Affirmative action- a plan to offset past discrimination in employing or educating women, blacks etc. (Websters New World Dictionary.)
The history of affirmative action has its roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and stems from the United States Supreme case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. In 1965, President Linden B. Johnson issued Executive Order #11246 at Howard University that required federal contractors to undertake affirmative action to increase the number of minorities that they employ. President Johnson wanted to ensure that minorities were recruited to have real opportunities to be hired and then eventually get a promotion. (Internet www.sru.edu)In 1969, the department of Labor exposed widespread racial discrimination of the Construction Department so President Nixon decided to incorporate a system of “goals and timetables” that provided guidelines for companies to follow and comply with affirmative action regulations. During the presidency of Gerald Ford, he extended affirmative action to people with disabilities and Vietnam veterans but there were no goals or timetables for these two groups. This type of affirmative action required recruitment efforts, accessibility, accommodation and reviews of physical and mental job qualifications.
President Jimmy Carter consolidated all federal agencies that were required by law to follow the affirmative action play into the Department of Labor. Before Carter did this, each agency-handled affirmative action in it’s own individual way; some were not as consistent as other agencies were. He created the Office of Federal Contract compliance Program (OFCCP) in 1978 to ensure compliance with the affirmative action policies. Affirmative action began to go down hill when Ronald Regan and later George Bush came into office. Affirmative action lost some gains it had made and was more or less ignored by the Republicans in the White House and Congress. The Republicans are attempting to scare people into changing their party lines by misusing affirmative action. They are saying that affirmative action is nothing more than a quota or reverse discrimination. (Internet www.sru.edu)
Affirmative action was implemented with the idea and hope that America would finally become truly equal. The tension of the 1960’s civil rights movement had made it very clear, that the nations minority and female population was not receiving equal and social economic opportunity. The implementation of affirmative action was America’s first honest attempt at solving a problem it had previously chose to ignore. Affirmative action has had its greatest amount of success in city, state, and government jobs. Since the 1960s the area of law enforcement witnessed the greatest increase in minority applicants, and in jobs offered to minorities. The influx has been greatest in the area of government, state and city, because this type of work is easier for affirmative action to watch over and regulate. Affirmative action has experienced considerably less success in integration in big business. This is do to the fact that big business has been more resistant to affirmative action and harder to regulate. However, this is an area that most supporters of affirmative action expect to see change. (Internet www.sru.edu)
Affirmative action does not please everybody because it is a compromise. Some people feel that Affirmative action uses reverse discrimination to solve the problem of discrimination. In that, it promotes the hiring of less skilled workers: the employers have to choose from the best available employee from the minorities, instead of having the possibility to choose simply the best available employee. This bothers employers as well as employees who do not qualify for Affirmative action; the employers feel they ended up with a lesser quality worker. Here we come to yet another disadvantage of Affirmative action namely that now every employee from a minority that benefits from affirmative action bears a mark of “not being the best pick, but only the best pick from a limited group. The bypassed employees feel tricked by the government or the minority. The last could fire up racism among the bypassed group, while Affirmative action was introduced to decrease racism.
In closing I just want to say that I for one am for Affirmative action. Affirmative action has made it possible for people of my culture to get jobs to support their families, and it has also made it possible for people of my culture to get a fair shot at education. In my opinion people need to realize that thirty years of affirmative action isn’t enough time to solve a major social problem. Affirmative action is making steady strides in helping the problem of racial inequality in America. Affirmative action is something we should support, until better and more effective plans are proposed.
Webster’s New World Dictionary
Encyclopedia 1995 vol. 1
Dr. Joyner class lecture