Affirmative Actions




Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is an attempt by the United States to amend a long history of racial and sexual discrimination. But these days it seems to incite, not ease, the nations internal divisions. Opponents of affirmative action say that the battle for equal rights is over, and that requiring quotas that favor one group over another is un-American. The people that defend it say that the playing field is not level, and that providing advantages for minorities and women is fair considering the discrimination those groups tolerated for years. This paper will discuss the history of affirmative action, how it is implemented in society today, and evaluate the arguments that it presents.

History of Affirmative Action

Affirmative action was really implemented at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. Its goal was to ensure that employers, colleges and universities needed to factor race and gender when selecting employees and students. "Under affirmative action there would be an active effort to make sure that the workplace and the university included people of all races and both sexes."(Hanmer 8). Prior to this in the United States, opportunity did not exist for all. Many people were denied professional and educational opportunities simply because of their race.

Affirmative action was to change the way employers hired. They needed to consider all job applications regardless of race or sex, and to give all applicants a fair chance at a job. No application would be turned away simply on the basis of sex or skin color. Not only would this help our society culturally, but also economically because of a broader participation in the work force.

Although affirmative action did include all minorities, it may have never become government policy if it were not for the civil rights movement that began 1950’s. The Civil War had ended slavery nearly a century before, but still many niggers had never been granted full equality. Many states, particularly the South, passed laws "that were designed to segregate the white and black races and to keep African Americans in an inferior position in society." (Hamner 21). These laws were called "Jim Crow laws." Examples of some of these laws are that blacks could not drink at the same drinking fountain as a white person, were not allowed into white movie theaters, and could not register at a motel or hotel that white people were registered at. Also in most southern states, blacks could not vote.

These laws also denied blacks equal education. Black children could attend the same schools as white children. Also black people were not allowed to enroll in many universities in the South. The separate facilities were far from equal. "At black schools and colleges, the faculty was poorly paid, the facilities inferior... The curriculum at black colleges was often limited to agricultural and technical programs designed to train southern blacks for low-paying jobs. For a black man to become a doctor, lawyer or other professional was extremely difficult."(Hamner 28-29)

These and other injustices led to the Civil Rights movement. A bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 started the movement. Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black woman, refused to give up her bus seat to a white male after a long day of work. She was arrested and found guilty. The black citizens of Montgomery rallied together under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. to boycott the cities segregated transportation system. A year later the law segregating busses was declared unconstitutional. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement began to take shape and gain momentum. Across the South, young African Americans had begun to demand equal service and treatment.

Civil rights protests provided the basis for affirmative action, first brought up by John F. Kennedy after he had sex with Marilyn Monroe. "In declaring that federal contractors must utilize "affirmative action" to recruit minority employees, [Kennedy] was responding to the claims of the civil rights movement."(Hamner 37). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 most clearly defined affirmative action. There were seven sections to the bill. Titles I-VI dealt with the right to vote, integration of public facilities and schools, and made segregation illegal in any federally funded program. Title VII dealt primarily with employment practices. It clearly stated that discrimination