What is affirmative action? This has been a very interesting question throughout the past thirty years. Many people would like to answer it with simply the name given to programs that try to correct past and ongoing discriminations against women, racial minorities, and others in the work force and in education. Where this answer may be a good textbook style response, not all people agree with it.
Affirmative action was created out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It actually went into effect out of an Executive order that was delivered by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. He wanted to do more than what the non-discrimination laws of the time were trying to accomplish. He also wanted to see minorities and women get a better chance at advancement in their current jobs. President Nixon, whom also implemented the same Executive order, kept affirmative action alive. President Ford helped to update affirmative action by adding the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974. Years later President Carter created an office to handle affirmative action cases that dealt with the contract aspects of the original Affirmative Action plan, and called it the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
There were three prime aspects of affirmative action that fell into place. The first was affirmative action in employment. The second area is affirmative action dealing with contracts. The third area of affirmative action deals with the area of education.
When we look at the affirmative action plans of employment, this is one area that most all of us have came into contact at some point in our lives. When you and I go to apply for a job with a company, we feel that if we are the best qualified for the position that we should receive it. This is the way that most normal people would feel. With Affirmative Action, this idea of the best-qualified person for the job is not a reality. Not all companies still go with the idea of Affirmative Action as a written policy, but may still have it as an acting practice in their hiring.
Throughout the past thirty years many people have been promoted, hired, or even fired based upon their color of their skin, or on the basis of their sex. Does this sound like a very fair thing to do? Most would not think so, but it is a reality that Affirmative Action has put into play. In May of 1994 at St. Bonaventure University, the president of the university fired 22 of his faculty members for being males. He openly admitted that the firings were based on gender and not qualifications. Some of these professors’ even had tenure that were fired. Needless to say, a group of twelve of the men went to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and brought up charges on the school. This is not the only example of a bias workplace that is moving in a reverse discriminatory fashion. There are many other businesses and companies that like to give special considerations to the minorities and females, just so that they can put off some appearance that they are trying to be fair to all of their employees.
This idea of hiring anyone that is less qualified than someone else based on the color or his or her skin is wrong. Discrimination no matter how you want to view it is not anything that will go away by forcing companies to put into practice a program that selectively picks the worker that is less qualified, but happens to fit in the correct minority group or is female. When a company does this it is setting itself up for internal problems with workers that already work there. Any idea of discrimination or racism that already exists in the workers may be heightened instead of lessened. The idea that your coworker didn’t have to score as high on the test, meet the same requirements, or have as much schooling as you because they are a minority is going to cause most people to feel a bit enraged. In a business where a person’s physical skills are an important part of the job, such as heavy machinery, hiring a less qualified person could cause safety issues as well. Would you want someone working a crane around you if they barely passed the test for operations? From an administrative standpoint the management may also feel a negative attitude toward being forced to hire someone who they know doesn’t fit the job, but some sort of government program is telling them too. This could cause internal conflict at even the management level toward the workers.
Contract work between the government and contractors is another area that was targeted by the Affirmative Action programs. The same type of safety issues are the first concerns that come to mind when you think of the government hiring potentially less qualified contractors to do work for them. The upside to this part of the plan is it helps to break away from some of the political ties that some contractors have had in the past. It gives some of the smaller companies a chance to prove themselves.
Education is another area of Affirmative Action that has had its criticisms. The admittance of a student for educational purposes without having to meet the same requirements as the whole seems to me to be a bit discriminative in nature. A popular case that has occurred in our history was that of Regrents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). In this case the University had reserved 16 of its 100 openings for minorities. The other 64 slots had already been filled so because Bakke was not a minority, his admittance was denied, even though he was more qualified than his minority competitors.
The admittance of a student to a University or any other college program without having to score as high as the general population on the entrance exams is another form of Affirmative Action discrimination. At Ivy League colleges the median GPA of applicants is close to a 4.0 and SAT scores are close to 1300. The minorities that apply are admitted with a GPA of less than 3.0 and an SAT score of less than 1000. Is this really letting in the most qualified and elite students? I really don’t see how it could be.
The Affirmative Action programs started off with the idea that our country was going to try to make up for some of the bad things that happened to the minorities of our country many years ago. The idea that anybody owes anyone special treatment for something in our past is a bit unfounded. I agree that Affirmative Action programs helped to do away with segregation in a lot of instances and even finally let some of the blacks get into college. This part of the plan I agree with. The programs are now out of date however. President Clinton has addressed this issue during his presidency. He has brought about four standards for all Affirmative Action programs that still exist: no quotas in theory or practice, no illegal discrimination of any kind, no preferences for people that are not qualified, and as soon as the program has succeeded it must be retired. Although the president has stated these guidelines, it hasn’t changed everyone’s way of business or thinking.
The people who are benefiting from the Affirmative Action programs that are still around today are people who never suffered any injustice from our past. Our work force is now being made up of younger people who never once had the government tell them were they had to get a drink of water or sit on a bus. Those days have passed and it is time for our country to move on and let the past rest. Affirmative Action is nothing more than a legal way to discriminate. If the plans are meant to make up for the discrimination of the minorities of the past by discriminating against the majority now, then that is saying that two wrongs make a right. Now the only one who suffers is the white male who gets rejected for a position for being part of the majority. Will this whole idea of Affirmative Action really help end the barriers of discrimination, or will it just enrage the people who are now suffering because of it and make the situation worse?
by, CAC, ASU