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Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper

I. The History of Diversity in America

Known as the ?Melting Pot?, America is a country with a more diverse population than any other. But America also has a long, painful past of discrimination that has been based on sex, race, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation and various other characteristics that stray from the average white American citizen. Through the years, government has played a major role in trying to correct the past wrongs due to discrimination by enacting legislation and adding amendments to the Constitution. The primary purpose of these measures is to enforce non-discriminating employment practices and to encourage, and sometimes force, companies to increase their representation of women and minority group members in the workplace. This move toward equal opportunity has come about through numerous measures enacted throughout our history. A few of those policies, such as ?Affirmative Action?, contain very controversial issues that many employers hope to see changed, or done away wi! th all together. For the present time, however, the trend continues in most every state and is enforced by law. The effects of diversity on our nation can be traced back to the civil war period. This period of upheaval is a perfect example of the struggle many Americans went through to free black slaves. The blacks were made slaves in the states for a number of reasons. The blacks were a representation of difference, therefore the whites viewed them as being unequal. We also seem to fear that which is different, so we try to keep them down. The blacks represented such a small percentage of the population that it was easy for the white slave owners to control them. The diversity issue among the blacks and whites created a civil war within our nation that pitted friends and family against one another, and our whole nation was in turmoil. Many lives were lost fighting for the freedom of the slaves. On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery and declared all slaves free by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation (the thirteenth amendment to our constitution).(! Sandburg, 17)

An excerpt from the proclamation follows: ? . . . That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever, free; . . .?(Sandburg, 17)

Soon after the issuance of the amendment, various states enacted ?black codes? that limited the newly enacted civil rights of the freed slaves. In 1868, the fourteenth amendment was passed to counter the ?black codes? to ensure that no state could make, or enforce, a law which served to take civil rights away from any person (FindLaw).

But discrimination wasn?t only geared towards blacks. Any person who was not your average able, white male was discriminated against. Females, the disabled, the aged, and all other groups not fitting the norm were the targets both in and out of the workplace. The reasons for the discrimination ranged from their color, weight, religion, ethnic background, sex, culture, etc. A memorable incident that is seared in the minds of many Americans took place on December 1, 1955. Rosa Parks, a nineteen-year-old black women, took a seat on the Montgomery, Alabama bus lines on her way home from work. The bus lines were segregated, therefore the blacks had to sit in the back behind the section labeled ?for whites only?. When Rosa was told to give up her seat for a white man, and move further to the back, she refused. She was not only tired from working all day, but tired of the way she was treated. Before the incident was over Rosa Parks was arrested. The public was outraged and precipitated the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. City buses would no longer be ridden by black Americans, which constituted 70 percent of the riders. The boycott continued for 381 days, until December 20, 1956, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court?s decision declaring Montgomery?s segregated seating unconstitutional. This incident seemed to be the spark t! hat ignited the U.S. civil rights movement. This was also the time in which Martin Luther King, Jr., a pastor, first came to National prominence. He was a powerful speaker, and later, catapulted to the forefront in an effort to gain civil rights for Black Americans. Another landmark case to end segregation came with Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. This case argued that the policy established by the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling was unconstitutional. All nine judges agreed, and ordered the immediate desegregation of public schools. In protection of the nine black students trying to gain admission to the Little Rock High School, President Eisenhower had to federalize the Arkansas National Guard and send one thousand paratroopers, from the 101st Airborne platoon. Many schools simply chose to close their doors rather than integrate. The changes were slow in coming. (The Hall of Public Service, 2). One of the prominent changes that occurred was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was a huge step towards greater civil rights legislation and a major step toward equality for all. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was developed to deter the actions of individuals who were in violation of the civil rights of other Americans. Congress was able to pass this act due to their power to regulate interstate commerce. The original act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in public establishments connected to interstate commerce or supported by the state. These public establishments were defined as places of public accommodation (hotels, motels, trailer parks, etc.), restaurants, gas stations, bars, taverns and places of entertainment. This act was also detrimental in aiding desegregation due to its inclusion of a strong legislative policy that dealt with discrimination in colleges and public schools. Still yet, another victory was awarded un! der Title VI of the civil rights act, which prohibited discrimination in federally funded programs (Civil Rights Act of 1964). The keystone federal legislation regarding equal employment opportunity came with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act eventually led to the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Title VII was crucial in the battle to enlist nondiscriminatory practices in organizations. It prevented employers, labor unions, employment agencies and other labor and employment related organizations, that were engaged in interstate commerce, from discriminating against a person based on their color, race, religion, sex or national origin in employment and training practices. It became the job of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to administer the act and play watchdog on those organizations covered by the act, to ensure they don?t engage in any unlawful employment practices. This was still not enough to gain rights for certain individuals. (Civil Right Act of 1964). In 1961, President Kennedy issued an executive order requiring businesses, with U.S. government contracts, to treat employees without regard to race, ethnic origin, religion, or sex. Kennedy was the first to relate to this procedure as Affirmative Action (Campbell, 135). This course of action has grown into a profound and widespread practice through bureaucratic action, court order, and the acceptance of business and government alike (Krauthammer, 94). The Equal Opportunity Act of 1972, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, included a broader array of organizations subject to Title VII. The organizations currently covered under Title VII are: all private employers of 15 or more people employed 20 or more weeks out of the year, all public and private educational institutions, state and local governments, public and private employment agencies, labor unions with 15 or more members, or that operate a hiring hall or office, and joint labor-management committees for apprenticeships and training (Equal Opportunity Act of 1972). This act was also detrimental in helping another minority group obtain greater rights, that of females. In 1972, congress proposed the Equal Rights Amendment (written in 1921 by suffragist Alice Paul) to provide an express constitutional provision prohibiting the denial of equality of rights on account of sex. For women, whom have struggled for equality for years, this was to be a great milestone. Unfortunately, this amendment was not adopted due to the lack of support. Ratification of an amendment requires three fourths of the state legislatures support (38 states) within the original or an extended ratification period, but only 35 states ratified the amendment (N.O.W.). Affirmative action has barely had time to affect a single generation, but its effects have been widespread and have had a major impact on America. Affirmative action refers to the encouragement of increased representation of women and minority group-members, especially in the employment setting. The way in which representation is achieved is open to the discretion of each organization. Over the last couple of decades, affirmative action plans have involved ?preferential? treatment towards women and especially minority groups. This preferential treatment has been dubbed ?Reverse Discrimination? by many that believe that the majority groups are being adversely affected by these practices. This issue was first recognized as a reality soon after the ruling in a landmark Supreme Court case dealing with affirmative action plans. In 1968, due to a lack of minority representation, the University of California at Davis developed a special admissions program in an effort to incre! ase minority representation. In 1971, sixteen of the one hundred freshman positions were set aside to be filled by ?disadvantaged? applicants (minorities) chosen by a separate admissions committee. In 1973-1974, Alan Bakke, a Caucasian male, was denied admission to the university. Bakke contended that the special program had admitted minority students with lower grade averages and test scores than himself, so he filed a lawsuit. Bakke said he had been discriminated against because of his race and argued that the school?s special admissions committee system violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With this case ?reverse discrimination? was born. This type of discrimination happens when one group (minority or female) is ?alleged preferential treatment over another group, rather than equal opportunity?. On June 28, 1978, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5 to 4 decision, that Bakke should be allowed to attend the medical school, and further, found the school?s special admissions system to be illegal. On the reverse side of the issue, in another 5-4 decision, the court ruled that some forms of race-conscious admissions programs are constitutional, and that race or ethnic background may be considered a plus in an applicants file. This ruling doesn?t protect the individual from being compared with other candidates, but it should provide for equal opportunity and for certain considerations to be made. This somewhat hazy decision opened the doors for future court hearings on the legitimacy of reverse discrimination (Byars and Rue, 40). This ruling did not ban affirmative action programs, therefore, this so called ?preferential treatment? continues today and is still the subject of much heated debate. Many people believe that affirmative action has served its purpose of avenging past discrimination. In its 30 years of existence, it wasn?t until recently that affirmative action has been put to the democratic test. Due to the vagueness of past court decisions dealing with affirmative action (some which seem conflicting), these practices have evolved and sparked even more controversy. An example of these conflicting and unclear decisions is the comparison of Regents of the University of California V. Bakke and the recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Hopwood V. Texas. Be reminded that Regents of the University of California V. Bakke is the landmark case, which set affirmative action on its winding path in 1978. In March of 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declared an affirmative action program adopted by the University of Texas Law School to be illegal. The program lowered the required grade point averages for blacks and Mexican American applicants relative to other groups and lowered the minimum standards for Law School Admissions Tests for these groups as well. The appellate court directed university officials to develop a ?color-blind? admissions program immediately while Judge Jerry Smith, speaking for the Fifth Circuit, declared that: ?The use of race to achieve a diverse student body can not be a state interest compelling enough to meet the steep standard of strict scrutiny. Within the general principles of the Fourteenth Amendment, the use of race in admissions for diversity in higher education contradicts, rather than furthers, the aims of equal protection. Diversity fosters, rather than minimizes, the use of race. It treats minorities as a group, but, just as likely, may promote improper racial stereotypes, thus fueling racial hostility.? (Bresler, 7)

Smith went on to state that a university could consider:

?a host of factors – some of which may have some correlation with race – in making admissions decisions?diversity can take many forms, to foster such diversity, state universities and law schools and other governmental entities must scrutinize applicants individually, rather than resorting to the dangerous proxy of race.? (Bresler, 7)

The Hopwood case is being appealed to the Supreme Court, and whether or not Judge Smith?s opinion is upheld, will have a dramatic impact on the future of affirmative action and this country as a whole (Bresler, 7).

This ruling by the Fifth Circuit sends confusing signals to Americans. What has been law and considered the right thing to do for 30 years is now being portrayed as a somewhat harmful and racist technique. Another important court decision that took place prior to Hopwood is Adarand Constructors Inc. V. Pena in 1995. This decision backs up the Hopwood ruling in that it questioned the legality of properly designed affirmative action programs and called for strict scrutiny to be applied to federal affirmative action programs (Hair, 12). To better understand affirmative action, it is necessary to look at the effects that affirmative action legislation has had on America. The average annual earnings of a full-time male worker in 1975 (based on 1993 dollars) as compared to the earnings of that same individual in 1993 are as follows: Males 1975 1993 % change

White $34,000 $31,000 (8.8%)

Black $25,000 $23,500 (6.0%)

Hispanic $24,000 $20,000 (16.7%)

The average annual earnings of full-time, female workers for the same ethnic groups were, in general, below those of the males. White women?s earnings climbed steadily between 1975 and 1990, but began to plateau in 1993, while the same trend affected the earnings of Blacks and Hispanics, but to a slightly different degree. The earnings of Black and Hispanic women did not increase nearly as sharply as the earnings of White women, but they experienced approximately the same decrease. For both male and female workers, Hispanics have experienced the lowest earnings of all (Campbell, 140). This is not to say that affirmative action doesn?t have any benefits, only that it acts more as a preventive measure than a ?boost?. Without affirmative action these minority groups would probably be earning much less. But it is important to point out that while the earnings of these minority groups are slightly increasing, so are the earnings of Whites, but at a faster pace.

Affirmative action may see drastic changes in the future. On Nov. 5, 1996, the state of California held a referendum on affirmative action (the first and, so far, only one of its kind). The citizen voters, by a majority of 750,000, voted to repeal affirmative action. On Nov. 22, Chief U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, after self-consultation, temporarily blocked the repeal. Henderson claims he consulted the Constitution as well. This referendum, known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, or Proposition 209, makes it illegal for the state to either ?discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to? any person based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Henderson claimed that Proposition 209 violates the fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing all Americans equal protection of the laws. Henderson?s decision was appealed and, after a lengthy battle and several judiciary panels, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that proposition 209 would remain in e! ffect. Proposition 209 became California state law on August 28, 1997 (S.A.D.P.). As stated earlier, while many refer to the U.S as the ?melting pot?, others, according to Tom Brockov, see it more as a frying pan. Not everyone enjoys the competitive devices behind the capitalistic system, especially when not awarded the same opportunities. Instead, they see life as a predator ? prey relationship with unequal hunting grounds. Millions of people residing in the U.S. continue to have strong ties with the language and culture of their homelands. We live in a world that is full of people and groups that have different interests and worldviews. We all differ to some degree, but we have to learn to embrace the various lifestyles, differing product preferences, and diverse shopping patterns that are ever so present today. Our lives should be rich with traditions so our generations of the future are offered the cultural experience of their ancestry. Unfortunately, this doesn?t happen in America, as it should. We seem to live in constant conflict amongst the diverse groups that make up this great nation. This conflict seems to be based on the unregulated pursuit of self-interest, when we should be focusing more on justice for all. Although we can?t give everyone everything they want, we should honor the value of fairness in making our decisions, and to be sure we provide everyone with what they need. It seems a difficult task in today?s society, as well as in the past, for us to see and confront the disadvantages we offer others who are ?not like us?. It is unfortunate that the varying systems in this country are usually designed by the dominant groups in society to meet their own needs. If we all learned to live and work together, both the general, and the work environment, would add a great deal of value to the world. Americans are guilty of creating biases that have built barriers and prevented certain groups from taking full advantage of global opportunities. One of these biases, parochialism, is when managers have a narrow view of the world and are unable to recognize differences between the workers. They view the world and its people through their own, narrow eyes (Robbins). Another bias, ethnocentrism, is an emotional attitude that one?s culture, race, language, custom, values, status, and nationality is superior and above all others. We must find a way to rid our lives of such biases and work toward creating a multi-cultural organization. In describing the dimensions or principles of diversity, Pfeiffer and Company describe fourteen dimensions of diversity that can help build multi-cultural organizations. The diagram is designed by M. Loden and J. Rosner, and is divided into two gauges, primary and secondary dimensions. The primary dimensions characterize and encompass that which innate or natural to us at birth. These dimensions help form our self-image, our view of the world, our perceptions, and how we are perceived. The primary dimensions may or may not be visible, and are unchangeable. They have influence on the characteristics and availability of the secondary dimensions (Pfeiffer and Company, 14). The six primary dimensions are:

 Gender: This is a biological distinction of female or male. Issues concerning gender are debated and they initiate myths and unsupported opinions of whether females can perform as well as males on the job (Robbins).  Age: This basically distinguishes which generation one belongs to, and for how many years. Age is a precursor in topics of importance during the 90s due to such assumptions that older employees show a decrease in productivity with age. Between the years 1990 and 2005, the number of people 55 and older will jump to approximately 43.7% of our population. It is for reasons such as this, that laws have been enacted to protect and outlaw many business practices concerning the aged, such as mandatory, early retirement.  Ethnicity: This relates to a person?s identification with a cultural group that shares the same traditions, heritage, and national origin. It designates the basic divisions of humankind as distinguished by customs, characteristics, language, and meaning. Usually, these aspects within each, create a different response to daily life and must be dealt with effectively.  Race: This is the biological grouping within humankind, representing superficial physical differences such as slanted eyes, skin and hair color, and other physical traits. Race is only deemed important because people make it an issue, and carry this issue into their daily lives or the organizational setting.  Physical abilities or qualities: This includes body type, physical size, facial features, and abilities or disabilities, visible and invisible physical and mental talents or limitations. There are fifteen million American workers who have moderate or severe disabilities that do not interfere with their lives enough to make them unemployable (Mergernhagen). Obesity is included in this category. Based on several studies, there seemed to be an inverse relationship between obesity and earnings. Employers tended to punish obese workers as a compensation for the distaste they personally have for these people. So, in 1971, the Supreme Court set the precedent on obesity-based wage discrimination, and in 1993 a federal appeal court, with the support of the EEOC, ruled that ?morbidly obese? people were protected under the American?s with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Pagan, Davila).  Sexual and Affectionate Orientation: This dimension is not overtly observable, but it has created intense, heated debates among many, in all levels of occupations, governments, and religions. Sexual orientation includes sexual attraction toward members of the same or opposite sex, and or bisexual relations. Along with the six primary characteristics, Pfieffer & Company also include a set of secondary dimensions as well. The secondary dimensions of diversity, those characteristics that one acquires throughout their lifetime, have a tremendous impact on our lives, from birth until death. These traits affect our world view and are somewhat shaped through our experiences, therefore it is said they are somewhat within our control. Many of the characteristics are picked up in our childhood years. The seven secondary dimensions are:

 Education: This includes the formal and informal teachings we have been exposed to and the training we have received. The common thread of thought has been, if you do not go to college, or attain a higher education or skill, you are likely to be without a job, or in one which pays substantially less. Robert Reich notes that technological advances have turned previously low-skilled jobs into high-skilled jobs and have created new high-skilled occupations. He also asserts that ?workers without skills . . . find their options shrinking. More than ever before, “what you earn depends on what you learn? (Reich, 42).  Income: This is the economic conditions in which you were raised and your present economic status as well (this is closely related to geographic location).  Geographic Location: This is the location(s) in which you were raised or spent a significant part of your life, including the type of community, urban or rural. This dimension is closely related to the income dimension in peoples? perceptions or stereotyping of others. For example, sociologist Joleen Kerschenmann and Kathryn Neckerman discovered in their interviews with employers in Chicago, that many associated race with inner-city schools, poor education, inadequate work skills, and insufficient commitment to work ethic (Kantor, 233).  Marital Status: Certain perceptions exist concerning one?s marital status. If your married, you?re considered stable, yet immobile. The single or divorced individual, on the other hand, is considered unstable, yet has mobility. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the job one seeks (Rowe, 1).  Parental Status: This dimension concerns those that have children, and the way in which they raise those children (single parent, married, etc). The burden in today?s society seems to place the most burdens on women in the workplace. Women are more likely to be the ones taking care of dependents; but, for minority men and women, who unlike most white women, come from families without the financial resources to help them, so their burden is likely to be even greater (Rowe, 2). In a matter of decades, society has undergone a profound transformation in this category, particularly so in the workplace. For example, from roughly 1960 to the late 1980s, the percentage of all married mothers in the workforce rose from 28 percent to 65 percent, and the number of minor children living with one parent rose from 9 percent to nearly 25 percent.  Religious Beliefs: This is the fundamental teachings you have received about deities, and your internalized experiences from formal or informal religious practices. Religious freedom in America is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, but those freedoms are under constant stress. Religion speaks to the very core of who we are. Our most profound convictions also spawn our deepest differences (Eck, 5-11). It should be considered an important aspect of education to study world religions. It is important to educate people to understand that we cannot afford the potential waste of talent that prejudice and other negatives have caused. Strong leadership is built around a commitment to diversity as a strength, rather than a weakness (Yates). Another author who has developed a way to capitalize on the benefits of work diversity in organizations is Taylor Cox, Jr. His framework describes six dimensions that were adapted from Milton Gordon?s societal-integration model. Cox, Jr. named his framework the ?cultural-integration? model which encourages integration of culturally different groups. His framework consists of the following six dimensions:  Acculturation: This is the way that two groups harmonize together and resolve differences. It is primarily concerned with the integration of each individual culture that exists in various groups. Three methods can facilitate this. The assimilation process is the act of adopting a set of values that is most prominent in the organization. In this process, one takes on the values and norms of another culture, and leaves their own behind. The pluralism process consists of adopting values and norms from each other. The third process, cultural separatism, exists with very little adaptation by either side (Cox, Jr. 353-366).  Structural Integration: When an organization takes a look into the cultural mix, levels, and various workgroups, and tries to create an environment where all can co-exist. This would create a presence of the various cultural groups within one organization, with very little integration by any one party.  Information Integration: This concept identifies the valuable work-related contacts made outside the work setting. This informal network includes activities which would involve minority-culture members for social integration (Cox, Jr., 353-366).  Cultural Biases: This concept consists of two bases, prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice breeds when negative attitudes exist and can cause organizations to place people at a disadvantage. When practiced by a major group, its impact is far worse than when practiced by minority culture members. Discrimination, which is brought about by one?s prejudices, is the hostile, observable actions taken by certain members of the organization.  Organizational Identification: This occurs on an individual level. An individual will identify and define one?s self within their own organization. Depending on the culture, levels of identity can be seen in the members? behavior.  Inter-group conflict: This is the inter-group conflict that is referred to as ?levels of culture-group-based tensions and interpersonal friction?. Inter-group conflict can actually be an asset in an organization until increased differences occur. When this happens, between minority-group members with others, there follows a reduction of cohesiveness and communication (Cox, Jr.).

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