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Affirmative Action

Essay by review  •  November 12, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,422 Words (10 Pages)  •  761 Views

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Affirmative action is a term used to describe rules and regulations that were established to protect minorities and women from being discriminated against (Simmons 1982). Affirmative action has changed the way people were treated since it was first brought into order in 1961 by president John F. Kennedy through executive order 10925(Alexander 1999). It helped established more opportunities for minorities and women in education, employment and housing (Dietz 2001). Nevertheless, affirmative action has caused much controversy in our society and whether it has benefited America (Altschiller 1991). As a result, there are those who believe minorities have benefited, yet the dominant group has suffered. Before the passing of executive order 10925, minorities and women were treated unfairly.

Before president Kennedy brought the executive order into action, minorities suffered a great deal of discrimination. In the past, minorities were abolished from specific areas. For instance they were not allowed to use the same bathrooms as whites (Alexander 1999). The minorities were spatially segregated from the rest of society meaning outsides did not accept them; they weren't allowed to obtain certain jobs, live in close proximity to the dominant group or receive the same educational opportunity (Parrillo 2003). After Kennedy, president Lyndon Johnson established several laws that helped establish better opportunities for minorities such as his " Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1965 and then the office of Federal Compliance in 1967"(Alexander 1999). In addition, he was simultaneously establishing the Fair Housing Act as well as the Economic Opportunity Act.

The Civil Rights Movement was one of the major contributors to the establishment of the parity laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it possible that the federal level could enforce the law on those who violated it, which helped give minorities the protection they needed from the Dominant group. After the implementation of affirmative action and the laws that followed, "the proportion of blacks in white-collar jobs grew from 10% to 24% and the ratio of black median family income to white rose from 55% to 62%"(Alexander 1999). As one can clearly see, there were major improvements for minorities. They were given more opportunities to contribute to society without facing discrimination from businesses, education, and they began to gain a little more respect from others. Before these laws, minorities and women were subjected to institutional discrimination (book). They were judged upon on the bases of their race, origin and ethnicity. These minority groups were able to gain socioeconomic status within their society (Parrillo 2003). They were making their way and beginning to assimilate more with the society. Due to minorities being discriminated against in various circumstances, it was presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson who wanted to see an end to it. They didn't feel it was right that minorities and women were being discriminated against. They wanted the minorities to receive a better chance at life than their predecessors did. They wanted everyone to have an equal opportunity in America. Further, it was their goal to alleviate the way minorities had been treated in the past (Simmons 1982). However, it wasn't as easy for the dominant white group to accept the new laws in favor of minorities.

The dominant whites were xenophobic in that they were afraid of those were not like them. They had for so long created social distance from the minority group (Parillo 2003). They liked being surrounded by those who were similar to them. It was much easier for them to associate with people who were like them and to judge those who were not. Trying to enforce the laws wasn't the hard part in most cases; it was how they were still treated even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted. The laws couldn't always prevent discrimination in businesses or schools although they did help provide minorities with a better opportunity. The laws established quotas that the businesses had to follow. They were mandated to allocate so many minorities to a particular business. Some people, particularly whites, reacted toward the minorities gaining more opportunities in their companies. Although the law said they had to meet a certain quota, it didn't mean that the business managers acted in the approved manner toward minorities. For so many years they were taught to be prejudice and to discriminate against those who were of a different race, ethnicity and gender. And then suddenly, the law was changed and they began to see these minority groups upwardly mobilizing towards becoming more accepted into society and being given an equal opportunity. The dominant group was sort of like a stranger lacking "Intersubjective Knowledge" because they were unaware of what minorities were like and capable of. "Hence being white and being male in the United States historically has lead to greater employment opportunities, greater advancement, and higher wages"(Dietz 2001). With the enactment of these laws, the dominant white groups felt they were competing with the minorities and felt they were going to start to take over. There was much talk about whether the laws had actually created reverse discrimination.

One of the major cases that went to the Supreme Court was the University of California in 1978 v. Bakke (Simmons 1982). This was the first case that dealt with reverse discrimination issues at the Supreme Court level. Due to Bakke's dominant group status, he was rejected from the school while minority groups were accepted although he had attained a better educational background. Further, the reasoning behind this case was Bakke felt he was being discriminated against because The University of California at Davis Medical School was basing their admission on race and reaching a certain quota.

" The school offered four justifications for this

policy... countering the effects of past

societal discrimination; reducing the historic deficit

of minorities in the profession; increasing the number

of professionals willing to practice in underserved,

predominately minority communities; and increasing

the educational benefit derived from maintaining a

racially diverse student body (Friedl 1999)".

The fourth explanation was of major importance in the decisions by the Supreme Court. Justice Powel, the Supreme Court Judge, believed all students could benefit from being around diverse people. In our society,

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