Issues/Affirmative Action - History term paper 5379

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Affirmative Action is defined by Webster's New World College Dictionary as " a policy or program for correcting the effects of discrimination in the employment or education of members of certain groups." The phrase "affirmative action" was coined by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 when he issued Executive Order 10925, initiating the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246. This order required federal contractors to take "affirmative action" to increase the number of minorities that they employed. Thus affirmative action was born. However, when Kennedy and Johnson established affirmative action, they did not intend for it to have the perverted and distorted effect that it currently has today. Such perversions and distortions include the hiring of unqualified workers, the causing of problems for groups it originally set out to help, and reverse discrimination that results in unfair standards into higher education and the work force. The practice of affirmative action must be stopped.

The main argument for affirmative action is that it creates equal opportunity for people in the work force and for students seeking admission into higher education. However, this is not a valid point. While affirmative action creates equal opportunity for some individuals, it discriminates against others, primarily white males. Therefore, affirmative action uses reverse discrimination to solve the problem of discrimination. Do two wrongs make a right? The answer is no.

The first reason affirmative action should be stopped is that employees often are hired that are not qualified to execute their jobs effectively. Many times employers are forced to find the best minority, rather than the person most qualified for the job. For example, a policy was adopted by Duke University in 1993 that required each department at the university to hire at least one new African-American for a faculty position (Pasour). However, various surveys and estimates show that less than 4,000 blacks receive Ph.D.s in the United States. This is less than two black Ph.D.s for every American college or university (Sowell). Therefore, Duke University's policy would force them to hire faculty that are not as qualified, due to a shortage of black Ph.D.s, as their white counterparts. The hiring of unskilled workers is also detrimental to businesses as well. The primary purpose of a business is to make money for the employer, as well as the employees. The hiring of unqualified employees is harmful to the business's production. When employees cannot perform their specific tasks, it often leads to error, which costs the company time and money. If the business is continually paying for worker error, its profits will decrease, producing a decrease in employee pay. Many times companies are forced to hire unqualified individuals because of quotas. Often when a business's quota is not filled it is forced to conceive unnecessary jobs for minorities, which is also decreases a company's profit. Incapable employees are a detriment to worker unity as well. If an employee is not as qualified as his or her co-worker, it may create tension and frustration between them, in turn creating another complication..

The second reason it is imperative to abolish the practice of affirmative action is that it often initiates problems for the minorities it originally intended to help. This is apparent in the work place as well as in colleges and universities. The first problem affirmative action establishes for minorities is that it places a stigma on groups who benefit from affirmative action, especially those who actually earn their position because they are qualified for it. Consider an employer who hires a member of a minority group on the basis of merit alone. Many employees automatically assume that the individual's appointment resulted from affirmative action. Thus, any employee who does benefit from affirmative action bears the brand of "not being the best pick, but only the best pick from a limited group (Pasour)." The second problem it creates for minorities in the workplace is the loss of spirit and vitality for their jobs. If workers feel that the sole reason they are employed is to fill a quota, they may lack pride in their jobs, which in turn hinders their performance. In addition, minorities's problems due to affirmative action are not exclusive to the work place. Many college and university minority students also experience the conundrums of affirmative action. At colleges in North Carolina, black students recently stated that they were treated like affirmative action cases even though they were not. Professors, seeking to help, asked them if they needed tutoring or other assistance, already assuming the black students' lack of qualifications (Pasour).

The third, and perhaps major, reason that affirmative action should be stopped is the issue of reverse discrimination. Affirmative action uses reverse discrimination to solve the problem of discrimination. Discrimination against whites, in particular males, is just as wrong as discrimination against minorities. As are many problems of affirmative action, reverse discrimination is present in both the workplace and in institutions of higher education. Reverse discrimination in the work place is a phenomenon associated with white males. White male job applicants who are qualified to receive a job are often discarded for under-qualified minorities because of quotas set forth by affirmative action. In the most extreme cases, white males have been fired to make room for minorities. 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 (Sowell). This act is extremely unfair to white males and is a pure form of discrimination. Many advocates of affirmative action argue that affirmative action is a form of retribution for past discrimination minorities experienced. However most minorities entering the job market today were born after the emergence of affirmative action, in 1964, and have suffered little prejudice in terms of salary.

Reverse discrimination is not only a great injustice in the work place, but it is present in admissions to colleges and universities as well. However, it does not exclusively pertain to white males in this context, but Asian-Americans as well. Therefore, affirmative action is not even inclusive of all of the minorities, but rather a select few. Just as the white employee has to have higher credentials to receive a job, so do white and Asian-American college applicants. Colleges and universities often have quotas set by the government, as businesses do, that ensure that they have enough minorities in their incoming freshmen class. An example is the admission practices at the University of California at Berkeley. A 1995 report released by the university said that 9.7 percent of all applicants were African-Americans. Of these 9.7 percent accepted, 0.8 percent of these African-American students were accepted on academic merit alone. The percentage of white students accepted by Berkeley totaled 36.8 percent. Of the 36.8 percent white students accepted, 47.9 percent were accepted on academic merit alone (Affirmative Action). Thus the number of African-American students accepted because of non-academic circumstances was approximately sixty times greater than that of their white counterparts. Another interesting fact that was included in the study was the comparison of grade point averages and SAT scores. The average grade point average for a rejected white student was 3.66 with an SAT score of 1142. The average grade point average for an accepted African-American student was 3.66 with an SAT score of 1030 (Affirmative Action). These statistics demonstrate the reverse discrimination against white college applicants due to affirmative action. In addition, many competent applicants are being refused admission, which is alarming due to the fact that only 27 percent of African-Americans graduate, whereas 66 percent of white or Asian-Americans graduate.

Many people look forward to the day when employment and admission to colleges and universities will depend on an individuals qualifications and ability, regardless of the color of their skin or their gender. However, the United States has not reached that point yet. In order to reach this point we must devise an alternative to replace affirmative action, because as long as affirmative action is in effect there will always be racial tension. Such an alternative would be "the strengthening of the "╦ťintermediate' institutions, such as community associations, schools, media, and independent social agencies, which provide the organizational foundation for collective development and effective public representation (Sterlitz)." In essence, if the same amount of capital was extended to minority institutions, the minority society would eventually become more developed and give the much needed guidance to individuals, therefore enabling them to play a major part in society.

Affirmative action was first introduced by President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the time since Kennedy and Johnson, affirmative action has been severely distorted. Both presidents intended for this policy to stop discrimination, not simply reverse it. However, as shown in the foregoing discussion, the problems of affirmative action include hiring of unskilled employees, the establishment of problems for minorities it was originally suppose to help, and the basis for reverse discrimination.

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