The issue of whether Affirmative Action will survive during the 21st century has been widely debated. This program was designed in the 1970’s to combat discrimination in the workforce and promote equality for all people regardless of race, color, creed, gender or national origin.
The system that has evolved since the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s is a misapplication of its original intent. Laws have been passed, quotas have been established and seemingly everything has been done to prevent discrimination, but these new laws and quotas are only discriminating against a new group of people--the qualified white male. The affirmative action system originally may have had a just intent, but I sincerely believe it has been counterproductive in practice. Affirmative action by design was intended to help minorities and women reach the same levels of opportunity as the so-called majority, but in the process, reverse discrimination has taken place.
Graglia believes "affirmative action" has become simply a deceptive label for racial preferences (31). This discrimination transgresses the basic American ideal that all people are equal before the law and must be treated as individuals. With the mass media rarely recognizing quotas much less portraying white males sympathetically, Peter Lynch, a sociological researcher, states, "white males have been silently victimized one by one" (quoted in Brimelow and Spencer). Now, in order to be employed, qualifications do not always matter as much as the color of a person's skin or his ethnicity. Race and gender-based preferences have no place in an affirmative action program. Race preferences were originally reserved for the approximately twelve-percent of Americans who are black (O'Sullivan 22).
Today their beneficiaries of racial preference include Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Alaskan natives and immigrants who belong to the "protected classes." A whopping one-third of the population is currently covered by race preferences--a figure that is predicted to inflate to about fifty-percent by the year 2050 since immigration from Third World countries is primarily responsible for transforming America demographically (O'Sullivan 22). These statistics essentially mean that a white male is now almost three times as likely to suffer officially imposed negative discrimination as he was thirty years ago (O'Sullivan).
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Affirmative action will never fulfill Martin Luther King Jr. dream unless the program undergoes some reform. Is discrimination the solution to resolving past discrimination? No, I don't believe so when it hurts others. Some people believe that affirmative action is justified as a way of making up for past discrimination. Although discrimination still exists in the United States, as it does in the rest of the world, most blacks entering the job market today were born after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and have suffered little prejudice when compared to their predecessors.
In my opinion, affirmative action was a feeble attempt to correct a long history of racial and sexual discrimination that seems to incite rather than ease feelings of racial hostility. Secondly, affirmative action promotes the hiring of less skilled workers. Affirmative action sometimes forces employers to choose the best of the minority applicants, regardless of whether they have the required skills, education or experience.
Many colleges and universities frequently also have quotas for how many blacks it is necessary to admit to "round out" their class enrollments. Today's affirmative action can call for a college admissions officer faced with two similarly qualified applicants to choose the minority over the white, or for a manager to recruit and hire a qualified woman for a job instead of a man. "Qualified" as defined by affirmative action means minimally qualified (Koch 66). This guideline when applied in the real world, means that whites and Asians--no matter how economically disadvantaged or educationally deprived--may not compete equally in programs intended for blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and women (Koch). Affirmative action decisions are not supposed to be based on quotas, nor are they supposed to give any preference to unqualified candidates.
The Supreme Court and other courts have drastically reduced the scope of affirmative action, and recent polls have shown that a majority of blacks dislike the fact that it is being used to help less qualified people get jobs, promotions, and admission to college (Zuckerman 88). The 1964 and 1991 Civil Rights Acts explicitly banned government imposed quotas, but nevertheless, quotas immediately spread through the economy (Brimelow and Spencer 80).
In 1971 the Supreme Court ruled that employers could be prosecuted if the racial makeup of the employees was not similar to that of the community. "Proportional representation rather than social justice became the watchword" (Zuckerman 88). Some people claim that whites owe blacks for what was taken from them in the past. I don't believe that society owes any compensation to blacks that are entering today's workplace or colleges. Where should a line be drawn; how much should society repay people for past wrongdoings? Is it enough to give them equal rights, or will we give them extra opportunities to make up for those our ancestors took away?
I agree that diversity in the workplace is essential because it coerces people of different cultures, backgrounds, colors, and race to work side-by-side in harmony. I believe the more one learns about another, the less likely he/she will discriminate against that person and others of the same race. On the other hand, it can also create animosity due to the fact that a minority may replace one who has had a particular job for a long period of time. It would only be natural for one to become bitter and dislike the minority who took the already filled position only because of his/her ethnic background or gender. If at all, race-based preferences should only apply in limited cases when two applicants are roughly similar in nature except for their race or gender.
Another problem with affirmative action is that it places a stigma on groups that receive preferential treatment, especially for individuals who earn their positions strictly because of their ability or qualifications. For example, an employer hires a member of a minority group for a high position on the basis of merit, not for affirmative action reasons. Other employees are likely to assume that it was an affirmative action hiring, as are many other minority hiring’s. This is not fair to minorities who earn their position based on qualifications or ability. Treating an individual like an affirmative action case, even if he/she is not, can be very insulting to a person who has made it to the top on his/her own talent. As an individual passes the initial point of entry and moves up to the top in one's field of interest, the arguments of preference vanish; it is time to stand with pride on one's own merit (Carter 386-387). According to Koch people like E.R Shipp (Pulitzer Prize winner), Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell have every right to be insulted (66). To eliminate the stigma on minority groups, the agenda of affirmative action should focus the racial aspect on the recruitment of minorities. This statement means that schools should not absolutely give preferential treatment to minorities, but schools should encourage minorities to apply for jobs in which they are underrepresented (Koch 66). Even if some of the minority applicants fail to qualify for a specific position, they can at least find out where they stand and what they need to do to qualify. From this point on it will be up to individuals to gain the qualifications they need. A positive attitude and a little self-motivation can go a long way.
Lastly, I would like to point out that affirmative action focuses on race rather than economics. In some parts of the country the playing field is not level because of income and economics, only partly due to race. "It is preference on the basis of race that arouses anger and a sense of injustice among whites, just as it arouses such feelings among blacks" (Glazer). When a poor child is offered petty curriculum choices and third-rate teachers by his school district, it is not because of his color, but because of his socioeconomic status (Brimelow and Spencer). Every child in this country should be afforded the same opportunity for a quality education until the completion of high school. Upon graduation from high school, the responsibility lies on the young adult to further his education. In my opinion, race has not been the major barrier to children obtaining a quality education. Lack of money has been the barrier; therefore, the government should focus on trying to increase the equality in the quality of our public schools. I believe affirmative action is fundamentally flawed, good in principle, but drastically needs to be reformed. There should be no special treatments, and no special preferences given to people because of race, creed, color or national origin. Society should try to live up to Martin Luther King Jr. dream of leaving people to be judged solely on character. Then and only then will the issues of race and gender disappear. Everyone has an opportunity to advance in this country; one just has to take the initiative and have the desire to succeed.
King 6 Works Cited Brimelow, Peter and Spencer, Leslie. "When Quotas Replace Merit, Everybody Suffers." Forbes 15 Feb. 1993: 80-102. Carter, Stephen L. "Racial Justice on the Cheap." Elements of Argument Text 1997: 382-387. Glazer, Nathan. "Race, Not Class." Elements of Argument Text 1997: 389-392. Graglia, Lino A. "The Affirmative Action Fraud." Washington University Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law (Summer 1998): 31-38. Koch, Ed. "Be Fair to All the Disadvantaged." The American Enterprise (Nov/Dec 1998): 66. O'Sullivan, John. "Preferences For (Almost) All." National Review 17 Apr. 2000: 22-24. Zuckerman, Mortimer B. "Piling on the Preferences." US News and World Report 28 Jun. 1999: 88.
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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 that 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 backbone 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 rights...to 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 timetables 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 that created new remedies and rights for plaintiffs in discrimination cases by authorizing compensatory and punitive damages (“Federal Laws,” 1998). This was a major move in acquiring equal opportunity in education. It would also lead to “reverse discrimination” lawsuits and an unjustified number of people claiming discrimination. However, during the 70’s racial preference and group proportional equality emerged in addition to other types of affirmative action. Some of these included special minority training, special financial aid and admittance requirements, and other similar actions. This idea of preferential treatment split the idea of anti-discrimination into two different directions (Lugg, 1997, p. 12). On one end was compensatory justice and on the other what would later be called “reverse discrimination”, meaning that the discrimination was against non-minorities. These preferential treatments would also play a role in developing the idea of “reverse discrimination”. According to Lugg (1997), during the Kennedy Administration, “the government [was] forced to strengthen [the] efforts at equalizing opportunity, and aimed not solely at ending discrimination but remedying the effects of past discrimination” (p. 11). This is when affirmative action makes the mistake of trying to correct past wrongs instead of focusing on equal opportunity for all. Besides the court hearings stemming from “reverse discrimination” suits, the first bill to ban racial preferences and quotas was passed in California by a 54 to 46 vote. The bill is called the California Civil Rights Initiative which decrees the state of California cannot discriminate (notice the choice of words) against anyone, or grant preferences to any individual or group on the basis of race, gender, or natural origin in public housing, public school admissions; including colleges, or public contracting. (Williams, 1997). A similar bill, in 1995, was brought up by Senate Majority leader Robert J. Dole, and Rep Charles T. Canady. The bill would have banned programs that used goals or timetables to remedy discrimination (Lugg, 1997, p. 3). However, this bill was unsuccessful. Many people believe that bills like these, if passed, will keep black and other minorities from gaining admittance to colleges. However as the table shows below, not much has changed since The California Civil Rights Initiative bill was passed last year. Black Enrollments at University Of California Medical Schools 1996 1997 UC- San Diego 3 0 UC- Irvine 2 0 UC- Los Angeles 10 10 UC- San Francisco 11 12 UC- Davis 0 5 Total 26 27 Source: (Zinsmeister, 1997, p. 18) Efforts, like the bills mentioned before, have become hot on the agendas of many people. According to Lugg (1997), while some anti-discrimination methods are “viewed by some as more aggressive yet legitimate methods to increase minority participation” others believed “such seemingly preferential policies [stifle] competition and [commit] what was to be known as ‘reverse discrimination’ against non-minorities.” (p. 12) Many tend to agree with the “others”. Here are just a few: Lugg (1997), “Is it socially justifiable to provide…federal and/or state legislation preferences…?” (p. 16) Altman & Promis, “It is against American principles of justice to sacrifice the rights of individuals for the benefit of some group” (Noel, 1997, p. 3). Lamar Alexander, “We made a big mistake when we fell into the trap of supporting ‘reverse discrimination’ rather than discouraging discrimination. It doesn’t work; and if we want to be one country, we should enforce the civil rights laws. But we should never let the government make distinctions based on race.”(Landrigan, 1997). Are these not legitimate concerns? In schools and in the job market, non-minorities are essentially being punished for something they had no part of. For example, in Boston a white female student was denied admittance at Boston Latin High School even though she tested higher than eleven minority students who did get in. Is this right? Three judges from the 1st U.S Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t think so. They agreed that denying admission to one student in favor of other students, who tested lower, on the basis of skin color was unconstitutional. The judges remarked that, “while we appreciate the difficulty of the school committee’s task, and admire the values that it seeks to nourish, noble ends cannot justify the deployment of constitutionally impermissible means” (Bayles, 1998, p. 19A). This is just one of the many court suits regarding “reverse discrimination”. With “reverse discrimination” aside, the question is whether the minorities, subject to the affirmative action laws, are ready to benefit from them. General Powell states, “ The choice before us is either getting back to the task of building all children or just keep building more jails,” and “there is no point in creating [affirmative action] opportunities if we bring up children who can’t use the English language. If this generation of youth doesn’t take advantage of those opportunities, what’s the point?” (Shepard, 1998). General Powell’s concern is that minorities, getting into elite colleges by way of racial preferences, don’t have the educational background needed to be successful in those colleges. For an example of his concern; all students who enroll at the nation’s twenty-five top-rated universities, must score a 1291 or above on the SAT’s. An average of 650 on both math and verbal would have to be scored. Yet in the entire country, only 1523 black students scored above a 650 on math and only 603 scored above 650 on the verbal section. This is compared to 74,000 whites that scored above 650 on math and 23,000 that scored above 650 on the verbal (Noel, 1997 p. 5). Is this worth General Powell’s concern? However, some minority students might not need to worry about their academic achievements since a study done by the Brookings Institute found that being black or Hispanic counted in your favor by several hundred points on the SAT or a grade point higher in your GPA. The study done with 5,000 recent students found that a white student needed a 3.8 GPA to have the same chance as Black or Hispanic student with a 2.8 GPA in gaining admittance to an elite college (Zinsmeister, 1997, p. 18). Isn’t this discrimination, or are minority students considered higher achievers in academics then non-minorities? My GPA was around a 2.8 in high school, however I doubt I would have been able to tackle Harvard. I wish not to take the opportunity away from minorities to gain a higher education, however if they do not have the educational background, and are most likely to drop out because of that, what is the point? It is not just in the schools that concerns about preferential treatment and “reverse discrimination” arise, but in the job market as well. For example, in the beginning of the preferential actions, 25% of employed white male mangers lost their jobs due to restrictions affirmative action had on them. Another example, The Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha, Nebraska, was forced by the government to release sixty-five white male workers to make room for minority employees (Williams, 1997). Now what kind of equal opportunity is this? Granted, the percent of mangers would fall to incoming minorities, but to fire someone because of his or her skin color? Is this not the act we’re trying to ban? Besides the charges of “reverse discrimination”, it has come to a point that anti-discrimination legislation has become so broad and powerful that people are taking advantage of the programs. In Buffalo, NY ten police officers were investigated for attempting to pose as Hispanics to qualify for minority hiring quotas (Michel, 1998). One man who was one-eighth Hispanic, was granted minority status. This allowed him to move ahead of 200 white applicants. Is this not discrimination? There needs to be some kind of qualifications to qualify for minority status, and it doesn’t mean being one-eighth (Hispanic), having a surname, or being able to speak Spanish. To understand the scope of people trying to take advantage of these laws, the EEOC received 91,189 complaints in1994 of alleged victims of discrimination. Out of the 91,189, they were left with approximately 4% of the original number after dismissing complaints that did not have substantial evidence of discrimination (Burns, 1996, p. 3). With America’s attitude that we must “[aim] not solely at ending discrimination but remedying the effects of past discrimination,” we will always have the problem of discrimination and endless numbers of people crying “discrimination”. We must never judge anyone on the color of there skin no matter how noble the cause. Anything otherwise is discrimination. For example, in a Recent letter sent out by the Assistant Director of Personnel, Judy Krok, from Greenwich, Connecticut Public School System, to all the Deans of the Schools of Education, Ms. Krok specifically asks for minority job applicants for positions as teachers or teacher internships (Krok, 1998). I along with Dr. Carolyn Hollman, who received the letter, questioned weather it was in adherence to any laws governing racial preferences and quotas. With a few double clicks of my mouse, I found that a similar case was deemed unconstitutional; n April of this year (1998) a US Court of Appeals voided a federal requirement that radio and television stations engage in recruitment and outreach efforts -but not quotas- to seek minority Job applicants. The case was Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod v. FCC (Loury, 1998, p. 12). Judge Laurence Smith, writing for a three Judge panel responded “ We do not think it matters whether a government hiring program imposes hard quotas, soft quotas or goals. Any one of these techniques induces an employer to hire with an eye toward meeting the numerical target. As such, they can and surely will result in individuals being granted a preference because of their race” (Loury, 1998, p. 12). I couldn’t have summed it up better myself. Hiring anyone or giving admittance to anyone on the basis of their race constitutes as discrimination, even if it’s in good faith. Racial preferences and quotas do just that, and that is why affirmative action has so many opponents. While affirmative action is trying to amend past wrongs, many Americans are trying move forward to a nation of equality. We should use affirmative action as an insurance policy in acquiring equal opportunity, not as a trump card for a particular race. If we want a firmer support for affirmative action we need to get rid of the preferential treatment of quotas and racial preferences.
References Barone, M. (1997). Racial preferences just died. What comes next? The American Enterprise, 8 (2), p. 37. [On-line] Available: Expanded Academic SearchBank. Bayles, F. (1998). Court ruling throws out race-based admissions. USA Today, p. 19A. [On-line] Available: Academic Universe Lexis-Nexis. Burns, J. (1996). Affirmative action in employment: An overview. pp. 1-8. [On-line] Available: Eric Database ED 413 466. Dorsen, N. (1994). Civil rights and civil liberties. Microsoft Encarta ’95. [Computer software] Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation. Federal laws and regulations. (1998, November 23). Federal laws and regulations: Covering affirmative action and equal opportunity. [On-line] Available: Http://www.cornell.edu/Admin/OEOLAW.html Landrigan, K. (1997, November 4). Alexander slams affirmative action. Nashua Telegraph. [On-line] Available: Http://www.nashuatelegraph.com /Archive /Primary/4nt1104z.htm Loury, G.C. (1998). The hard questions: Color-blinded. The New Republic (1), p. 12. [On-line] Available: Expanded Academic SearchBank. Lugg, E.T. (1997). The future of affirmative action: Social policy and judicial reality. pp.1-47. [On-line] Available: Eric Database ED 408 704. Noel, M. (1997). Affirmative action in higher education: Three approaches to the issue. pp. 1-6. [On-line] Available: Eric Database ED 414 780. Michel, L. (1998, January 20). Group claims some police officers posed as Hispanics in order to gain employment. Buffalo News. (NewsBank, affirmative action, 1998). Shepard, P. (1998, July 15). Powell puts qualifier on affirmative action, learning best NAACP priorities. Washington Times. (NewsBank, affirmative action, 1998). Williams, M.E. (1997). Discrimination: Opposing viewpoints. [On-line] Available: Eric Database ED 409 391. Zinsmeister, K. (1997). Indicators: race preferences shrivel. The American Enterprise, 8 (1), p.18. [On-line] Available: Expanded Academic SearchBank.
Affirmation Action In Today Society: Myths and Facts As America nears the end of the twentieth century, we still face many lingering problems that stand unresolved. One of the most pressing and difficult problems is that of human relations, or to many, the trigger word race relations. For over 225 years America has been trying to fulfill the promise of the founders of this nation that “All Men Are Created Equal”, yet we still see institutionalized injustices and discrimination. Therefore, this paper attempts to look at one controversial issue that was implemented to correct previous human relation injustices of our nations. This issue is Affirmative Action. To examine affirmation action, this paper looks at the origin of affirmative action programs, U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action debate, employment and affirmative action, and finally myths and facts about affirmative action. I hope that through this paper these issues can be presented to gain a better understanding of affirmative action in today’s society. Affirmative action is a policy assigned to increase representation of women and minorities in business, educational institutions and government. It origin lies in the legislation that came out of the civil right movement of the 1960’s. The Civil Right Act of 1964 was passed, which forbids discrimination unions, employment agencies, and business employing more than 25 employees. However, the tasks for enforcement of this law had been immense and extremely difficult. In an endeavor to redress the systematic discriminations of the past, especially against blacks, remedial programs often called "affirmative action" were undertaken by educational institutions, unions, and governments. These programs required a percentage of minorities – group (racial minority and women) representation goal and a timetable for accomplishment of that goal. The basic premise was to level to playing ground for minorities. Almost, immediately from its inception affirmative action program has been controversy. The process of minority goals and percentages created a powerful” “white backlash”. Critics charge that the ratios are not goals but quotas and that affirmative action programs really call for reverse discrimination (discrimination against white males). Resolution of this conflict is difficult. While it is true that some minority group members were given preferential treatment and therefore some whites were discriminated against. However, white males must realize that they have benefited in countless ways from racism. For most of this country’s history, the nations top universities and businesses practiced the most effective form of affirmative action ever; the quota was for 100 percent white male. However, ever with affirmative actions programs in place, still minority-group members face far more discrimination than their white male counterparts. They still receive less pay and job opportunities than white males. Therefore, the legal controversy of affirmative actions programs continues. Affirmative Action programs have met with varied fates in the Supreme Court. The first case involved a quota favorable to minority applicants. A man who had all the necessary qualifications but whom a state-run medical school rejected because the quota had filled all the openings successfully challenged it. But the Court upheld a private employer's affirmative action program that preferentially hired minorities for new job openings. In 1980 the Court ruled that Congress could limit the use of federal funds in the construction industry to concerns that employed at least ten percent of workers from minority groups. "Affirmative action" is an area where the Supreme Court still seems far from achieving a stable consensus. In general, the Court has allowed the use of such programs based on race or gender in cases involving hiring, job promotion, and school admissions. But new issues have emerged involving seniority systems in employment. When the economy compels cutbacks in the work force, the last hired (usually minority workers) are the first fired, and the Supreme Court has grappled with the question of whether layoffs and firings may be made on the basis of race in order to maintain a balanced work force. The Court has held that minority employees may not be given artificially high seniority status when no actual discrimination had been directed toward them, and it has upheld employment seniority systems even if they result in a heavier burden to minorities, provided such systems were not created with discriminatory intent. In 1986 the Court invalidated an "affirmative action" plan that gave minority employees more protection against layoffs than it gave others. Nevertheless, where there is a compelling need to eradicate past discrimination, the federal courts have a great deal of latitude in creating "affirmative action" programs to rectify that injustice, and the courts can order a program that gives benefits to more than those who were the actual victims of discrimination. As of 1988, however, the Supreme Court was still divided in its approaches to this highly controversial area. However, public opinion polls show that even among whites about two-thirds of the people support affirmative action programs in employment. Although both sex and race (employment) segregation have declined in the past 25 years, in the 1990s workers' sex and race still affect the jobs they hold--with white men still over-represented in the best paying jobs," writes Barbara F. Reskin in her report, "The Realities of Affirmative Action in Employment". In her analysis of the labor market in 1996, Reskin, professor of sociology at Harvard University, found "almost 30 percent of white workers held managerial or professional jobs, compared with about one in five African-Americans and about one in seven Hispanics." Keep this in mind when debating affirmative action, which is designed to combat ongoing job discrimination. Critics of affirmative action often claim that it causes employers to hire less qualified and productive workers, resulting in inefficiencies in the workplace. Advocates contend that it has generally spurred the hiring of more women and minorities without compromising work performance. To determine which view is more accurate, economists Harry J. Holzer and David Neumark of Michigan State University analyzed the results of a survey of some 3,200 employers in the Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles areas from 1992 to 1994. Their findings suggest that affirmative action programs have little if any negative effect on worker productivity. The survey results indicate that employers who stress affirmative action in their recruiting programs make extensive efforts to attract and screen job applicants. They also are more likely to provide training to those they do hire and to evaluate their performance carefully. While such efforts enable companies to hire more female and minority workers, the survey results indicate that aside from educational backgrounds, the qualifications and--more important--the work performance of such hires are on a par with other employees. To be sure, those employers whose affirmative action policies are focused more directly on hiring and who don't engage in strong ``outreach'' recruitment efforts do indicate that they are more likely to hire less-qualified females and minorities. But even these workers' job performance does not appear to suffer-- probably because their employers also tend to provide them with more training to bring them up to snuff. In short, claims that affirmative action entails costs in terms of lower worker productivity aren't borne out by employer reports. To further examine Affirmation Actions, here are ten myths and facts that must be considered in the debate: Myth #1: Affirmative Action is "reverse discrimination" -- let's stop giving special rights to certain groups while others are left out. Fact: Affirmative Action is fair! Affirmative Action levels the playing field so people of color and all women have the chance to compete in education and in business. White men hold 95% to 97% of the high-level corporate jobs. And that's with affirmative action programs in place. Imagine how low figures would be without affirmative action. Of 3000 federal court decisions in discrimination cases between 1990 and 1994, only 100 involved claims of reverse discrimination; only 6 of those claims were found to be valid. Myth #2: Affirmative Action isn't necessary anymore because discrimination is illegal. Fact: Women and people of color still face discrimination. Despite the enormous gains made by the civil rights and women's rights movements, women and people of color still face unfair obstacles in business and education. An astonishing 70% of schools are not in compliance with Title IX, the Federal Equal Education Opportunity law. For every dollar earned by men, women on a whole earn 74 cents, African American women earn 63 cents and Latino women earn 57 cents. According to the Census Bureau, only 25% of all doctors and lawyers are women. Less than 1% of auto mechanics are women. And women are only 8.4% of engineers. Myth #3: Women-owned companies get fewer contracts because there aren't very many of them. Fact: Women-owned businesses don't get their fair share of government contracts. Less than 3% of federal contracts go to women-owned firms. In Washington, less than 10% of state contracts and purchasing dollars go to women-owned firms -- even though women own 39% of firms. Myth #4: Affirmative Action should be based on economic need. Fact: Affirmative Action is necessary so that women and people of color of every economic class have the opportunity to enter all fields. Women and people of color should, of course, have the chance to compete for jobs in the trades, construction, skilled labor -- and they should have access to professional jobs in engineering, medicine and the law as well as policy-making positions in executive suites and on boards of directors. Myth #5: Affirmative Action lowers standards in education and the workplace by letting unqualified people get ahead. Fact: Affirmative Action helps qualified candidates overcome racism and sexism. Affirmative Action is an investment in the future. By the time today's college students are at the height of their careers, one-third of the population will be comprised of African Americans and Latinos. Myth #6: Affirmative Action lowers the education standards. Fact: If half of the people of color who are admitted to schools under affirmative action programs were cut, the acceptance rates of white men would only increase by 2%. Women still face barriers in schools. In Washington, women receive only 12% of doctorates in engineering, and women are substantially under-represented in computer science nationwide. Myth #7: Nobody else gets special consideration when applying to a college or for a job. Why should women and people of color? Fact: Lots of people get "special" consideration when applying for jobs or to schools. Veterans often get preferences in workplaces and on campuses – which usually benefit men more than women. The children of alumni get preferential treatment over others in admission to college. Friends help friends and acquaintances get jobs. Affirmative Action helps open doors for women and people of color who often don't have those connections. Myth #8: Affirmative Action won't help me. Fact: Everyone benefits when discrimination is eliminated. The majority of families depend on the income of women. When Affirmative Action opens up education, employment, and business, families and communities have greater economic security. Business leaders understand that affirmative action is necessary to develop a strong workforce. Women and people of color have a lot to offer their communities. Affirmative Action helps insure that everyone gets the chance to contribute. Myth #9: Affirmative Action = Preferences Fact: Affirmative Action = Equal Opportunities Affirmative Action programs merely acknowledge that hundreds of years of discrimination cannot be erased in a few decades and still hold women and people of color back. Affirmative Action is the bridge between changing the laws and changing the culture. Myth #10: Things are different now, we don't need affirmative action any more. Fact: Until women and people of color get equal pay and education, we need affirmative action. The radical right wing would have us believe that woman and people of color earn less because we don't work as hard or we're not as smart. That simply isn't the case. Laws have changed, but discrimination persists. Affirmative Action only opens doors; women and people of color have to walk through those doors by themselves. In a perfect world program such, as Affirmative Actions would not be needed. Personnel decisions would be basis upon each individual’s abilities and qualifications, without regards to gender or ethnic group. However, we are far from a perfect world. As long as we have prejudices, hatred, and discrimination in society, programs of Affirmative Action will be necessary. Work Cited Coleman, James William, and Cressey, Donald R. Social Problem. 5th ed. Harper Collins College Publishers. New York. 1993. 188-190 Levenson, Alec R., and Williams, Darrell L. Interracial America: Opposing View, “ Affirmative Action Combat Unintentional Racism”, Greenhaven Press Inc., San Diego, 1996, 154-158 Bender, David and Leone, Bruno. Work: Opposing Viewpoints, “Affirmative Action Promotes Equality”, Greenhaven Press Inc., San Diego, 168-176 Collier’s Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Sierra Home, 1998 Reflective in Race Relation, Online, www. Elibrary.com, 18 Feb. 1999 Coleman, Jonathan. Long Way To Go: Black & White In America, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1997 Carter, Stephen L., Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, Basic Books, New York,
INTRODUCTION Considering the subject of affirmative action the following questions frequently are raised: Is there a clear understanding of affirmative action roles/goals? What are the pros/cons of these programs? What are the "loop holes" in the system? Does seniority play a role in affirmative action? Addressing these key questions may help us all in our daily routine, as administrators and/or potential administrator in the public/private sector. Affirmative action programs throughout the United States have long been a controversial issue particularly concerning employment practices (public/private) and university student and/or staff recruitment. Most public agencies have some type of instituted affirmative action program. According to Cheryl Perry-League, Director of Equal Opportunity of the Port of Oakland, every business operating on Port of Oakland owned land must have a standing affirmative action program on record and businesses bidding to do work for the Port of Oakland must have an acceptably diverse workforce. BACKGROUND To understand the role and/or goals of affirmative actions programs we should define what the broad definition of what affirmative action is and what caused its development. The phase "affirmative action" was used in a racial discrimination context. Executive Order No. 10,925 issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The order indicated that federal contractors should take affirmative action to ensure job applicants and employees are treated "without regard to their race, creed, or national origin." A person could define this statement as an order to imply equal access and nothing else. Subsequently, Executive Order 11246 issued by President Johnson in September 1965, "mandated affirmative action goals for all federally funded programs and moved monitoring and enforcement of affirmative action programs out of the White House and into the Labor Department." Affirmative action "refers to various efforts to deliberately take race, sex, and national origins into account to remedy past and current effects of discrimination. Its primary goal is to ensure that women and minorities are widely represented in all occupations and at all organizational levels" (Tompkins, 1995, p.161). Another definition of affirmative action according to Barbara Bergmann is "planning and acting to end the absence of certain kinds of people-those who belong to groups that have been subordinated or left out-from certain jobs and schools" (1997 p.7). Tracing the history of affirmative action, laws against racial discrimination have proved inadequate for workplace integration because they often provide remedies only after the fact. Affirmative action requires proactive steps to provide equal opportunities in employment as well as access to education. Many affirmative action programs were born from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII references to affirmative action programs were brought about "because of the history of discrimination in the United States, certain groups are viewed as disadvantage in the current marketplace. Thus affirmative action laws impose temporary requirements to correct underutilization of these groups (e.g., goals and timetables for increasing the number of minorities and women in a facility)" (Gutman, 1993, p.9). Prior to these laws and the Title VII law, the U.S workforce was primarily dominated by white males. Although, still somewhat white male dominated, quotas that were designed through affirmative action programs have helped achieve some representation of women and minorities in the current work force. Some remedies brought about through affirmative action programs include goal setting, quotas, and timetables. GOALS AND QUOTAS The term goal "refers to specific outcomes which, when achieved, will result in equal employment opportunity and equitable representation" (Hall & Albrecht, 1979, p.47-78). Goals and hiring quotas vary somewhat in their function. Goals generally are long range plans that organizations use and there are no expected minimum or maximum limitations. Quotas by comparison, "establishes a definite number of people who must be hired. A Company cannot by law, use quotas unless it has been ordered to do so by a court to remedy a past action" (Hall & Albrecht, 1979, p.47-78). Deficiency correction is the primary target of goal setting through affirmative action. For an organization to be effective with goals, they must be realistic, attainable, and monitored by the human resource department. Affirmative action programs generally achieve their set goals through several common practices called outreach programs. First, there are special recruiting programs where women and minorities will most likely be found. These special outreach programs often target black universities and female dominated educational facilities. A second outreach program involves special advertising. Generally, this is also implemented in areas that are heavily populated by women and minorities similar to that of recruiting programs. Through outreach programs like the ones mentioned above, goals can be attained to achieve equity and representation without forgoing higher educated and skilled applicants. PROGRAM JUSTICATION These programs can be justified because discrimination is still apparent in the United States today. A 1990 study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that the majority of white Americans still believe blacks to be inferior. For example, 53% of non-black respondents said they thought blacks were less intelligent than whites, 62% said they thought blacks were less patriotic, 62% said they thought blacks were lazier, and 78% said they thought blacks "preferred to live off welfare." The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of national standardize tests, evaluates students on their proficiency in reading, writing and science. They divide and compare these results to better understand the effectiveness of public schools. Their results suggest a large imbalance in the educational quality received by whites and other races. The most noticeable imbalance in the three fundamentals of learning was the most important, reading. When students cannot read well, they usually cannot succeed in other subject areas. With the background of affirmative action and its programs established we should evaluate some of the problems with affirmative action and if affirmative action programs work. Opponents against affirmative action programs often believe that the system currently in place is a misuse of the original intent of affirmative action. The programs as they apply now are detrimental to the operation of the job market, to white males, and to the groups it is supposed to benefit. They further contend affirmative action causes reverse discrimination. It is not good practice for Opponents "pro" affirmative action to use it as a way to make up for past discrimination. Another problem caused by affirmative action is that it often places a stigma on any groups, which receive preferential treatment, especially on individuals who earn positions because of their ability. Opponents of affirmative action programs believe that these programs when handled properly through the human resources department within an organization can minimize the negative references received regarding hiring practices. Nye states "that positive information regarding an employee’s job qualifications should minimize assumptions of incompetence associated with affirmative action hiring programs. In other words, when co-workers have information that clearly describes an individual’s job qualifications, they should be less likely to assume that he or she was hired solely on race or gender"(1998). By making this information available within the organization, it would help remove the pressures from the employee and co-worker regarding the hiring practices. This could further help the organization in the area of productivity, public relations within the community, and morale. By increasing morale, you maybe able to retain more employees, recruitment made easier, and motivate employees into a very competitive workforce. Opponents of affirmative action also do not believe that women and minorities will be treated fairly without affirmative action programs. Opportunities in today’s workplace are extremely competitive. Glazer states that "the battle over affirmative action today is a contest between a clear principle on the one hand and a clear reality on the other. The principle is that ability, qualifications, and merit, independent of race, national origin, or sex should prevail when one applies for a job or promotion, or for selective institutions for higher education, or when one bids for contracts. The reality is that strict adherence to this principle would result in few African Americans getting jobs, admissions, and contracts" (1998). With that being said, women and minorities cannot possibly have a fair chance in today’s society without positive affirmative action programs. However, with affirmative action, it has been noted that their incentives to achieve success may be decreased because "preferential treatment can lead to the patronization of minorities and women workers and students. By "patronization" I mean the setting of a lower standard of expected accomplishment because of the belief that these people are not as capable of meeting a higher standard" (Loury, 1997). With a white male dominated workforce, negative public perceptions, and low self-esteem of applicants, affirmative action offers a solution for race and gender equity. Further stated, everyone in America should be afforded equal opportunity. If this cannot be achieved voluntarily, then we must continue to take action to remedy these situations. Opponents of affirmative action won a landmark victory, in 1998, with the passage of California’s Proposition 209. This proposition abolished all public-sector affirmative action programs in the state in employment, education and contracting. Clause(C) of Prop. 209 permits gender discrimination that is "reasonably necessary" to the "normal operation" of public education, employment and contracting. In 1998, The ban on use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of California went into effect. UC Berkeley had a 61% drop in admissions, and UCLA had a 36% decline. This decline strengthens the position of the Pro side of affirmative action. However, a contingency plan has been established. According to a source (who asked to remain nameless), UC Berkeley has a program to actively recruit more minority students that falls out of the guidelines established by prop. 209. These types of "loop holes" can ultimately hurt the various studies on the effectiveness of anti-affirmative action laws. LOOPHOLES "Loop holes" are exceptions to the rules or standards. It’s a way around the system. Opponents for affirmative action might feel that the Washington State government utilized such a "loop hole" in 1997. Under an affirmative action program criticized as the ultimate example of preferential treatment by supporters against affirmative action, the Washington State government hired more white men than African Americans did or any other minority group. In fact, white men fell second to white women being hired (Brune). The program in question is Washington State’s "plus three" program, according to Tom Brune of the Seattle Times, "allows the state to hire people who qualify for affirmative action over finalists with higher job-test scores. White men qualify because the state’s affirmative action policy cover not only people of color and women, but also Vietnam-era veterans, disabled veterans and people with disabilities. Majority of the veterans are white men and nearly half of them are disabled in the State of Washington". Another example of how affirmative action works for the disadvantaged can be found in Hayward, California. Bonnie Kellogg was admitted into the government’s Small Business Administration program that gives her company competitive advantages in its quest for government and large corporate contracts. Prior to 1995, Kellogg’s chances of getting into this program, officially known as the 8(a) Business Development program, would have been slim to none. However, in 1995 court ruling stemming from a law suit by a white business owner alleging "reverse discrimination" relaxed government standards. This ruling as allow for whites, Egyptians and Iranians, who fall outside the SBA’s minority designation easier access to the program. This relaxation of the rules as helped non-minorities business owners greatly. Report K. Oanh Ha of the Knight Rider Tribune finds a, a big statistical change. From 1968 until mid-1998, only 40 businesses owned by whites and non-minorities out of 13,400 firms nationally were admitted, were admitted into the 8(a) program. So far this year, 74 non-minority companies have been admitted. (1999) SENORITY Seniority must be examined because in my opinion it is the most widely used preferential treatment policy in the American workplace? With affirmative action being view as preference by many Americans and seniority being an unchallenged "rule-of-thumb." In an article by Paul Rockwell he explains, "The seniority system may be legitimate, but it is no less preferential in its execution than affirmative action. When layoffs take place by seniority, many highly skilled women, many well-qualified people of color, among others, are bumped out of their jobs by less qualified older white males. In a seniority system, the last hired is the first fired, whether the employee is more skilled and competent than an employee protected by seniority. (1999)." Richard Lester, author of Manpower Planning, believes that seniority places less qualified employees ahead of employees who are often better educated, more skilled in computers. Arthur Whitehill & Shin Ichi Takezawa in Work Ways, concluded the same thoughts "Younger worker in some cases are more competent than older workers because of [them being} better education, greater adaptability and physical fitness." The public sector and much of the private sector have recognized seniority for quite sometime. We can find this system practiced by older teachers at various universities who are often protected by tenure. Professor Daniel Barber has even stated in candid conversion that when he was the department chair for the Master of Public Administration he took care of the tenured faculty first. Knowing this, why do Opponents of affirmative action, have appeared to be, judgmental of about so-called "merit" and "preference", why isn’t there the same concern about the biggest workplace exception to strict meritocracy – Seniority? Seniority is yet another way to protect the "good ‘o boys networks". Found in many of the historically white male dominated professions, for example, Firefighters, police, school superintendents, and college professors. Coming from a public sector background (Disabled Army War Veteran, Bureau of Prisons office administrator, Department of Veterans Affairs administrator, and to many federal internships to count) I support the seniority system in those places where affirmative action is still in place. Workplace should reflect the diversity of the community it serves, seniority is a fair system of labor management relations. Seniority gives employees for the personnel problems and private preferences of an employer. However, seniority is a widely used exception to strict merit system only if the workplace is democratic and applied with affirmative action the workplace can become more inclusive. Where affirmative action is repealed, seniority loses some of its legitimacy. I argue that only loses some of its legitimacy because I personally was retained as an employee in a seniority situation. I was the last hired but I was not fired. In short, the scope of seniority and affirmative action are similar. The goal of seniority is job security and affirmative action is integration; both goals are good for America. The American labor movement has a major stake in seniority. The movement should embrace affirmative action because in good conscience it should not take advantage of one and not honor the other. Basically, benefiting for seniority practices but opposing affirmative action for others. If affirmative action is repealed, seniority should go as well. Labor unions and movements should concentrate on saving affirmative action. At a time when all progressive social policies are under attack, unity between women, labor, and people of color is imperative. Seniority and affirmative action should stand or fall together. CONCLUSION Ultimately, the controversy surrounding affirmative action programs today will continue into the future. Society as a whole does not appear to be ready to relinquish its negative perception of the hiring practices brought about by Title VII. However, the benefits brought about this act has greatly increased the opportunity for women and minorities in employment that may not have otherwise been available. These programs have offered hope to some if not all-socioeconomic groups that they will be afforded the opportunity of equal employment and/or representation in our society. Furthermore, human resource departments in the public sector will have to become more skilled in implementing positive affirmative action programs if we are to reap the full benefits from them. Finally, Affirmative action is not a cure-all. It will not eliminate racial discrimination, nor will it eliminate competition for scare resources. Affirmative action programs can only ensure that everyone has a fair chance at what is available. They cannot direct us to the social policies necessary so people do not have to compete for scarce resources in the first place. The larger question to ask is why are there not enough decent paying, challenging and safe jobs for everyone? Why are there not enough seats in the universities for everyone who wants an education? Expanding opportunity for people of color means expanding not only their access to existing jobs & education, but also removing the obstacles that cause these resources to be limited.
SOURCES Bergmann, Barbara (1997). In Defense of Affirmative Action: New York: Sage Publications, Inc. Brune, Tom (1998). Nearly half of all affirmative-action hires are white. Seattle Times – Internet Edition. November 6, 1999, on the world wide web:http://www.seattletimes.com/news/local/article/html98 /plus_020998.html. Ezorsky, Gertrude (1991). Racism*Justice: The Case for Affirmative Action. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Glazer, Nathan (1998). In Defense of Preference. The New Republic, 218 (14), 18-25. Gutman, Arthur (1993). EEO Law and Personnel Practices. California: Sage Publications, Inc. Ha, Oamh K. (1999). Rules help white entrepreneurs qualify as disadvantaged. Chicago Tribune – Internet Edition. Retrieved Saturday, November 6, 1999, on the world wide web:http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/smallbusiness/article/article/0,2669,art-34423,ff.html Hall, F. S., & Albrecht, M. H. (1979). The Management of Affirmative Action. California: Goodyear Publishing. Heilman, M. E., Block, C. J., Stathatos, P. (1997). "The Affirmative action stigma of incompetence". Academy of Management Journal, 40 (3), 603-625. Horne, Gerald (1992). Reversing Discrimination: The Case for Affirmative Action. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Lester, Richard (1948). Manpower Planning in a Free Society. Washington, D.C. Foundation publishing. Loury, Glenn (1997). How to mend affirmative action. Public Interest (127), 33-45. Nye, David (1998) Affirmative action and the stigma of incompetence. The Academy of Management Executive, 12 (1), 88-92. Pasour, Ernest (1999). Affirmative Action: A Counter- Productive Policy. The Freeman, 3 (7), 23-32. Sklar, Holly (1995). Chaos or Community?: Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats for Bad Economics. Boston: South End Press. Tompkins, Jonathon (1995). Human Resource Management in Government New York: HarperCollins.
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