Affirmative Action

Affirmative action has assisted many members of minority groups in creating equal opportunities in education and employment. Who could object to assisting these minorities, who suffered years of discrimination, in getting the equal opportunity they deserve? The problem is, affirmative action promotes racial preferences and quotas which cause mixed emotions. One time supporters of affirmative action are now calling out “reverse discrimination”. If we want a stronger support for affirmative action we need to get rid of the preferential treatments.
The back bone of affirmative action began with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865. The amendment abolished slavery and any involuntary labor (“Federal laws,” 1998). This showed there was a calling for equal opportunity for all Americans.
When the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, there were opponents who were skeptical of the amendment. Because of this they came up with two separate bills of their own: the civil rights bill, and an amendment to the Freedmen’s Bureau Act. The bills covered all citizens, not just blacks. The civil rights bill moved on to become the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Dorsen, 1994). The Act states that "all persons shall have the same make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws..." (“Federal laws,” 1998).
The turn of the century saw a minimal amount of legislation regarding discrimination. However, come the mid part of the century, an upheaval of civil disobedience and violent protests would spark what would come to be known as The Civil Rights Movement (Dorsen, 1994). This was an all out effort, made by many, to abolish the segregation and discrimination of black minorities.
In 1961, President Kennedy enacted Executive Order 10925 (Lugg, 1997, p. 11). The order directed employers to take affirmative action to ensure a “color blind” method of hiring and promotion in government contracts. This began a concerted effort to abolish discrimination. With Executive Order of 10925 came the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (PCEEO). The Committee was given the authority to enforce affirmative action mandates by being able to cancel or suspend government contractors. Kennedy, mostly endorsing a “race conscious affirmative action,” kept away from racial preferences and quotas (Lugg, 1997, p. 11).
On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Federal laws,” 1998). Title VII of the act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Title VI prohibits public access discrimination, leading to school desegregation. Title VIII is the original "federal fair housing law," later amended in 1988. However, even after this and other legislation, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans were still underrepresented in employment and education (Dorsen, 1994).
President Johnson also put through Executive Order 11246 which ended coerced non-specific minority hiring and adopted “hard and fast” quotas (Lugg, 1997, p 13). Under this order came the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP was required to make annual reports on the progress of the goals and time tables obligatory of the federal contractors for hiring women and minorities (Burns, 1996, p. 3).
Under the democratic congress of Nixon came a firm support of civil rights. However, Lugg (1997) suggests it was a “camouflage support of racial preferences” (p. 14). This meant Nixon merely enforced, and gave support to the existing laws rather than expanding on Johnson’s “hard and fast” quotas. Nixon, as many presidents had, shied away from supporting the preferential treatment of racial preferences and quotas. Johnson was the exception.
Through Nixon and the following presidencies, anti-discrimination legislation slowed down. Most of the attention went to refining the existing laws. As Lugg (1997) mentions, “the Reagan administration did little more than rationalize the use of affirmative action, thereby legitimizing and strengthening the underlying policy” (p. 16). While in office, Reagan also condemned the idea of quotas and racial preferences, although it was in his power to abolish Johnson’s Executive Order 11246. The order used a de facto system in racial hiring, meaning that while there was no official approval of using quotas, they were actually in existence (Dorsen, 1994).
The Bush Administration added to the provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, establishing the 1991 Civil Rights Act which created new remedies and rights for plaintiffs in