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Instead of pretending that racism and its effects no longer exist, we need to strengthen affirmative action and devise a new set of policies that directly tackle the racial gap in wealth." (Derrity, 1).
That, in a nutshell, is the position of this paper. America has not given affirmative action enough time to act. Moving forward, we should continue our affirmative action policies, but with an end in mind. Economists and sociologists, along with help from America's captains of industry and human resources experts, should devise an ideal time frame whereby affirmative action will end, and set outside and inside goals for this time frame as well.
But for now, affirmative action must continue, and continue with gusto, to reverse the horrors that America's history has caused.
CHAPTER 2: REVIEW of RELATED LITERATURE
History of Affirmative Action review of the history associated with affirmative action is the first step to understanding where the program is now, and where it should move to in the next several decades.
Affirmative action, the set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, finds its roots in the slew of civil rights efforts enacted to reverse the horrible impact that slavery had in America. (Sykes, 1)
Originally, civil rights programs during the 19th and 20th centuries were enacted to help African-Americans become full citizens of the United States. (Sykes, 1) for instance, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution made slavery illegal; the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees to all equal protection under the law; and the Fifteenth Amendment forbids racial discrimination in access to voting, which is arguable the most critical of the trio. And of course, the 1866 Civil Rights Act guarantees every citizen "the same right to make and enforce contracts... As is enjoyed by white citizens... " (Sykes, 1)
In 1896, the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson upheld a "separate, but equal" doctrine that proved to be anything but equal for African-Americans in their bid for a place in the new America. The court decision marked the end of the post-Civil War reconstruction era and Jim Crow laws reared their ugly heads and spread across the South, bringing inequality and inopportunity in their wake.
In 1941, in the throes of a world war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which outlawed segregationist hiring policies by defense-related industries which held federal contracts. (Sykes, 1) on its face, Roosevelt's signing of this order was a direct result of efforts by Black trade union leader, a. Philip Randolph. However, closer examination yields the revelation that the move was one of necessity: President Roosevelt needed African-American labor for his war machine, and realized that the best way to achieve it was through making the first effective step towards the modern day formulation of the affirmative action policy.
During 1953, President Harry S. Truman's Committee on Government Contract Compliance urged the Bureau of Employment Security "to act positively and affirmatively to implement the policy of nondiscrimination...." (Sykes, 1) This was the second effective step towards creating affirmative action in the United States.
Then, in 1954, the Supreme Court's monumental decision in Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessy v. Ferguson.
The first actual appearance of the phrase "affirmative action" was in President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Executive Order 11246 which requires federal contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."
And then in 1967, Johnson expanded that same Executive Order to include affirmative action requirements to benefit women as well. (Sykes, 1)
There were other equal protection laws passed to make discrimination illegal as well. Some were the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title II and VII of which forbid racial discrimination in "public accommodations" and race and sex discrimination in employment, respectively; and the 1965 Voting Rights Act adopted after Congress found "that racial discrimination in voting was an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of the country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution." (Sykes, 1)
So, in essence, affirmative action found its origins in the civil rights movement, and thus was a response to the inequities inherent in the American system of voting and economics.
Reactions to Affirmative Action
In its tumultuous, nearly 40-year history, affirmative action has been both praised and crucified as an answer to racial inequality. As mentioned in the previous section of this paper, the policy was introduced in 1965 by President Johnson as a method of redressing discrimination that had persisted in spite of civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees. "This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights," Johnson asserted. "We seek... not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result." (Brunner, 1)
Focusing in particular on education and employment, affirmative action policies mandated that active measures be taken to ensure that African-Americans and other minorities enjoyed the same opportunities for promotions, salary increases, career advancement, admissions to universities and graduate programs, scholarships and financial aid that had been the nearly exclusive province of whites. From the outset, the legislators envisioned affirmative action as a temporary remedy that would end once there was a "level playing field" for all Americans. (Brunner, 1)
By the late 1970s, however, flaws in the policy began to surface amid its good intentions. Reverse discrimination became an issue, accented by the famous Bakke case in 1978. Allan Bakke, a caucasian male, had been rejected two years in a row by a medical school that had - it turned out - accepted less qualified minority applicants -- " this was because the school had a separate admissions policy for minorities and reserved 4 out of 25 places for minority students. (Brunner, 1) the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed inflexible quota systems in affirmative action programs, which in this situation had unfairly discriminated against a caucasian applicant. In the same decision, however, the Court upheld the legality of affirmative action per se. (Brunner, 1)
Fueled by the prototypical "angry white men," a backlash against affirmative action was bound to occur, and finally began to mount. To conservatives, the system was a zero-sum game that opened the door for jobs, promotions, or education to minorities while that same affirmative action system shut the door on whites. (Brunner, 1) in a country that prized the values of self-reliance and independently creating successful lives on people's own, conservatives resented the idea that some underqualified African-Americans were getting a "free ride" on the American system.
Preferential treatment" and "quotas," in fact, became expressions of contempt. Even more controversial was the accusation that some minorities actually enjoyed playing the role of "professional victim." (Brunner, 1) Why could some minorities who had similarly experienced terrible adversity and racism -- "Jews and Asian-Americans, in particular -- "manage to make the American way work for them without large government handouts?
Of course, Jews and Asian-Americans, however discriminated against they have been in American history, simply were never enslaved. This makes a huge difference to proponents of Affirmative Action, but not as much of a difference to those against it.
Liberals countered that this melting pot and of opportunity was in reality a very different place for the European immigrants who landed on its shores than it was for those who unwittingly arrived in the chains of slavery. As historian Roger Wilkins pointed out, "blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving legalized discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else." (Brunner, 1)
Since Jim Crow laws and lynching existed well into the '60s, and considering that a veritable plethora of subtler forms of racism in housing, employment, and education persisted well beyond the civil rights movement, conservatives impatient for blacks to get over the legacy of slavery failed to realize that slavery was just the beginning of racism in America. (Greenhouse, 1) Liberals also pointed out that another increasingly prevalent conservative argument -- "that because of affirmative action, minorities were usurping the jobs of whites -- "belied the reality that white men were still the unchallenged rulers of the situation when it came to salaries, positions, and, of course, socio-economic prestige. (Holmes, 1996, 1)
The debate about affirmative action has also grown murkier and more difficult as the public has begun to appreciate its complexity. Many liberals, for example, can begin to understand the inequity of affirmative action in a case like Wygant (1986): Most African-American employees kept their jobs while white employees with much more seniority were laid off or otherwise terminated. Similarly, many conservatives would find it difficult to come up with a better alternative to the imposition of a strict quota system in Paradise (1987),…[continue]
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