The Failures Of Affirmative Action Essay Research

Paper The Failures of Affirmative Action Once upon a time, there were two people who went to an interview for only one job position at the same company. The first

The Failures Of Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper

The Failures of Affirmative Action

Once upon a time, there were two people who went to an

interview for only one job position at the same company. The first

person attended a prestigious and highly academic university, had

years of work experience in the field and, in the mind of the

employer, had the potential to make a positive impact on the company’s

performance. The second person was just starting out in the field and

seemed to lack the ambition that was visible in his opponent. “Who was

chosen for the job?” you ask. Well, if the story took place before

1964, the answer would be obvious. However, with the somewhat recent

adoption of the social policy known as affirmative action, the answer

becomes unclear.

After the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act

in 1964, it became apparent that certain business traditions, such as

seniority status and aptitude tests, prevented total equality in

employment. Then President, Lyndon B. Johnson, decided something

needed to be done to remedy these flaws. On September 24, 1965, he

issued Executive Order #11246 at Howard University that required

federal contractors “to take affirmative action to ensure that

applicants are employed . . . without regard to their race, creed,

color, or national origin (Civil Rights).” When Lyndon Banes Johnson

signed that order, he enacted one of the most discriminating pieces of

legislature since the Jim Crow Laws were passed.

Affirmative action was created in an effort to help minorities

leap the discriminative barriers that were ever so present when the

bill was first enacted, in 1965. At this time, the country was in the

wake of nationwide civil-rights demonstrations, and racial tension was

at its peak. Most of the corporate executive and managerial positions

were occupied by white males, who controlled the hiring and firing of

employees. The U.S. government, in 1965, believed that these employers

were discriminating against minorities and believed that there was no

better time than the present to bring about change.

When the Civil Rights Law passed, minorities, especially

African-Americans, believed that they should receive retribution for

the years of discrimination they endured. The government responded by

passing laws to aide them in attaining better employment as reprieve

for the previous two hundred years of suffering their race endured at

the hands of the white man. To many, this made sense. Supporters of

affirmative action asked, “why not let the government help them get

better jobs?” After all, the white man was responsible for their

suffering. While this may all be true, there is another question to

be asked. Are we truly responsible for the years of persecution that

the African Americans were submitted to?

The answer to the question is yes and no. It is true that the

white man is partly responsible for the suppression of the African-

American race. However, the individual white male is not. It is just

as unfair and suppressive to hold many white males responsible for

past persecution now as it was to discriminate against many

African-Americans in the generations before. Why should an honest,

hard-working, open minded, white male be suppressed, today, for past

injustice? Affirmative action accepts and condones the idea of an eye

for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Do two wrongs make a right? I

think mother taught us better than that.

Affirmative action supporters make one large assumption when

defending the policy. They assume that minority groups want help.

This, however, may not always be the case. My experience with

minorities has led me to believe that they fought to attain equality,

not special treatment. To them, the acceptance of special treatment is

an admittance of inferiority. They ask, “Why can’t I become successful

on my own? Why do I need laws to help me get a job?” These African

Americans want to be treated as equals, not as incompetents.

In a statement released in 1981 by the United States

Commission on Civil Rights, Jack P. Hartog, who directed the project,

said: Only if discrimination were nothing more than the misguided acts

of a few prejudiced individuals would affirmative action plans be

“reverse discrimination.” Only if today’s society were operating

fairly toward minorities and women would measures that take race, sex,

and national origin into account be “preferential treatment.” Only if

discrimination were securely placed in a well-distant past would

affirmative action be an unneeded and drastic remedy.

What the commission failed to realize was that there are

thousands of white males who are not discriminating yet are being

punished because of those who do. The Northern Natural Gas Company of

Omaha, Nebraska, was forced by the government to release sixty-five

white male workers to make room for minority employees in 1977

(Nebraska Advisory Committee 40). Five major Omaha corporations

reported that the number of white managers fell 25% in 1969 due to

restrictions put on them when affirmative action was adopted (Nebraska

Advisory Committee 27). You ask, “What did these white males do to

bring about their termination?” The only crime that they were guilty

of was being white. This hardly seems fair to punish so many innocent

men for the crimes of a relative few.

But the injustice toward the white male doesn’t end there.

After the white male has been fired, he has to go out and find a new

job to support his family that depended on the company to provide

health care and a retirement plan in return for years of hard work.

Now, because of affirmative action, this white male, and the thousands

like him, require more skills to get the same job that a lesser

qualified black man needs. This is, for all intents and purposes,

discrimination, and it is a law that our government strictly enforces.

Affirmative action is not only unfair for the working man, it

is extremely discriminatory toward the executive, as well. The average

business executive has one goal in mind, and that is to maximize

profits. To reach his goal, this executive would naturally hire the

most competent man or woman for the job, whether they be black or

white or any other race. Why would a business man intentionally cause

his business to lose money by hiring a poorly qualified worker? Most

wouldn’t. With this in mind, it seems unnecessary to employ any policy

that would cause him to do otherwise. But, that is exactly what

affirmative action does. It forces an employer, who needs to meet a

quota established by the government, to hire the minority, no matter

who is more qualified.

Another way that affirmative action deducts from a company’s

profits is by forcing them to create jobs for minorities. This occurs

when a company does not meet its quota with existing employees and has

to find places to put minorities. These jobs are often unnecessary,

and force a company to pay for workers that they do not need.

Now, don’t get the impression that affirmative action is only

present in the work place. It is also very powerful in education. Just

as a white male employee needs more credentials to get a job than his

minority opponent, a white male student needs more or better skills to

get accepted at a prestigious university than a minority student.

There are complete sections on college applications dedicated to race

and ethnic background. Colleges must now have a completely diverse

student body, even if that means some, more qualified students, must

be turned away.

A perfect example of this can be found at the University of

California at Berkeley. A 1995 report released by the university said

that 9.7% of all accepted applicants were African American. Only 0.8%

of these African American students were accepted by academic criteria

alone. 36.8% of the accepted applicants were white. Of these accepted

white students, 47.9% were accepted on academic criteria alone. That

means that approximately sixty times more African Americans students

were accepted due to non-academic influences than white students. It

seems hard to believe that affirmative action wasn’t one these outside


Another interesting fact included in the 1995 report said that

the average grade point average for a rejected white student was 3.66

with an average SAT score of 1142. The average grade point average for

an accepted African American student was 3.66 with a 1030 average SAT

score. These stunning facts shows just how many competent, if not

gifted students fall between the cracks as a direct result of

affirmative action (Affirmative action).

Well, I believe that the problem has been identified;

affirmative action is becoming a form of reverse discrimination. It is

now time for the doctor to prescribe a potential remedy. Society

should work towards broad based economic policies like public

investment, national health reform, an enlarged income tax credit,

child support assurance, and other policies benefiting families with

young children. Widely supported programs that promote the interests

of both lower and middle class Americans that deliver benefits to

minorities and whites on the basis of their economic status, and not

their race or ethnicity, will do more to reduce minority poverty than

the current, narrowly based, poorly supported policies that single out

minority groups. However, if this, or another remedy is not taken

sometime in the near future, and affirmative action continues to

separate minority groups from whites, we can be sure to see racial

tension reach points that our history has never seen.

Works Cited

“Affirmative Action at the University of California at Berkeley”


October 28, 1996. e_cook/ucb-95.html

“Civil Rights” Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. (1996). [Computer


SoftKey Multimedia International Corporation.

United States. Commission on Civil Rights. Affirmative Action in the


Dismantling the Process of Discrimination. Washington: 1981.

United States. Nebraska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on

Civil Rights.

Private Sector Affirmative Action: Omaha. Washington: 1979.