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What is affirmative action? Affirmative action is defined as a tool to monitor the consequences of employment practices. Affirmative action analyses determine whether employment practices result in a diverse applicant pool. The following quote by the former United States Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, seems to summarize the government’s perception of this sensitive subject:An Affirmative Action Plan is a ?careful, systematic analysis of who you?ve got, who?s out there, and how you are going to broaden opportunity. The plan creates opportunity. It?s not a quota machine. The purpose of goals and timetables in Affirmative Action Plans is to get employers to cast a wider net to find qualified applicants.?Throughout the history of the United States of America the intense and controversial view of “equality” has been a hot topic. With that in mind, our founding fathers of this great country set forth the three theories of what every citizen should be entitled to; freedom, order and equality. Their perception of what equality meant has taken on many different definitions as we as a society have evolved and changed.As a human being and especially as a citizen of the United States of America, I believe that civil rights are a very intricate part of our existence. When those rights are violated, a person tends to feel betrayed and persecuted due to their color, race, religion or personal beliefs. Therefore, the context of affirmative action seems to play a part in the balance of equality.In 1954, the Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education. The Court ruled that the concept of “separate, but equal facilities established on the basis of race” be deemed unconstitutional. Since racism and indifference had restricted rights for blacks, executive orders issued by presidents in the 1950s and 1960s established the concept of anti-discrimination measures to guarantee fair treatment of blacks by government contractors. Under President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, an executive order was issued to apply for contracts to solve the problem in political, economic and education. This seemed to affect minorities and also women in employment at that time. In response to the civil rights movement, President John F. Kennedy created a Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity in 1961 and issued Executive Order 10925, which used the term “affirmative action” to refer to measures designed to achieve non-discrimination.In 1964 after this term was coined, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act increased the authority of affirmative action agents to institute quotas and preferential hiring to increase representation of minorities and to ameliorate discrimination. It not only prohibited discrimination on grounds of race, age, religion, and national origin but also on grounds of sex. And since, the affirmative action programs focused on minority groups that were determined by the federal government such as: Asian or Pacific Islander-Persons having origins in any of the original people of the far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes: China, Japan, Korea, Philippine Islands, and Samoa. Black (not of Hispanic Origin), Hispanic such as Mexican, Cuban…, American Indian: people of North America.In 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, which required federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees treated without discrimination, a definition similar to that in Executive Order 10925. In 1967, President Johnson issued Executive Order 11375, which included sex along with race as an illegitimate basis of discrimination. The core principle of affirmative action is that of requiring “something more” of employers in order to overcome prior discrimination. In 1968, gender was added to the protected categories.Although affirmative action in the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination within minority groups involving employment, it did not cover educational institutions. Consequently, the Equal Employment Act of 1972 forced colleges and universities to admit members of minorities in greater numbers, especially in professional and graduate schools. The government recognized that educational opportunities to be as significant as those relating to employment.Another change was to quickly ensue. In 1973 nearing the end of the Vietnam War, President Gerald. R. Ford extended affirmative action to people with disabilities and veterans of the war.In 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke involved affirmative action in education. The case was presented to the Supreme Court and they made a landmark ruling. A closely divided Supreme Court, with no majority opinion and six opinions in all, struck down a medical school admissions program that set aside a specific number of places for “disadvantaged” minority students. Yet the court upheld under the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, consideration of race as a “plus” factor in admissions for the purpose of fostering educational benefits that flow from student body diversity. As Justice Lewis Powell stated, “[N]o..facial infirmity exists in an admissions program where race or ethnic background is simply one element to be weighed fairly against other elements in the selection process.” The desire to obtain a “diverse” student body was found to be a compelling goal in the educational context in Justice Powell’s controlling opinion.Bakke was admitted in conjunction with the ruling of the Supreme Court. Also within the same timeframe, President Jimmy Carter created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program (OFCCP) to ensure compliance with the affirmative action policies.Over the course of the following years, the state of California did many things to implement affirmative action within it’s own government. In 1981, in an executive order by Governor Jerry Brown gave the Secretary of State the power to implement affirmative action programs in any state department, board or commission that did not already give a yearly report to the governor. Following that order, the California State Personnel Board issued its goal to have the civil service workforce match the overall labor force in 10 years. From the time period of 1987-1988, the state of California issued a 10 percent hiring goal for people with disabilities.In 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12432, which directed each federal agency with substantial procurement or grant making authority to develop a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) development plan. Efforts were made in 1985 by some in the Reagan administration to repeal Executive Order 11246. Those attempts were thwarted by defenders of affirmative action, including other Reagan administration officials and members of Congress from both parties.Another landmark case involving education at the collegiate level ensued in 1996. In Hopwood v. Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled against the University of Texas, deciding that its law school’s policy of considering race in the admissions process was a violation of the Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the ruling because the program at issue was no longer in use.In 1998, both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate had thwarted recent attempts to eliminate specific affirmative action programs. First both houses rejected amendments to abolish the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program funded through the Transportation Bill, and then the House rejected an attempt to eliminate use of affirmative action in admissions in higher-education programs funded through the Higher Education Act.In conclusion, the executive orders issued by Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson were designed to protect minorities from further discrimination and more importantly, to ameliorate the effects of past discrimination. These orders had to be strengthened when they met with resistance and with noncompliance. Thus, affirmative action was designed to serve a larger purpose than merely breaking down the barriers and forcing compliance. One of the main purposes of affirmative action is to give our nation a way to finally address the systemic exclusion of individuals of talent on the basic of their gender or race from opportunities to develop, perform, achieve and contribute. It is an effort to develop a systematic approach to open the doors of education, employment and business development opportunities to qualified individuals who happen to be members of groups that have experienced long-standing and persistent discrimination.If our society would breakdown the stereotypical walls of prejudice, affirmative action would not be needed. But as history has shown, affirmative action has been defined, modified and removed in some sections of the laws that govern our very existence. I believe that until we as a societal unit become educated and tolerant of the complex country that we live in, these laws must remain.

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