Affirmative Action As Racial Discrimination

This essay has a total of 2883 words and 12 pages.

Affirmative Action As Racial Discrimination


Affirmative Action as Racial Discrimination
The controversy over affirmative action is growing to embody most all selective decisions
in American society. From public protection to college admissions, people are becoming
resentful of such affirmative action programs. The applicability of these programs in
today's American society has been challenged by people ranging from the everyday "Joe",
who is finding reverse discrimination in the workplace, to college applicants, who are
finding that it takes more than good grades to get admitted, to the Supreme Court, who is
finding that some college admissions policies are unconstitutional and promote diversity
through unfair means. In California, for example, Gov. Pete Wilson has already pushed an
initiative ending affirmative action practices in colleges and universities. The
initiative passed, after a 10-hour meeting, through The California Board of Reagents with
a 10-15 vote. in Michigan, the state legislature is conducting hearings on the "fairness"
of affirmative action. David Jaye, a Republican member of the Michigan State legislature,
said affirmative action creates economic imbalances within the system. Affirmative action
policies are means for reverse discrimination against the non-minority population and
should be repealed by the United States government.

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 (Brown). 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"(Brown). Kennedy's executive order implied equal opportunity and
nothing else. The system that has since evolved is a perversion of the original intent of
affirmative action.

The dynamic history of affirmative action has its roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and stems from the United States Supreme Court Case of Brown vs. Board of Education of
Topeka, Kansas. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order #11246 at
Howard University that required federal contractors to undertake affirmative action to
increase the number of minorities that they employ (Brown). He wanted to ensure that
minorities were recruited to have real and equal opportunity to be hired and then
eventually get a promotion.

When this Civil Rights Act was passed, its spirit was not one of reverse discrimination
but of getting employers to consider applicants objectively in filling jobs within their
companies. Hubert Humphrey, a major sponsor of the Act, swore that he would eat the bill
if it were ever used for discrimination of any sort. The past cannot be changed and we
should stop compensating people who were never hurt at the expense of people who have done
them no harm.

In 1969, the Department of Labor exposed widespread racial discrimination of the
Construction Department so President Richard M. Nixon decided to incorporate a system of
"goals and timetables" to evaluate federal construction companies according to affirmative
action. This idea of "goals and timetables" provided guidelines for companies to follow
and comply with affirmative action regulations (Brown). Many companies now use these
quotas in order to receive tax breaks from the government. Now the government not only
promotes discrimination but also pays the employers to do so.

During the presidency of Gerald R. Ford, affirmative action was expanded to people with
disabilities and Vietnam veterans but there were no goals or timetables for these two
groups. This type of affirmative action required recruitment efforts, accessibility,
accommodation and reviews of physical and mental job qualifications (Brown). This
legislation did wonders for the disabled in terms of jobs and promoted equality so that
even the handicapped and elderly could receive employment.

President Jimmy Carter consolidated all federal agencies that were required by law to
follow affirmative action into the Department of Labor (Brown). Before Carter did this,
each agency handled affirmative action in its own individual way. However, some were not
as consistent as other agencies. He created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance
Program (OFCCP) in 1978 to ensure compliance with the affirmative action policies (Brown).

Affirmative action has had its greatest amount of success in city, state, and federal
government jobs. Slowly, the minority employment levels in these jobs began to generally
mirror the relative minority population. Since the 1960s the area of law enforcement
witnessed the greatest increase in minority applicants, and in jobs offered to minorities.
This should be viewed as an extremely positive thing, because prior to affirmative action
these jobs were almost completely closed off to minorities and woman. The influx has been
greatest in the area of government, state and city, because this type of work is easier
for affirmative action to watch over and regulate. Affirmative action has experienced
considerably less success in integration in big business, such as General Motors, RJR
Nabisco, and Microsoft. This is do to the fact that big business' often employ entire
towns or regions so the minority employee percentage is generally representative the
town's minority population. This is why big business has been more resistant to
affirmative action and harder to regulate (Ryan 37).

Long ago, the government sanctioned these affirmative action policies in order to create
an equal opportunity for people of all races. In a time when an obvious discriminatory
attitude toward minorities could be felt, affirmative action came to the rescue and helped
to push equality and equal opportunity. Minorities could get jobs because they deserved
them and the government as much. In today's society, discrimination is less prevalent than
in the 1970's. People are generally tolerant of one another and can coexist without
butting heads. To those who would disagree, here are some data: 75% of black Americans say
they have never suffered from discrimination in getting a quality education; 73% say that
they have never been subject to discrimination in getting descent housing; 60% say they
have never suffered discrimination in getting a job. These data are taken from a 1995 ABC
News/Washington Post poll (Williams). As for females, 77% say they have never suffered
from discrimination in terms of salaries on their present jobs; 73% have never suffered so
in other places of employment; and 83% say they were never turned down for a job in favor
of a man. These are from a 1992 New York Times Women's Survey (Quigly).

In California, the issue of affirmative action is one of the most controversial. Asian
students at the University of California's Berkley campus were felt to be over-represented
due to their outstanding academic performance and were actually placed at a disadvantage
under certain affirmative action programs (Bresler). In Los Angeles County, affirmative
action goals were raised for Hispanics, who, as a result of immigration, have become
almost 40% of the county, and lowered for blacks who represent 12% of the population and
have 30% of the county jobs (Bresler). Due to this inequality of representation, new
tensions have risen between the two groups.

Previous to the passing of the California initiative named Proposition 209 in November
1996, Californian government agencies were pushed to employ reasonably skilled minorities
and essentially required to make contracts almost exclusively with minority-owned
businesses (Ayres). This type of hiring and contracting quietly removed non-minority-owned
businesses from being in contention for receiving a government contract. As a result, a
lawsuit was filed against the state of California alleging that this form of public
contracting violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and should be seen as reverse
discrimination against non-minorities (Ayres). The man who filed the lawsuit won, and the
policies, which govern such public contracting, have since been amended. In this instance,
it was clearly seen that a preference toward certain minority groups was established and
implemented, causing essentially the blacklisting of non-minority-owned businesses in the
state of California. This type of behavior is what can be classified as reverse
discrimination, or discrimination primarily directed at Anglo and Asian American that is
generally the result of affirmative action polices.

Another instance where affirmative action was implemented without good reason occurred in
the town of Piscataway Township, NJ ("A Blow to"). In this case, the Board of Education
needed to lay off one teacher from the high school business faculty. The choice was
narrowed down to Debra Williams, a black woman, or Sharon Taxman, who is white. Both
teachers had begun working on the same day in 1980 and were considered equal in ability.
The two were also judged equal with respect to work performance, certification,
evaluations, teaching ability and volunteerism ("A Blow to").

Rather than flip a coin, as was traditionally done, the Board of Education invoked a
statewide affirmative action policy, for the first and only time in 18 years and retained
Mr. Williams (Greenhouse). Board members reasoned that it was important, not only for the
students, but also for the faculty, to maintain diversity on the business education staff
("A Blow to"). Ms. Taxman sued under the Civil Right Act of 1964 and, with the support of
the Bush Administration's Justice Department, won in a Federal district court
(Greenhouse). By the time the case reached the Federal appeals court, which is based in
Philadelphia, the Clinton Administration was in office. The White House switched positions
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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