Affirmative Action Goals Essay


Affirmative Action Goals Essay

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy proposed Executive Order 10925, establishing rules and guidelines for equal employment opportunity, which has paved the way for what we now know as affirmative action. Affirmative action has manifested itself into many programs and policies implemented by businesses, corporations, and conglomerates. Affirmative action has not achieved its goals because it cannot overcome the system of setting quotas or ending preferential treatment, it does not prove in favor of the most disadvantaged minorities, and it creates covert and reverse discrimination in an effort to alleviate discrimination.

The original goals were to end discrimination based on race, creed, color, or national origin and promote and ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons, without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin, employed or seeking employment with the Federal Government. Affirmative action legislation has since expanded to include private employers and no discrimination based on sex and religion. It encourages positive measures and equal opportunity for all qualified persons.

Since affirmative action has begun, it has had an awful time trying to reduce the quota system and finding a way to represent the disadvantaged groups at the same time. The opposition believes that affirmative action programs are varied and numerous. They do not always adhere to the affirmative action legislation, which does not condone quotas. Instead, the personnel in charge of organizations and corporations have established such quotas as a way of documenting their cooperation with the affirmative action laws.

Most of the time, affirmative action is based on system that implies quotas that handicaps rather than enhances the benefits of the affirmative action program. Affirmative action policies create quotas by requiring that a certain number of job positions be filled by different minorities. “By focusing on equality of result instead of equal opportunity, Mansfield charges, preferential treatment encourages indifference to means as long as the end is achieved (Belz).” Minorities include people of African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and/or Hispanic descent. Women are also included as minorities. According to Yates, these quotas force employers to hire a predetermined number of minorities, thereby discriminating against qualified white males. Even when white employers hire a number of minorities, he contends, they can still face damaging lawsuits if they have not followed all of the strict quota guidelines.

Affirmative action has been designed to level the playing field and help represent the majority as well as the minority in the workforce and within educational establishments. However, many times the playing field is only brought forth to minorities who are of middle to upper class, having financial backing to help make them noticeable. The opposition believes that, in fact, all minorities are subject to being accepted into various schools and businesses, but the poverty-stricken minorities are usually unqualified for such positions and given lower jobs within the company. “Nevertheless, minorities and females continue to be underrepresented in many types of jobs and concentrated in others. For example, most of a company's accountants may be white and most of its custodians black (Buford).” The opposition also believes that affirmative action was only developed to ensure equal representation, not to advantage minorities or put them above any other. Granted, affirmative action gives those who are qualified the chance to succeed and is, and should be, based on merit, putting the unqualified out of the equation.

However, it has been shown that the idea for affirmative action is to provide a business with equal representation from all minorities and equally represent them in universities. While it does help in trying to provide equal representation, it does not always advantage the minority. The poverty-stricken minorities are less likely to be chosen because they are not accessible to the financial obligations that come along with “being qualified,” therefore eliminating the possibility of them being accepted, though they may qualify as a better attribute. In reality, as the Hoover Institution's Thomas Sowell has observed, preferences primarily benefit minority applicants from middle- and upper-class backgrounds (Sacks). This is important because it does not level the playing field for all minorities. It simply provides another obstacle for subtle discrimination to fit in. The sense of financial inferiority sets in and allows the higher of the minorities fill in the positions available. “Because of past discrimination, most women and minorities are too far behind economically to compete effectively. The claim that they can be expected to "play catch up" by their own efforts alone is said to be naive, since it ignores long-standing patterns of discrimination that remain prevalent despite decades of counter-efforts (Yates).” Equal representation should be of all minorities, not just those who are financially comfortable within the country. Those who are said to be “qualified” are more than likely those who are able to provide without any financial help.

Another argument dealing with affirmative action is in an effort to reduce discrimination and make up for past discrimination against minorities, especially African-Americans it creates reverse discrimination. The opposition focuses on the fact that it does not create reverse discrimination because it is believed to be a vehicle for ending discrimination. “Affirmative action reflects the ideals of integration and equality. It is part of a commitment to communities that are racially diverse, egalitarian, and inclusive. It contains the recognition that we share our fate and that coalitions bringing together groups require lasting commitment (Wu).” They state that very few cases have value dealing with reverse discrimination. “Actually, few reverse discrimination cases have been brought by white males and even fewer have been found to have any merit. A Labor Department report found fewer than 100 reverse discrimination cases among more than 3,000 discrimination opinions by the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals, between 1990 and 1994. Discrimination was established in only six cases (Stein).” The opposition points out that many times reverse discrimination cries are from white males who are furious with not getting a job.

Affirmative action has tried to take many steps towards ending discrimination but also has an unintended consequence of discriminating again white males. If not blatant discrimination, it creates covert discrimination, which occurs where actions or policies appear non-discriminatory however in operation have adverse outcomes for a group or individual by reducing a benefit or opportunity. “In December 2000, a federal judge ruled that the two-tiered admission system employed by the university from 1995 to 1998 was unconstitutional because it employed different admission criteria for whites and minorities. It was plain and simple, a matter of separate but unequal. (New)” Another point is that the white males of yesteryear are the ones who effectively constricted the minorities of yesteryear. To withhold the white males of today is a blatant and obtrusive way to try to help minorities of today. “Discrimination in favor of today's individuals in group X does nothing to help the different individuals in group X who suffered discrimination in the past. The justification, then, must argue that the very individuals who suffered discrimination against them are the ones who now will be receiving discrimination in their favor, or that the discrimination suffered in the past has had discriminatory results still being felt by those in group X (Clegg).” It has been documented that in the college acceptance programs, minorities have actually gained extra points towards being accepted because of their race alone. “Wealthy sons and daughters of underrepresented minorities receive extra points on their admissions applications to the university, based solely on their race, while higher-achieving Asians and whites from lower-income families are turned away from the university (Connerly).” There was a specific case with the University of Michigan. “Judge Patrick J. Duggan said that the university's current policy, which automatically awards twenty points (out of a possible 150) to black and Hispanic applicants, is just fine (New).” This does not level the playing field but gives handicaps to minorities based on no merit at all and insults those who would furthermore be able to be accepted.

Affirmative action has not achieved its goals because it quotas and ending preferential treatment are still prevalent, it favors most minorities who are financially stable and not those who aren't, and covert and reverse discrimination are consequences in the effort to put an end to discrimination. Affirmative action has taken a great stand in trying to level the playing field but has a long way to go in effort to achieve all of the goals it is said to focus on. We will all know when affirmative action has fully achieved its goals, because at that time it will retire and fail to exist.