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Affirmative Action Essay, Research Paper

The affirmative action program is important because it gives job opportunities for many people regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, and national origin. The work force should be well represented by the different ethnic backgrounds of our society. Some people look at affirmative action as reverse discrimination, but this program doesn t guarantee employment based on race, ethnicity, or gender. The affirmative action program gives equal consideration to individuals from a different race, ethnicity, or gender, but not one of these factors may be the only factor used to determine an individual s qualifications for any job.

The biggest dispute of the program is the belief that the policy allows less qualified candidates to progress due to different standards for minorities and non-minorities. People need to realize that affirmative action gives balance in the workplace so that everyone from different ethnic backgrounds would be represented in today s diverse society.

There are few social policy issues that gauge the racial and division among the American people than the affirmative action. Affirmative Action is a term referring to the laws and social policies intended to resolve discrimination that limits the opportunities of people regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, and national origin. Supporters and opponents of affirmative action hold strong to their believes and constantly attack the opposing viewpoints.

Advocates believe that affirmative action overcomes discrimination, gives qualified minorities a chance to compete on equal footing whites, and provides them with the same opportunities. Opponents claim that affirmative action puts unskilled minorities

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in positions that they are not qualified for, tarnishes the reputation of minorities that accomplishes success on their own, and violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

Since the beginning of affirmative action, the definition has been ever changing in order to satisfy the present beliefs of society. Prohibiting the discrimination in hiring, expanding the filing of application to include more minorities, compensating for past grievances, setting quotas (percentages of a certain type of people that had to be included), have all been part of the definition.

As much as many people would like for affirmative action to be abolished, affirmative action is still needed in order to give opportunities to minorities who do not have access to social or corporate connections. The truth of the matter is that many people climb the corporate ladder because they are associated with the right people whom are making executive decisions that make a difference. The government intends to provide equal opportunity based upon the individual s merit. Affirmative action provides qualified individuals with a variety of job opportunities; this program could be viewed as another avenue to excel in a career or towards a higher education.

In many occurrences, minorities have been discriminated because it has been the custom not to hire them. Many city police and fire departments traditionally did not hire blacks; many craft unions did not accept black members. Many big companies did not hire blacks for higher positions; instead, blacks were hired as kitchen assistants and janitors. When these kinds of patterns are evident, affirmative action and quotas may be valid tools to respond with.

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The use of affirmative action and quotas was demonstrated in 1983 in hearings

held by Representative Don Edwards (D-Cal.) and Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.). Alabama has seen dramatic changes in black employment in public agencies over the past decade. Judge Frank Johnson of Montgomery, Alabama contributed to these changes.

Johnson established a quota on temporary hires. The quota was at 25 percent and the quota was met, but there was still no improvement in permanent positions.

In January 1972, the Alabama NAACP filed suit against the Department of Public Safety, the state troopers. At this time, everyone in Public Safety including the troopers, the officers, and the support personnel was white. Judge Johnson set a trial date and ruled that the Public Safety had practiced discrimination. Johnson then imposed a quota that required the Public Safety to hire one black trooper for each new white hired until blacks reached 25 percent of the trooper force. Johnson also imposed the same formula to support personnel. The state complied and within weeks, Alabama had hired its first black troopers. Within two years, there were a substantial number of blacks on the force. Later on, the director of Public Safety testified that they were competent professionals.

More than a decade later after Judge Johnson s ruling, Alabama has the most integrated state police force in the country. More than 20 percent of the troopers and officers are black; nearly 25 percent of the support personnel are black.

Affirmative action may not be desirable to some people, but it could be an effective remedy if companies are discriminating against minorities with the same talents and training as white men applicants. Affirmative action is about people having the chance to participate and contribute in the economy. It is also about the right of all

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Americans to have access to higher education.

We have come a long way ensuring that economic opportunity exists for all Americans; yet much work still remains to be done. This is why it would be very important that the government does not withdraw from affirmative action at this point in time. All facts should be considered before putting an end to affirmative action. Affirmative action is about fairness and not a debate about race. It is more about being allowed to participate and fully contribute in society, regardless of gender or race.

If all facts were considered, it would be clearer that affirmative action is about equal economic opportunity, not just for minorities, but for women as well. It is about providing a chance to compete and participate in the economy. Every American would benefit when each person has the chance to contribute to the maximum extent of his or her ability. Affirmative action opens doors and provides opportunities for many people.

Since 1964, our economy has created 50 million new jobs; many women and minorities entered the workforce, but they did not take away jobs held by white men. Using the talents that a diverse workforce brings to the economy created these jobs. Affirmative action is not about taking away opportunities, but about creating them.

When discussing the progress that was made with affirmative action, it has indeed helped many individuals. African American men in particular have benefited the least of any group from affirmative action. When the word affirmative action is heard, people automatically think that the black man as the beneficiary. In reality African American men have seen very little or no improvement over the past decade compared to

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white men. In 1975, black men earned 74.3 percent of what white males did, in 1985, the figure dropped to 69.7 percent, in 1993, the figure climbed to 74 percent.

The lack of progress by black men is across the board, regardless of one s qualifications or education level. The fact remains that black men with professional degrees do not necessarily close the pay gap. African American men with professional degrees earn 79 percent of what their white counter part make. A Wall Street Journal study showed that black men were the only group that suffered a net unemployment loss during the recession in 1900-1991. The facts of affirmative action show that white men are not losing jobs to black men.

Women have made great strides with the affirmative action program. Women are now working in professions that had been previously off limits to them. In 1972, women made up 3 percent of the architects, by 1993, the number climbed to 18.6 percent. In 1972, women were 10 percent of all physicians, but in 1993, the amount more than doubled to 22 percent. In 1972, only 4 percent of all lawyers were women, the number grew to 23 percent by 1993. Women also made great strides in the science field. In 1972, women made up less than 1 percent of engineers and by that number increased to 8.6 percent. Women only made up 22 percent of the advertising profession, and by 1993, amount more than doubled to 50 percent. Women hold 42 percent of teaching positions, compared to 28 percent in 1972. These examples show the significant gains that women have made in society with assistance of affirmative action.

The fact is, as Americans, we are all in this together, and we all have a big challenge to face together in this time of change in the world and in our country.

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Affirmative action should be the focus of our collective efforts to make things better for everyone. We need to address the critical economic and social issues of our time. No issue is more critical to our country, and no issue is more critical to me. Nothing makes a bigger difference in a person s life than opening up opportunities. Affirmative action has made a positive impact on the economic well being of our nation.

The fact is that the successes in the economy that women and minority men have achieved over these past decades since the first affirmative action Executive Order by President Johnson were not due to quotas. The quota debate is false. It is an attempt to reduce affirmative action to an absurdity that serves only to pander to negative emotions. When supporters of affirmative action speak, they are talking about a wide range of activities figured to support opportunity and diversity in the workplace and in our economy. The quota argument suggests that numbers be looked at before the fact of limited opportunity for some. Affirmative action, on the other hand, looks at numbers after the fact, to observe the effects of diversity in the workplace.

Affirmative action must always be fair action. No one benefit, not the community, the company, nor the individuals involved if unqualified people replace qualified ones. But that is not what affirmative action is suppose to do. It is never fair to promote an unqualified individual at the expense of a qualified individual, which is why affirmative action does not require employers to do. To require that a person be hired or promoted, solely on the basis of their gender, race, not their competence, is exactly the type of discrimination affirmative action seeks to end.

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Instead, affirmative action encourages employers or educators to seek out all qualified applicants, regardless of their gender or race. There are a number of workplace practices such as, word of mouth recruiting, and job requirements that are unrelated to actual duties. That could have an effect on hiring and promotion whether intentional or not. Affirmative action works to ensure this does not occur, by reaching out to qualified minorities.

In addition, affirmative action helps ensure that job requirements fit the job.

Under affirmative action, employers are no longer allowed to establish irrelevant criteria that applicant must fulfill before being considered for hiring or promotion. These measures usually work to exclude otherwise qualified individuals.

The roots of affirmative action lie in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At first, affirmative action aimed to eliminate racial imbalance in hiring policies; later the goals were extended to include college admissions and extended protections to all people of color, women, older people, and people with disabilities. Equal opportunity laws ban discrimination. Affirmative action goes farther by requiring employers to take affirmative steps to achieve a balanced representation of workers.

The controversy about affirmative action is becoming more complex and confusing for many people, but the climate of general acceptance of affirmative action may be shifting. In 1974, the city of Memphis signed a consent ruling that settled a suit brought against the city by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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The city agreed to set aside 50 percent of all job vacancies for qualified black applicants. In 1980, the city also agreed to ensure that 20 percent of the promotions in each job classification be given to blacks.

In neither ruling was there any reference to what would happen if some firefighters or others were laid off. In, 1981, the city announced that projected budget deficits required a reduction in personnel and that the citywide seniority system would be followed. Of the 40 firefighting employees to be laid off 25 were white and 15 were black.

The Federal District Court prohibited the city from following the seniority rule since it would be inconsistent with the consent ruling agreed to by the city. The Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the injunction, but on June 12, 1984, the United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that Federal courts had no power to impose on a city a policy that preferred affirmative action to seniority.

The Supreme Court decision can be viewed as not to cut short affirmative action, but only as an insistence that Federal courts cannot go beyond their proper mandate.

I am glad that I have chosen to write about affirmative action because I have learned that this issue is so complex that indeed much more work need to be done. I think that early education about affirmative action is extremely needed; too many people do not really understand what this program is really about. Corporate executives attend affirmative action conferences, but too many Americans just do not know understand the importance of affirmative action.

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The opportunities are there, but too many young people are just not aware of the opportunities that are available. It is extremely important that every single student in high school has some level of understanding what affirmative action is really about. If young Americans were being educated about the wide opportunities that are available for them, more would give it a try to acquire a higher education or job training.

Everyone knows that college and military recruiters come to high schools to recruit graduating students, but the school faculty really need to go above and beyond their call of duty to educate students about the different types of programs that will enable students to get a higher education or job training after high school. Young Americans need the guidance and assistance to acquire the tools they need to succeed and one of those tools is knowing about affirmative action; not only what affirmative action can do for Americans, but what Americans can do for affirmative action.

Works Cited

Altschiller, Donald. Affirmative Action. New York: Wilson, 1991.

Barbour, Scott, David L Bender, Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Mary E. Williams. Discrimination. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997.

Bardes, Barbara A., Steffen W. Schmidt, and Mack C. Shelley. American Government and Politics Today. Belmont: West Wadsworth, 1997.

Bender, David L., Bruno Leone, Lori Shein, and Bonnie Szumski. y. Inequality. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998.

Blackman, Ann. Affirmative Action. Time March 1995: 11-13.

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