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Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper

While the intent of Affirmative Action was admirable, this socio-economic program has not been effective in respect to modern and changing times. Affirmative Action was created to expedite the breakdown of racial barriers for the African Americans in the employment arena. Later it was expanded to combat discrimination against women and other minorities. The current scope of affirmative action programs is best understood as an outgrowth and continuation of our national effort to remedy subjugation of racial and ethnic minorities and of women — subjugation in place at our nation’s founding and still the law of the land within the lifetime of “baby-boomers.” 1 However, having served its original purpose to a certain degree, Affirmative Action has become less effective due to the fact that it has not been adopted to combat an evolved form of discrimination in today s society.Discrimination, in early twentieth century, was primarily used to maintain the status quo between the whites and the former slaves. It was the only legal form of racial suppression allowed by law at the time. Not only was it legally permitted, there were laws enacted in the South to advocate this racial subjugation. While in the North, which has been known to be more liberal in respect to the South, racial discrimination at the time was not practiced by law, but instead by custom. As author Brian K. Fair states, in numerous industries, unions covering shipbuilding, machinists, maritime construction, transit, and trucking excluded blacks from membership or relegated them to the hardest, dirtiest, most dangerous, lowest-paying work.2 This began to change with the advent of the Civil Rights movement, before and during the 60 s. As the considerable African American population became conscious of the fact that its strength lay in numbers, they began to organize and from alliances to better their condition. The first major instance of this was in 1941, when President Roosevelt was threatened by A. Phillip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, with a national march on Washington to protest employment discrimination, he declared, in Executive Order 8802, making discrimination in employment against the law.3 While this mandate pacified the protesters for a time, it was not enforced until the Civil Rights movement in the 60 s. The Kennedy administration took this a step further and outlawed overt discrimination but also required that contractors pledge to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants would be employed and treated without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. This was the true beginning of Affirmative Action. While subsequent laws followed that would strengthen and attempt to close any loopholes in this program, Affirmative Action was effectively breaking down the foundation supporting discrimination.What Affirmative Action set out to do for the African American workforce was remove the blatant racial barriers obstructing them. Thus, they now had access to opportunities in areas where they were previously barred. However, this reform ushered in a new form of discrimination, that of racial biases within the employment structure. While African Americans were now allowed to actively compete for the same jobs as the majority whites, few succeeded. This can be attributed to a new form of discrimination that had snuck through the cracks of the earlier reforms and now set out to victimize legally.

Affirmative Action was later expanded to serve the needs of women and other minorities. Affirmative Action programs have played a critical role in opening up opportunities for women and other minorities to begin to take their rightful place in our society. Between 1970 and 1990, the proportion of women physicians doubled from 7.6% to 16.9%. 4 However, as with African Americans Gains made during the last thirty years of its implementation have helped women (mostly white women), yet have fallen short of the goal of full equality throughout American Society. 5 However, as started earlier, the government has not and cannot effectively enforce Affirmative Action on subtle discrimination. Affirmative Action has now come to be regarded as a quota rather than an equal opportunity-merit based systems. It has also come under attack on the suspicions that it propagates reverse discrimination. The reverse discrimination theory is that Affirmative Action is a policy that offers special advantages to minorities and prevents white males from getting their equal due on the basis of their sex and race.6 This view argues that white males are discriminated against due to urgent demands to meet a minority-centered quota. Based on this view Affirmative Action was first challenged in 1968, in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, where a white medical school applicant challenged the university s racially biased admission policy in court.7 At the end of 1994, this was taken a step further. A new proposal was unveiled in California, the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), which promised to end the use of race and gender preferences in state employment, contracting, and education.8 While it did stir up a great deal of controversy, it was the first time a large portion of the public directly voted on a civil rights measure and made it into law.While initially Affirmative Action was established as part of society’s efforts to address continuing problems of racial subjugation in the employment domain, it no longer is as effective in current times as it was when first initiated. The method and role of discrimination has changed, however the measures to combat these biases have not. While originally the objective of Affirmative Action was to give African Americans, women and other minorities an opportunity to obtain equal employment, it now serves to make the playing field unequal on the basis of race and gender. Affirmative Action has now become a program of quotas, where no one is served justly. The only solution is to modify Affirmative Action to serve the anti-discrimination principle in a new era.

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