Affirmative Action University of Phoenix Susan E. Ricard Since the beginning of affirmative action, there has been controversy about the program being an effective tool to eliminate discrimination in education and the workplace. Even though the numbers with affirmative action plans seemed to have improved the percentage of minorities in schools and workplaces, it does not work to mandate that people change. Once the mandates disappear the numbers begin to decrease.
In its conception in 1964 with the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action was meant to be a way of allowing an equal opportunity for, at this time, blacks to be given the same chances as white men. The argument was that since the beginning of America, blacks had not been treated fairly, even inhumane at times, being used as property. They were not allowed to educate themselves or think for themselves. Because of the injustices done to them, there was a need for restitution for the wrongs that white men had done. Williams 2009). Affirmative action was supposed to be the law to make white men see blacks as equal. The law was also expected to “level the playing field” even if it meant patronizing blacks because they didn’t have the same advantages to excel without being patronized. Those in favor of affirmative action want the minority population to excel and have the same chances that white men have. Unfortunately, the belief that creating laws to change people’s predispositions is only possible if everyone agrees and abides with those laws.
When people have preconceived ideas of others based on upbringing and years of believing stereotypes quick resolves are not usually a possibility. These mandates are meant to make people change the way they have been taught to think since birth. Proponents of affirmative action believe that there have been and still are today too many minorities that do not have an equal chance in employment and education. There have been huge strides in education and employment as it pertains to increasing the percentages of minorities that now have jobs and/or are in colleges.
According to ACLU Affirmative Action Report, less than 5% of college students were black in 1955, one year after The Civil Rights Act Was passed. (2000). Over 11% of college students were black by 1990, a closer representative of the percentage of blacks to whites in the U. S. population. Statistics from the U. S. Bureau of Labor in 1994 illustrates that from 1982-1995 percentages of female, black, and Hispanic laborers increased from 40. 5% to 48%, 5. 5% to 7. 5%, and 5. 2% to 7. 6% respectively. Affirmative action groups would argue that it is because of their platform and action that this has taken place.
There is a plausible argument for this. However, would this outcome have been equal, better or, “more permanent”, if a different course of action had been implemented, or even no action at all? When we look at the data, an argument can be made for both sides. The question remains though, “do people as individuals think differently about minorities today? ” Is it not the goal of the Civil Rights Act about not seeing people for skin color or sex, but as human beings with value and something to offer society? The civil rights act “forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. (National Archives and Records Administration, n. d. ). With affirmative action programs we are constantly asked to look at someone’s skin color or sex to determine if they fit the criteria that affirmative action asks. If businesses do not enforce making sure that they include minorities, they are punished whether or not the minority applicants qualified for admittance or position. The government says, in essence, we must also lower standards in these areas so that those who are of different skin color or sex will qualify for admission. Williams 2009). A quote from the article Action Plans Needed to Speed Up Affirmative Action states, “the charity and patronage approach to affirmative action is more likely to perpetuate inequalities than address them. ” (2009). Should not the proponents of affirmative action, rather, want to improve the education of the minorities before college so that the standards can remain equal? How compassionate are people when the standards are lowered and what does that do to the mentality of the ones who get accepted without actually being good enough.
Lyndon Johnson stated it perfectly by saying, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say,” ’You are free to compete’… and still justly believe that you have been completely fair”. (Nagel, 2001). To make someone more equal, progressive steps should be involved. Those on the minority side, who may not have the best education, sometimes must work harder to prove themselves. This work ethic is not all bad and especially, today, does not only apply to minorities but also to those with any disadvantage.
Who has ever been disappointed in themselves for working hard to get where they are, or for their accomplishments? Those that work hard to acquire success have greater self-esteem and more self-worth than those who have not had to earn a position or status. There are many prominent blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and women who have gotten their positions by hard work and determination, not affirmative action. Some of the black prominent figures who advanced themselves include: W. E. B. DuBois who helped in the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (Hynes, n. . ), Thurgood Marshall, a Supreme Court Justice beginning in 1967, Charles Hamilton Houston who conceived and led the legal strategy that led to the end of legalized segregation in the United States, (Jamar, 2004), and George E. C. Hayes who was instrumental in the case brought to the Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education, that overturned the “separate-but-equal” doctrine of a previous court case. (George C. Hayes, n. d. ) These are only a small few who have made exceptional accomplishments despite their circumstances.
In the cases that have been brought before the Supreme Court it is obvious that even the well-educated disagree about the best method of trying to get people to not make decisions based on how someone looks. In rulings over the years there have been cases overturned because of the mindsets of the judges and their opinions on what would encourage people to treat everyone with respect regardless of color or gender. Some of the cases brought before the Supreme Court were: The Bakke case: Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. ’s idea of diversity in 1978 stated the race could be a “plus” factor in college admission but not the determining factor.
This statement was made in reference to blacks specifically. (Nagel, 2001). 1986: The Supreme Court ruled that a Michigan school could not lay-off white teachers based on their skin color and continue the employment of minority teachers, solely based on their skin color, to provide role models for minority students. (Nagel, 2001). The Hopewood case: In 1996, the Fifth Court of Appeals ruled against affirmative action in the Hopewood case. The court decided that race or ethnicity could not be used as a deciding factor for college. This case involved a white woman who as denied access to college even though her test scores were higher than blacks and Hispanics that were accepted. (Nagel, 2001). Proposition 209: In 1996, an anti-affirmative action law was passed in California called Proposition 209. The law banned preferences based on skin color and sex in education, employment and contracting. Looking at the two major universities only, the graph shows that there was a big decline in minority admission. When the numbers are compared with the overall results and include other California colleges, the decrease was much less dramatic.
These numbers are attributed to the less prestigious colleges taking many of the minority students that the elite schools rejected because the minority students did not meet their higher standards. (Nagel, 2001). Those who support affirmative action would say that these are dreadful statistics because the minorities are not represented in the elite schools proportionately to their population. Not so! They were admitted where they were capable of being successful rather than quitting an elite school because they were not properly prepared. Is not success better than failure?
These are just some examples of how affirmative action has become another racial tool of measure. Affirmative action continues to lead to more discrimination based on skin color or gender rather than helping to teach people that the color of someone’s skin or whether they are male or female is not important. Everyone is an individual, no two people are alike, and not even twins are exactly alike. Why then do people try to make everyone ”equal” in the first place? Humans should be treated fairly, without preferences of sex or skin color, not equal. Nobody has the same circumstances when they are born. Everyone is different anyway.
Is it fair or equal that some are disabled? Can anyone change that they are disabled. No, but they can be treated with respect. Are there not poor white people who also do not have the advantages of certain educational resources where some blacks or Hispanics may have those opportunities? Unfortunately, things that have happened in the past cannot be changed and there is no such thing as a “level playing field”. The blood, internal organs, skeletal system, nervous system and other bodily systems look the same when the skin is removed. Any color skin can smell good or stink. They can be obnoxious or friendly.
Their hair can be short or long. No matter the color of their skin some could be fat and some can be thin. Their personality can be shy or outgoing. None of these attributes are exclusive to one color skin or gender. All are possible in any form. Why, then, is there a need to keep pointing out the color of the skin one wears? Everyone has preconceived ideas of people with first impressions. Sometimes our judgments are right and other times they could be wrong. Developing relationships with people to get to know them rather than accepting a first judgment is a better and more logical course of action.
Determining how to treat someone based on race, gender, or any other predetermined qualification is not a rational choice. What if someone were blind? How do they judge first impressions? The affirmative action policy has had over 40 years to change people’s thinking and hearts. It has not been completely non-beneficial, but there could be a better way. Most people tend to rebel when told to do something they do not agree with. The object is not to force people to do actions they do not support, but to get them to change their hearts and minds to want to support it.
The question remains then, what is the best method of encouraging change? Methods that build teamwork using different personality types and skin colors or genders to accomplish the goals are tested methods. When there is a specific goal that is not focusing on the individual, but rather teamwork and depending on one another in a difficult situation, being “color blind” becomes more attainable. Affirmative action, though noble in theory, unfortunately is faulty. People cannot be mandated to change and only so much restitution can be paid to try to rectify a wrong.
At some point the realization needs to be accepted that people cannot be forced to think different and the past is the past. Why hold everyone accountable today for the wrongs of their ancestors when they did not own slaves and mistreat the black people. Why try to “level the playing field” when our differences make people who they are? Why try to force individuals to believe things they do not believe. Let us simply treat all people respectfully. Maybe the consideration of the golden rule would be a valuable lesson to remember. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. References
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