The Negative Effects of Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action has increasingly become the subject of debate and tension in American society. However, the debate has become entangled in silly arguments of equality of opportunity versus the equality of results. The purpose of Affirmative Action is not simply to avow good intentions but to register results (Cousens 126). On one side, however, there are the con-Affirmative Action types who raise ethical and moral issues over the use of such a system; while on the other side there are those who support the system, but use race as a privilege. The participants in this debate have over examined the ethical and moral issues that affirmative action raises while forgetting to scrutinize the system that has created the need for them. All too often, Affirmative Action is looked upon as the cure for the virulent disease of racial discrimination. The program works as it should by allowing for groups of a greater equality of opportunity to further advance themselves by bypassing inequalities that impede their overall effectiveness. Affirmative Action is a temporary, partial, and flawed remedy for past and continuing discrimination against historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups in American society (Hacker 85).
The biggest complaint surrounding Affirmative Action policies aimed at helping Black Americans is that they violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and the Civil Rights laws (Greenberg 100). Those who are against Affirmative Action policies claim that these programs distort what is already a clear area and bequeath preferred treatment upon minorities because of the color of their skin (Hacker 25). It wasn t until 1954, when the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown versus Board of Education that Blacks and minorities were legally pushed to the dirty slums of society. The Brown versus Board of Education decision removed legal restraints that had so long kept Blacks deeply impoverished. Minorities long were subjected to deep-rooted forms of discrimination especially from the greater white population. For instance, if a superior had any overt or covert prejudices against members of a racial or ethnic minority, it would be apparent that an individual s destiny rested on subjective and non-rational factors (Cousens 113). This was a result of the failure of the Brown decision to deconstruct White dominance and privilege; it merely allowed Blacks to enter the arena of competition (Greenberg 300). The Brown decision merely opened the labor market flood gates and made Black unemployment and White wealth an acceptable norm.
After the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, it became apparent that certain business traditions, such as seniority status and aptitude tests, prevented total equality in employment. However, on September 24, 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order #11246 at Howard University that required federal contractors to take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed. . . without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin (Civil Rights). Affirmative Action was created in an effort to help minorities break through the discriminative barriers that were present when the bill was first enacted in 1965. At this time, the country was in the wake of nationwide civil rights demonstrations, and racial tension was at its peak. Most of the corporate executive and managerial positions were occupied by white males. The United States government, in 1965, believed that these employers were discriminating against employees and believed that there was no better time than the present to bring about change. When the Civil Rights Law passed, minorities, especially African-Americans, believed that they could receive retribution for the years of discrimination they had endured. The government responded by passing laws to aide them in attaining better employment as reprieve for the previous two hundred years of suffering their race endured at the hands of some white men. Are all whites responsible for the years of persecution that the African-Americans were submitted to? In a statement released in 1981 by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Jack P. Hartog said:
Only if discrimination were nothing more than the misguided acts of a few prejudiced individuals would affirmative action plans be reverse discrimination. Only if today s society were operating fairly toward minorities and women, would measures that take race, sex, and national origin into account be preferential treatment. Only if discrimination were securely placed in a well-distant past would affirmative action be an unneeded and drastic remedy.
The commission failed to realize that there are thousands of white males who are not the purveyors of discrimination, but are punished because of those who do discriminate. For 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 in 1977 (Nebraska Advisory Committee 40). Five major Omaha corporations reported that the number of white managers fell twenty-five percent in 1969 due to restrictions put on them when Affirmative Action was adopted (27). This is contrary to the goals of an average business. An average business executive has one goal: maximize profits. In order to reach this goal, a business executive would naturally hire the most competent man or woman for the job, whether they were black or white or any other race. Why would a business man intentionally cause his business to lose money by hiring a poorly qualified worker? Affirmative Action forces an employer who needs to meet a quota, established by the government, to hire the minority, without any regard to who is more qualified. In order to explain why Affirmative Action policies fail, one must examine what other sister programs should have done to further minority advancement. Should Affirmative Action programs force people to hire unqualified minorities? The credentials, character, and qualifications of a minority has always been a question. Does a business hire an unqualified individual for a position? Definitely not, but Affirmative Action programs should cause the American society to re-evaluate how it accesses qualifications and how it measures merit. In 1971, the Supreme Court confronted the impact of testing in Griggs verus Duke Power Company (Hacker 129). The company had kept black employees in lower level jobs, arguing that their test scores showed they were not qualified for better positions (130). The court rejected this explanation, ruling that employers who hired and promoted on the basis of tests had to show that those exams in face provided good forecasts of how an individual is to perform (130). However, test results do still display some bias, a business is still entitled to hire people who will best benefit its balance sheet (129). For instance, sales and clerical jobs are the two key occupations in stores, accounting for the largest number of proportion of employees (Cousens 83). Women clearly dominate the clerical industry everywhere (83). These jobs are also the most visible in that individuals are in closest with customers; a fact which has traditionally deterred employers from hiring nonwhites for these categories (84). Of course, personality plays a major role and more formal criteria hold sway. Increasingly, credentials like degrees and diplomas are expected to have someone s name considered (Hacker 129). Employers should choose the better alternative of inaugurating programs to qualify more minorities for employment at higher level and, at the same time require employers to hire only on the basis of such qualifications and not on the basis of stereotyped perceptions (Cousens 111). This could be done by reaching out to community institutions and media to transform and encourage applicants or manage to find minority group individuals already on the payroll with the ability to do the job or the potential for training and work at higher levels of skill, rather than merely hiring individuals on the basis of race.
Last year, Florida banned the consideration of race in State University admissions; therefore, this ended Affirmative Action programs that gave special considerations to minorities. This plan is known as the Talented Twenty Plan. The plan guarantees admissions to one of the public universities to the top twenty percent of the graduating public high school class. The only condition is that students must have completed a minimum number of academic classes and had two years of a foreign language. Governor Jeb Bush eliminated the recent plan of preferential treatment to minorities because it is only logical to accept the most qualified individuals. If minorities are admitted to an university while they are under qualified, they will not be academically prepared for the material at the University (Enrollment).
The final result of Affirmative Action is that many Blacks and Hispanics are not as prepared academically as average white students at some schools - or as some whites who are denied admission (Cultural). However, due to the Talented Twenty Plan, which admits the top twenty percent of high school students to a university, enrollment in the first freshman class, since Affirmative Action was ended in Florida, rose thirteen percent. While total freshman enrollment increased eleven percent (Enrollment). Also, it was reported that there was an increase of more than one-third of blacks enrolled at University of Florida, at Florida State University there was a twenty-one percent increase, and at Florida Atlantic University there was the largest percentage increase in minority students of thirty-five percent and a sixty-one percent increase in African-American enrollment (Enrollment). These statistics show that Affirmative Action actually harms minorities by encouraging under qualified minorities to seek enrollment in colleges that are not suited for them. The use of racial preferences at colleges lowers Hispanic graduation rates and black graduation rates greatly. However, due to Affirmative Action, blacks from middle class and affluent families are granted preference at the expense of poor whites with stronger academic credentials (Cultural). This is even more evident in a report by the Center for Equal Opportunity, the report states that median SAT scores for white students admitted to the Naval Academy in 1995 were 580 in verbal and 610 in math versus 510 in verbal and 590 in math for blacks admitted (Academies). Should blacks and minorities receive preferential treatment at the expense of more qualified whites? Minorities assert that College Board testing is not subjective and is biased towards whites. However, independent studies show that the SAT predicts college performance equally well for all groups, and is even slightly biased in favor of blacks (Cultural). The reason for minorities asserting that they cannot and would not be admitted to colleges because they are a minority is not very convincing. In fact, in a nationwide poll of blacks, many disapprove of the policy of preferential treatment by sixty-eight percent to twenty-two percent. Even more convincing is the refutation of the idea that poverty increases academic deficiencies. However according to College Board, data shows that academic differences aren t due to poverty. Since on average, whites and Asians from families earning less than $20,000 a year score higher on the SAT than blacks from families earning more than $60,000 (Cultural). Therefore, Affirmative Action programs that encourage educators to enroll students solely on the basis of race while disregarding their academic credentials is unfair to the same disenfranchised groups of whites who sometimes fair better in terms of academic credentials.
Any meaningful social change, particularly those that change attitudes, customs, and habit must come about in a strategic manner and as a result of pressure. Affirmative Action policies are merely a model for employers to follow. For if employers are left to their own devices, they will persist in their practices and rationalize their behavior by placing the blame elsewhere (Cousens 123). Employers frequently do not hire minorities because they feel that the minority is deteriorated due to a lack of wealth that would allow them to look presentable, uneducated, or unskilled (85). Certainly the debate over affirmative action raises some basic questions about how people are selected for positions and promotions (Hacker 128). However, Affirmative Action is not justified in merely qualifying someone for a position based on the color of their skin. This is unfair to skilled majorities and therefore Affirmative Action should be stopped because it grants disenfranchised groups of people unfair preferential treatment.
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Cousens, Frances Reissman. Public Civil Rights Agencies and Fair Employment: Promise vs. Performance. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1969.
Greenberg, Edward S., Milner, Neal, Olson, David J., eds. Black Politics: The inevitability of conflict/readings. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1971.
Hacker, Andrew. Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.
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