Affirmative Action3



I. The History of Diversity in America
Known as the “Melting Pot”, America is a country with a more diverse population than any other. But America also has a long, painful past of discrimination that has been based on sex, race, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation and various other characteristics that stray from the average white American citizen. Through the years, government has played a major role in trying to correct the past wrongs due to discrimination by enacting legislation and adding amendments to the Constitution. The primary purpose of these measures is to enforce non-discriminating employment practices and to encourage, and sometimes force, companies to increase their representation of women and minority group members in the workplace. This move toward equal opportunity has come about through numerous measures enacted throughout our history. A few of those policies, such as “Affirmative Action”, contain very controversial issues that many employers hope to see changed, or done away wi! th all together. For the present time, however, the trend continues in most every state and is enforced by law. The effects of diversity on our nation can be traced back to the civil war period. This period of upheaval is a perfect example of the struggle many Americans went through to free black slaves. The blacks were made slaves in the states for a number of reasons. The blacks were a representation of difference, therefore the whites viewed them as being unequal. We also seem to fear that which is different, so we try to keep them down. The blacks represented such a small percentage of the population that it was easy for the white slave owners to control them. The diversity issue among the blacks and whites created a civil war within our nation that pitted friends and family against one another, and our whole nation was in turmoil. Many lives were lost fighting for the freedom of the slaves. On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery and declared all slaves free by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation (the thirteenth amendment to our constitution).(! Sandburg, 17)
An excerpt from the proclamation follows: “ . . . That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever, free; . . .”(Sandburg, 17)
Soon after the issuance of the amendment, various states enacted “black codes” that limited the newly enacted civil rights of the freed slaves. In 1868, the fourteenth amendment was passed to counter the “black codes” to ensure that no state could make, or enforce, a law which served to take civil rights away from any person (FindLaw).
But discrimination wasn’t only geared towards blacks. Any person who was not your average able, white male was discriminated against. Females, the disabled, the aged, and all other groups not fitting the norm were the targets both in and out of the workplace. The reasons for the discrimination ranged from their color, weight, religion, ethnic background, sex, culture, etc. A memorable incident that is seared in the minds of many Americans took place on December 1, 1955. Rosa Parks, a nineteen-year-old black women, took a seat on the Montgomery, Alabama bus lines on her way home from work. The bus lines were segregated, therefore the blacks had to sit in the back behind the section labeled “for whites only”. When Rosa was told to give up her seat for a white man, and move further to the back, she refused. She was not only tired from working all day, but tired of the way she was treated. Before the incident was over Rosa Parks was arrested. The public was outraged and precipitated the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. City buses would no longer be ridden by black Americans, which constituted 70 percent of the riders. The boycott continued for 381 days, until December 20, 1956, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision declaring Montgomery’s segregated seating unconstitutional. This incident seemed to be the spark t! hat ignited the U.S. civil rights movement. This was also the time in which Martin Luther King, Jr.,