In the United States, affirmative action is a policy to improve educational and employment opportunities for American citizens (Britannica). The usual standards for affirmative action are gender, race, age, and ethnic origin (Britannica). Affirmative action mainly focuses on jobs and education; its policies require that active measures be taken to ensure that minorities enjoy the same opportunities for promotions, scholarships, school admissions, and financial aid (Brunner & Rowen). (Brunner & Rowen). Ever since affirmative action was practiced, people have been questioning the reason it was made and whether it still is effective. Affirmative action worked when it was first implemented to promote diversity and equal rights to minority groups; however, today this policy has turned into a strategy that favors one race over the other; therefore, it is not as necessary or sufficient as it was before.
When did affirmative action begin? President Kennedy introduced the term “affirmative action” in 1961 as a way of redressing discrimination that had continued despite constitutional guarantees and civil rights laws (Brunner & Rowen). The policy started because of the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s (the week staff). In 1965, President Johnson enforced affirmative action for the first time to ensure that firms treat employees without regard to race, or gender during employment (Brunner & Rowen). “This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights,” Johnson asserted, ” You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been entirely fair,” Johnson said. He advocated “not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result” (the week staff).
Affirmative action is implemented in different ways. When firms and colleges look for employees or students, it will usually be mentioned on their website under the “About” or “About us” option. Middlesex county college has descriptions on its website about what percentage of students attend their college from different races. For example, the percentage of male and female in Middlesex county college is 53% female and 47% male, and ethnicity is 33% Hispanic, 29% White (non-Hispanic),15% Asian,12% Black, and so on (Middlesex County College).
Affirmative action has faced both praises and criticisms. One of the reasons people are against affirmative action is because they believe that it supports and strengthens stereotypes. Affirmative action usually requires employers to overlook qualified applicants and favor applicants that meet affirmative action standards which can turn out to be a poor fit for the job. It also treats minorities as a favored group which does not make all groups equal; this can be addressed as reverse discrimination because they system is placing minority groups before majority groups (Scott). Affirmative action requires employees to meet specific goals for hiring and admitting women and minorities; “This may coerce employers to make hiring decisions based on numbers and not the overall qualifications of the applicant. It also creates an increase in competition for well-qualified applicants because employers direct job postings towards minorities and women to increase applications for those groups” (Scott).
An example of why most people are against affirmative action is the Harvard case. According to the New York Times, Asian-Americans are suing Harvard for unfairly declining admissions to Asians on subjective grounds, but Affirmative action was in the university’s favor since it allows institutions to consider race as a factor (Zakaria). An organization called “Students for Fair Admissions” filed the lawsuit claiming that the percentage of Asians at the University would be higher if Harvard University stopped using “race-based” strategies for admissions since Harvard maintained the percentage of Asian-Americans at around 20 percent even though the percentage of Asian-American applicants has increased (Zakaria). A New York Times article that mentioned that “Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like ‘positive personality,’ likability, courage, kindness and being ‘widely respected,’ according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university” (Hartocollis). The court asked Harvard to make records of its admission process available to the public, so the people can see how some top institutions rig admissions (Zakaria). “In simple terms, African-Americans and Hispanics who are not as well represented as whites and Asian-Americans can gain admission into Harvard with lower test scores and grades” (Zakaria).
The main reason that people support affirmative action is that it ensures that diversity is sustained in the workplace and school because it helps create communities become more tolerant since it exposes individuals to different cultures (Anderson). People who are for affirmative action believe that it is a way to ensure that diversity is maintained in the workplace or at school and a way to expose people to different cultures. Affirmative action also helps people from different countries gain more opportunities in the United States (Anderson).
California v. Bakke case took place in 1978 where they ruled that the University of Michigan can practice the affirmative action policy. Bakke was a white applicant to the University of California Medical School who sued the University claiming that his rejection of admission on racial grounds violated his Fourteenth Amendment of equal protection (California v Bakke). When the university compared Bakke to other applicants, they had more favorable trades of performance while his race was the only distinctive characteristic (California v Bakke). The court saw the case as constitutional since they were promoting diversity and was not “narrowly tailored” enough, to withstand strict scrutiny (The Supreme Court).
Gratz, who was a white applicant from Michigan, was denied admission to the University of Michigan in 2003 while African-American, Native American or Hispanic were admitted to the university (Gratz v. Bollinger). Michigan used a selection index to measure applicants according to a numerical point system to integrate race into its policy (Gratz v. Bollinger). African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and applicants from minority groups automatically received 20 percent of the points that they needed for admission, based on their race (Gratz v. Bollinger). The University of Michigan uses a point system out of 100 points to help with their admission decisions claimed that the process would be complicated to provide the court with the required information on its applications, but the University’s claim did not sway the court (The Supreme Court). Gratz argued that minority groups automatically receiving 20 points is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution (The Supreme Court).
The Fourteenth Amendment does not protect against the use of applicants race as a factor of admission policy of public educational institution if the policy is promoting diverse students (Grutter v. Bollinger). In 1992, the University of Michigan Law School implemented an admission policy that gave a greater chance of admission to certain racial minority groups than applicants with similar credentials from other racial groups (Grutter v. Bollinger). The University denied admission to an applicant who was a white Michigan resident named Barbara Grutter. Grutter filed a lawsuit that challenged the university’s admission policy in 2003 and alleged that the policy established judgment based on race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Grutter v. Bollinger). She claimed that the University made race a dominant factor in their admission decisions and it purposely discriminated against whites which she beloved violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which states “No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law”(the Supreme Court). Grutter appealed the Supreme Court, which reviewed the case in 2003 (the Supreme Court).
Ricci v. DeStefano is a case that took place in 2009 and addressed the issue of racial discrimination or reverse discrimination. The court agreed that the plaintiffs were kept form the job promotions unfairly because of their race (Nittle). “The case involved a group of white firefighters who argued that the city of New Haven, Conn., discriminated against them in 2003 by throwing out a test that they passed at a 50 percent greater rate than their black colleagues” (Nittle). The firefighters were victims of racial discrimination because one of the firefighters named Ricci scored the sixth highest out of 118 on the exam (Nittle). According to the New York Times, Ricci paid $1,000 to have someone read textbooks onto audiotapes because he was dyslexic (Nittle). The city of New Haven had no choice but to discard the firefighting exam since it discriminated against minority applicants and decided to give minority firefighters a test that would have an equal impact on them (Nittle). The court rejected New Haven’s claim, arguing that “Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions” (Nittle).
The case of Plessy v Ferguson in 1896 is an example of obstacles in Affirmative Action. The Supreme Court of the United States made an extreme decision in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. A Louisiana law obligated segregation of races but with equal services in rail cars. A mixed-race Louisianan named Homer Plessy got arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of the train (Thompson). Plessy claimed that segregation compromised legal equality and marked blacks as inferior (Thompson). After losing twice in the lower court, Plessy took the case to the United States Supreme Court where majority of the Court disagreed with Plessy and ruled in favor of Ferguson since the state did not violate The Fourteenth Amendment by establishing a policy of racial segregation in the railway, but justice John Harlan, who wrote a memorable dissent to that decision, which is still mentioned by both sides of the affirmative action debate to this day, disagreed with the court arguing that segregationist laws brainwash society by making them believe that the two races are not equal and said:
Affirmative action has become a controversial matter. Opponents claim that it takes away the citizens constitutional rights, while advocates suggest that affirmative action gives minority groups a chance. Affirmative action rewards the wrong people by giving them positions because of their race. It also increases racial conflict because it caused numerous people to file cases against the policy. Affirmative action pretends to solve a problem that can’t be fixed; admitting and hiring based on race is still discrimination; therefore, affirmative action does not solve the problem.