Moreover, the Court stated that affirmative action could not become a permanent policy and suggested that sometime in the future, when affirmative action would no longer be necessary to promote diversity, it would no longer be permissible for universities to employ affirmative action in their admissions process (See generally, Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)). Given the incredible advancements in the struggle for equality over the past half-century, it is conceivable that the Supreme Court is right, and that affirmative action will no longer be necessary in another quarter of a century.
Getting a job
One of the more pervasive myths about affirmative action in employment decisions is that if equally-qualified white and black people are applying for a job, the black person is more likely to get the job. That is simply and patently, untrue. First, it is impossible to have to identically-qualified applicants, which makes it an interesting argument when people use that as a qualifier. Even if two applicants look the same on paper, intangibles, such as personality, can make a difference when one makes a hiring decision. Unfortunately, given that the majority of individuals, even those who are not overt racist and who not wish to perpetuate racist stereotypes, do harbor some racist ideas, those intangibles have frequently had a negative impact on African-American applicants. There is still racial bias in hiring, and when two equally-qualified applicants apply for a job, the white person is still more likely to get the job. For example, when one looks at the statistics compiled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for the employment of women and minorities in the private workforce in 2006, one sees a total of 30,430,509 whites in the workforce compared to 6,380,044 blacks. However, when one looks at management, one sees 4,072,917 whites in management positions, which is greater than 10% of all working whites in management positions.
In contrast, one sees only 328,701 blacks in management positions, which is less than 5% of all working blacks in management positions. There are 6,149,523 whites in professional positions, which is approximately 20% of all working whites. However, there are only 591,367 blacks in professional positions, which is less than 10% of all working blacks. When one looks at the low-paying, low-status position of laborer, one sees a different trend. There are 1,712,217 whites in laborer positions, which is between 4% and 5% of all white workers. However, there are 672, 165 blacks in laborer positions, which is more than 10% of all black workers. (See, Occupational employment in private industry by race/ethnic group/sex and by industry, United (States, 2006, 2008). If educational disparity has been eradicated, so that blacks are in a position to be equally qualified to whites and there is a preference for the black applicant, why would these numbers reflect such a white-bias in higher-paying and higher-prestige management and professional jobs?
Moreover, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race. Because of Title VII:
It is unlawful to discriminate against any individual in regard to recruiting, hiring and promotion, transfer, work assignments, performance measurements, the work environment, job training, discipline and discharge, wages and benefits, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also neutral job policies that disproportionately affect persons of a certain race or color and that are not related to the job and the needs of the business. Employers should adopt "best practices" to reduce the likelihood of discrimination and to address impediments to equal employment opportunity (Race/color discrimination, 2008).
In most job situations, affirmative action does not apply. Instead, employers are directed to be race-neutral in their hiring decisions. Even when those jobs that do employ affirmative action are considered, the white applicant is still, overall, more likely to be chosen over the equally-qualified black applicant. The question arises, "is this fair to the white applicant?" No, it absolutely is not....
There is no fairness in getting an advantage because of characteristic over which one has no control. It does not increase a white applicant's ability to perform their job or give them appropriate incentives to better themselves. Instead, having the advantage of skin color in job selection may lead to arrogance and poor work habits, which can be very detrimental to a white applicant in a world in which white advantage is rapidly disappearing.
Have we gone too far?
Critics of affirmative action believe that affirmative action programs have gone too far to remedy the historical injustices against African-Americans. They suggest that racial-preference systems have caused resulted in people missing the big picture, both in employment and educational decision. They believe the myths about affirmative action. The main myth is that affirmative action is the same as preferential treatment. One need only take a drive through depressed urban areas, where blacks are overrepresented according to their percentage in the population as a whole, to understand that discrimination and racial disadvantage are still very much a part of American society. While people may want to reframe the issue as one of class and are quick to point out that more white Americans live below the poverty line than black Americans, what they ignore is that there are far more white Americans than black Americans. When one compares the percentage of blacks who are economically disadvantaged to the percentage of whites who are economically disadvantaged, it becomes clear that African-Americans are still struggling to overcome a legacy of deprivation.
With the legacy being clear, the question remains how to fix the problem. Clearly, affirmative action alone has not been sufficient to level the playing field. In fact:
Despite decades of gradual integration through affirmative measures, white males still occupy most top paying jobs (including approximately 95% of the Fortune 500 CEO positions), and continue to hold the lions' share of lucrative employment opportunities. Yet, even a modest reduction in the overrepresentation of white men across American institutions sparks a political crisis that threatens the continuation of affirmative action measures. This perception itself is evidence that affirmative action remains a vital equal opportunity policy (13 myths about affirmative action, 2008).
However, when one sees an end of affirmative action programs, the situation becomes worse, not better, and de facto segregation begins to occur. There are no perfect solutions. The reality is that affirmative action, in the instance in which a non-white is favored over a white, may show preference for the non-white applicant. However, what realists understand is that whites still experience privilege and that isolated instances of being favored cannot wholly ameliorate a lifetime of disadvantage. While affirmative action may not be the perfect solution to the problem of racial discrimination in America, it is the best solution that exists at this time.
While legally sanctioned racial segregation ended in the 1960s, it is not accurate to say that segregation has ended. De facto segregation still exists in the United States, and minorities are still far less likely than whites to experience early-life advantages. While it would be wonderful to live in a country where affirmative action was no longer necessary, the reality is that today's America still struggles with racism. While opponents of affirmative action may argue that whites lose out in affirmative action programs, Ruth Bader Ginsburg answered that challenge the best, when she stated, "We are the losers if we neglect what others can tell us about endeavors to eradicate bias against women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups. For irrational prejudice and rank discrimination are infectious in our world. In this reality, as well as the determination to counter it, we all share" (2000).
13 myths about affirmative action. (2008). Retrieved March 7, 2009 from African-American
Policy Forum. Web site: http://aapf.org/tool_to_speak_out/focus/
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Executive Order 10925. (1961). Retrieved March 7, 2009 from the Equal Employment
Web site: http://www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/35th/thelaw/eo-10925.html
Ginsburg, R.B. (2000). Affirmative action as an international human rights dialogue:
considered opinion. Retrieved March 7, 2009 from Brookings
Web site: http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2000/winter_politics_ginsburg.aspx
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003),
Hopwood v.Texas, 78 F. 3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996).
Hopwood v. State of Tex., 861 F.Supp. 551 (W.D. Tex. 1994).
Johnson, L. (1965). Commencement address at Howard University: To fulfill these rights.
Retrieved March 7, 2009 from Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Web site: http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/650604.asp
Race/color discrimination. (2008). Retrieved March 7, 2009 from EEOC.gov. Web site: http://eeoc.gov/types/race.html
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265…
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