Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Affirmative Action Research Paper

Affirmative Action Research Paper

"Affirmative Action" was initiated in the early 1960's by President John F. Kennedy in an attempt to improve employment and educational opportunities for people belonging to a minority population ("Affirmative Action"). After the assassination of JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. This act started a wave of affirmative action that would later impact every American opportunity ("Civil Rights Act"). At the end of the decade businesses across America were enforcing provisions set forth by the Civil Rights Act, along with other legal enforcements that assisted minority groups of race, disability, gender, ethnicity and age. Though he was against the idea of meeting quotas in the workplace, President Richard Nixon in 1969 used the city of Philadelphia as a test when he "required federal contractors to show "affirmative action" to meet the goals of increasing minority employment" (Brunner). The quotas also found a way into the federally funded educational institutions as by this time numerous regulations had been initiated insisting the entrance of minority group members (Eisaguirre 2). While there were many supporters of affirmative action who saw this as the only way to change the historically discriminative American society, many others saw a trend of reverse discrimination in the nation (Eisaguirre 3). Although I believe that the plan of affirmative action has been beneficial to attain equal rights in our society, I don't think that these ideas can be as successful in today's society as originally thought.

It cannot be denied that America's history is full of mistreatment of minority individuals. Women did not have a chance to vote for nearly a century and half after the birth of the country and have endured pains all throughout the late twentieth century, up until they started to enter the work force. "In grocery and department stores, clerks were white and janitors and elevator operators were black,", says Lynne Eisaguirre, author of Affirmative Action: A Reference Handbook(6). This is an example of how minorities and women received some basic rights yet still found themselves coming up short in other areas. Even with "affirmative action" it did not seem as if the individuals were receiving the chance to get a better education or a better job because they belonged to a minority group. This maltreatment is considered discrimination and is they key target for the affirmative action fight (Sartwell 52).


That is one side, but what about the other side of the discriminative story? What happens with a school that is majority white and denies the entrance to a group of students that fail an acceptance test, even if all the failing students are non-white? This school is also found guilty of discrimination, based on the high standards that were set forth by incoming students (Sartwell 53). The response to this scenario in regards to affirmative action is the inflating of grades on these tests. Institutions of such are then forced to keep a certain balance in the diversity of their student body, which more times than not will force the school to inflate the grades of the minority students. This grade inflation now leads to a poorer education and the reality "that most universities are no longer institutions of higher education" (Mosley 92). This is not to say that this is a common occurrence, but it is a trend that has started to become more frequent since the enactment of affirmative actions laws.

This same type of comparison is visible in the work force. For example, say that rescue workers are given a physical test that they must pass to become part of the department. If all women were to fail, they are accused of sexual discrimination. In this case however, to lower the standards causes more problems. Is it okay to allow women on the force who are incapable of performing their duty as a rescue worker and possibly endangering the lives of their victims because they are incapable of doing so? Should the females then be put to an independent and less strenuous physical exam? With this case is their a fine line between what is discriminatory and what is not? Affirmative action has clouded these lines, and often times erased the lines in an attempt to attain equality (Sartwell 53).

With Affirmative Action there are many fine lines that need to be determined. In another example, with a fire department in Los Angeles the reverse discrimination is brought forth. In 1994 the Los Angeles Fire Department had received applications from around the state to determine who would be brought in for a physical examination. Due to limitations set forth by the California state law, fifty percent of the applicants that were brought in to be tested had to be of a minority group. This is a case of reverse discrimination as it restricted thousands of adequately qualified white applicants from being called in to take the test, even when the overwhelming majority of the applicants were white (Roberts 142). This topic of reverse discrimination applies to all aspects of affirmative action which allow a minority individual to get a position or receive an opportunity over an equally or overly qualified majority individual ("Ethics"). In his book The New Racism: Reverse Discrimination in America, published in 1971, Lionel Lokos conveys his thoughts on reverse discrimination in the early days of his debate: "The Racism is fervently convinced that it can use the tools of discrimination to find equality"(12). This shows that the actions used by affirmative action which qualify as reverse discrimination basically undermine the values for which the system was created and leave society with an unbalanced plate of opportunities, this time favoring the minority (Sartwell 54). As Lisa H. Newton said in her speech "Reverse Discrimination is Unjustified", "This reverse discrimination violates the public equality which defines citizenship and destroys the rules of law for areas in which these favors are granted".

A specific yet controversial example of reverse discrimination imposed by affirmative action is the establishment of quotas in the workplace and educational institutions. Crispin Sartwell, co-editor of Race,Class,Gender, and Sexuality: The Big Questions, feels that, "The most contested form of affirmative action is preset "quotas" of non-whites or women to be Е. Admitted into educational or employment situations"(13). Even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does clearly prohibit the use of quotas to enforce affirmative action, it is still evident both in the workplace and schools of higher education (Roberts 66; Sartwell 13). Paul Roberts and Lawrence Strarton, authors of The New Color Line: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, explain, "The racial quotas that we experience today are blatant perversions that are illegal under the statutory language of the Civil Rights Act"(67).

One of the justifications of reverse discrimination that lies in the minds of supporters of affirmative action is that they see the laws that promote these inequalities as things that must be suffered by the majority individuals simply because the minority individuals had endured them in the past (Sartwell 53). The supporters see it as a rebalancing of the discriminative scale, while others see it as simply tipping the scale in the other direction. What arises is to as whether the reverse discrimination should be rereversed to bring the scales back into balance.(Sartwell 54).

The whole idea of quotas is opposed because of its strong correlation with reverse discrimination. In higher education institutions a push for diversity because of affirmative action is what dictates the introduction of quotas and often times shadows the quality of the academics within the institution (Roberts 2). This same aspect can be related to the workplace. In a survey of Fortune 500 companies, fourteen percent of major companies hired strictly on a talent and merit basis; eighteen percent admitted to having racial quotas, while over half of the remaining companies said that they strived to reach certain "goals" when it came to hiring individuals of a minority group. In this sense companies will often recruit "preferred minorities" (minorities with applicable talent and merit) more so than they will white candidates with the same credentials, thereby giving minority students better opportunities for internships and jobs after graduation( Roberts 132-133).

Affirmative action grew from government and education to small business, it left the constantly decreasing supply of middle-management jobs to be divided among the minority groups regardless of talent and merit ( Mosley 92). Albert G. Mosley and Nicholas Capaldi state, "Affirmative action goes beyond civil rights encouraging an active policy of promoting something: but more important, what it is designed to promote is not freedom or excellence or meritocracy, but proportionality" (121).

Equality and justice can also be added to the list of things that affirmative action fail to do. How can we let affirmative action quotas create reverse discrimination and further unbalance opportunities in this country? Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Strarton argue, "Outrage over preferential treatment for protected minorities has taken the place of guilt over segregation"(1). I agree with this in that what was done in the past was done in the past and society should now work on a way to create equality among everyone regardless of gender, race, disability or ethnic origin.

Over five years ago the State of California pushed to end the maleffect of affirmative action by banning quotas and other techniques that influence reverse discrimination (Roberts 2). Governor Pete Wilson went to the extent of suing his own state on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of the previously instated California code, which promoted gender and race quota privileges for public institutions ( Roberts 172). This helped build support for the 1996 election where proposition 209 was voted into law as "The California Civil Rights Initiative"(Brunner). This elimination of affirmative action and reformation of equality started to catch on and on December 3, 1998, the State of Washington passed "I 200" which was similar to Proposition 209. Proposition 209 stated that "race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin would not be used as a criterion for either discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to anybody" (Roberts 172). Affirmative action programs was deemed unconstitutional unless it "fulfilled a compelling government interest" ("Affirmative Action"), in the Supreme Court case of Adarand Constructors v. Pennsylvania. As the federal government starts to see the positive effect of Proposition 209 and "I 200" a society banned of reverse discrimination can be attained.

As a minority it may seem weird as to why I would be against Affirmative Action, but when viewed objectively it is not possible for me to recognize it as assistance to attaining equality. I do understand and do see the positive effects of Affirmative Action, however I feel that it will only be worse in the long run as now affirmative action is deemed as a retaliation to the mistreatment that minorities endured in the past. I do not think this is the complete solution. Although Affirmative action was designed in an attempt to balance the scale of discrimination, the ideas and thoughts of those days are not fit for our modern society. Just as it is unfair for mistreatment of minorities through discrimination it is equally unfair to reverse discrimination. It cannot be denied that minorities were discriminated against and had to undergo maltreatment, but reverse discrimination is not a suitable method to rebalance the scale. Affirmative action was admirable in theory but its cause and effect of reverse discrimination has possibly caused a bigger problem. We need a society that is equal to all and not based on race or origin or culture. This may be a fantasy world to live in but can be attained with the removal of discrimination to minorities and the effect of reverse discrimination to majorities.

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