen percent are black, and eleven percent is Hispanic. Compared to the recent evaluations of 1997 records the numbers of graduates has decreased for the minority groups, but the number of actual applications given has increased by twenty-three percent. Even though Affirmative action has helped the country in many ways no plan is without error.
The negative side of the plan is not as easily seen unless a large portion of time is allowed for it to develop. Three major issues have shown America examples of Affirmative Action’s imperfection: “Glass Ceiling,” “reverse discrimination,” and “quotas.” The first issue, “Glass Ceiling” deals with minorities and women in positions of “nowhere.” These jobs entail more and more work with no promotions. The companies find ways to stretch the rules of their business to wrap around the policies of Affirmative Action by justifying these non-promotion jobs. Women and minority groups complain about this situation, but little can be done to due the loophole in the Affirmative Action policy.
The second situation, “reverse discrimination” refers to whites losing a chance for a job because of Affirmative Action. If you are a white male and a company needs black males to fulfill the equal opportunity policy then the white male may lose the job based on discrimination. In other words, in trying to take discrimination away from one racial group, another group suffers the same discrimination. This can be seen as unfair and unjust, but again not much can be done without the compromise in Affirmative Action policy. Another aspect of this “reverse discrimination” occurs in education. It is recorded that “Checking the right race checkbox triples your chances of admission to UCLA School of Medicine in 1997″(UC p.1). According to the same source, only three percent of whites were accepted to the University of California whereas 10.4 percent of minority groups were accepted. This situation goes hand in hand with the concept of “quotas.”
“Quotas” define the need to actually fulfill the Affirmative Action policy. If a school acquires a population of which eighty-five percent are white, the school feels that it needs to turn down other white males and accept minority groups’ applications to “balance” their population. In essence, the very thing that is supposed to end discrimination in America is discriminating against white males. Granted this is a hypothetical situation and one cannot always believe that an extreme attitude like this exists, but the statistics do not lie. Given the essential positive and negative aspects of Affirmative Action, one must begin to wonder what kind of effect it has on America.
As a society it is nice to know that our government would establish something like Affirmative Action in order to help the general public in the U.S. This plan has affected our country in good and bad ways. Depending on whom one considers a source, each opinion is slightly different. Statistics from the White House Staff Report show that Affirmative Action’s role in America peaked out in 1977 when the ratio of black to white graduates of high school that went on to attend college was 1:1. This is no longer the case today. About twenty-five percent fewer blacks go on to college after high school than whites. This statistic is a generalization taken for the United States as a whole. Since education is very important, some political scientists think the blacks feel underestimated or do not want to take the heat from classmates because of relations with Affirmative Action. Because of these reasons some Americans want to abolish this plan.
On the other side of the coin, many politicians argue that we are providing help for the economically unstable. Minorities, in some cases, compose a high percentage of the poverty level. This is disturbing to some people and they feel that Affirmative Action gives these poor people a chance to get a decent education and to deprive them of this option would be morally wrong and unjust. Although the law is unbiased, most politicians agree that Affirmative Action does not guarantee decent education to every minority group simply for those ethical reasons. Being given this information one might wonder what our government thinks about this policy and whether or not we really need it.
According to the White House Staff Report submitted to President Clinton in 1995 it is imperative that the United States keeps Affirmative Action due to the ever-increasing progress in many areas of a multitude of society’s problems. The problems below are those “seeking to be addressed” by Affirmative Action:
“Minorities and women remain economically disadvantaged: the black unemploy- ment rate remains over twice the white unemployment rate; 97 percent of senior managers in Fortune 1000 corporations are white males; in 1992, 33.3 percent of blacks and 29.3 percent of Hispanics lived in poverty, compared to 11.6 percent of whites. In 1993, Hispanic men were half as likely as white men to be managers or professionals; only 0.4 percent of senior management positions in Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 service industries are Hispanic”(White?p.4).
Although Affirmative Action has helped there are still some companies that refuse to abide by the government equal opportunity policy. “These studies often find that employers are less likely to interview or offer a job to minority applicants and to female applicants”(White?p.4). Money is a widespread problem in America including earning wages through equal opportunity. “The average income for Hispanic women with college degrees is less than the average for white men with high school degrees”(White?p.4). These examples show how our government intends to gear Affirmative action within the next few years and how they react to the need for this plan.
Affirmative Action is needed because it is an assurance that our government still has the ability to help the American public. Without this plan, more and more women and minority groups would be taken advantage of for their skills and abilities. It ensures the citizens that they still have a chance to make something of their selves and be the best U.S. citizen they can be. Affirmative Action was born in 1954, and is still very alive today in modern society. The dream of a utopia in terms of balance is still unrealized, but the government as well as the citizens of the United States have a better understanding of what the U.S. can accomplish in order to benefit its well-being. Can a perfect society exist without a plan like Affirmative Action? One must judge for themselves whether or not the U.S. actually needs Affirmative Action.
“Affirmative Action in Focus.” “Policy.com.” 1998. (20 Oct. 1999)
Cook, Jerry. “Being the Right Race Triples Your Chance of Admission.” “UC Admissions Analysis.” August 1998. (21 Oct. 1999)
Froomkin, Dan. “Affirmative Action Under Attack.” “Washington Post.com.” 1998. (20 Oct. 1999)
Pasour, Ernest. “Affirmative Action: A Counter-Productive Policy.” 1996. (19 Oct. 1999)
“The White House Staff Report.” “Affirmative Action Review, Report to the President.” 1998. (15 Oct. 1999)
Wit, Maarten. “Affirmative Action.” 1995 (21 Oct. 1999)