Once upon a time, there were two people who went to an interview
for only one job position at the same company. The first person
attended a prestigious and highly academic university, had years of work
experience in the field and, in the mind of the employer, had the
potential to make a positive impact on the companys performance.
The second person was just starting out in the field and seemed to lack
the ambition that was visible in his opponent. Who was chosen for the
job? you ask. Well, if the story took place before 1964, the answer
would be obvious. However, with the somewhat recent adoption of the
social policy known as affirmative action, the answer becomes unclear.
After the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in
1964,it became apparent that certain business traditions, such as
seniority status and aptitude tests, prevented total equality in
employment. Then President, Lyndon B. Johnson, decided something needed
to be done to remedy these flaws. On September 24, 1965, he issued
Executive Order #11246 at Howard University that required federal
contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are
employed . . . without regard to their race, creed, color, or national
origin (Civil Rights). When Lyndon Banes Johnson signed that order, he
enacted one of the most discriminating pieces of legislature since the
Jim Crow Laws were passed.
Affirmative action was created in an effort to help minorities
leap the discriminative barriers that were ever so present when the bill
was first enacted, in 1965. At this time, the country was in the wake of
nationwide civil-rights demonstrations, and racial tension was at its
peak. Most of the corporate executive and managerial positions were
occupied by white males, who controlled the hiring and firing of
employees. The U.S. government, in 1965, believed that these employers
were discriminating against minorities and believed that there was no
better time than the present to bring about change.
When the Civil Rights Law passed, minorities, especially
African-Americans, believed that they should receive retribution for the
years of discrimination they endured. The government responded by
passing laws to aide them in attaining better employment as reprieve for
the previous two hundred years of suffering their race endured at the
hands of the white man. To many, this made sense. Supporters of
affirmative action asked, why not let the government help them get
better jobs? After all, the white man was responsible for their
suffering. While this may all be true, there is another question to
be asked. Are we truly responsible for the years of persecution that
the African Americans were submitted to?
The answer to the question is yes and no. It is true that the
white man is partly responsible for the suppression of the African-
American race. However, the individual white male is not. It is just
as unfair and suppressive to hold many white males responsible for past
persecution now as it was to discriminate against many African-Americans
in the generations before. Why should an honest, hard-working, open
minded, white male be suppressed, today, for past injustice?
Affirmative action accepts and condones the idea of an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth. Do two wrongs make a right? I think mother
taught us better than that.
Affirmative action supporters make one large assumption when
defending the policy. They assume that minority groups want help.
This, however, may not always be the case. My experience with
minorities has led me to believe that they fought to attain equality,
not special treatment. To them, the acceptance of special treatment is
an admittance of inferiority. They ask, Why cant I become successful
on my own? Why do I need laws to help me get a job? These African
Americans want to be treated as equals, not as incompetents.
In a statement released in 1981 by the United States Commission
on Civil Rights, Jack P. Hartog, who directed the project, said:
Only if discrimination were nothing more than the misguided acts
of a few prejudiced individuals would affirmative action plans be
reverse discrimination. Only if todays society were operating fairly
toward minorities and women would measures that take race, sex, and
national origin into account be preferential treatment. Only if
discrimination were securely placed in a well-distant past would
affirmative action be an unneeded and drastic remedy.
What the commission failed to realize was that there are thousands
of white males who are not discriminating yet are being punished because
of those who do. The Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha, Nebraska,
was forced by the government to release sixty-five white male workers to
make room for minority employees in 1977 (Nebraska Advisory Committee
40). Five major Omaha corporations reported that the number of white
managers fell 25% in 1969 due to restrictions put on them when
affirmative action was adopted (Nebraska Advisory Committee 27). You
ask, What did these white males do to bring about their termination?
The only crime that they were guilty of was being white. This hardly
seems fair to punish so many innocent men for the crimes of a relative
But the injustice toward the white male doesnt end there. After
the white male has been fired, he has to go out and find a new job to
support his family that depended on the company to provide health care
and a retirement plan in return for years of hard work. Now, because of
affirmative action, this white male, and the thousands like him, require
more skills to get the same job that a lesser qualified black man needs.
This is, for all intents and purposes, discrimination, and it is a law
that our government strictly enforces.
Affirmative action is not only unfair for the working man, it is
extremely discriminatory toward the executive, as well. The average
business executive has one goal in mind, and that is to maximize
profits. To reach his goal, this executive would naturally hire the
most competent man or woman for the job, whether they be black or
white or any other race. Why would a business man intentionally cause
his business to lose money by hiring a poorly qualified worker? Most
wouldnt. With this in mind, it seems unnecessary to employ any policy
that would cause him to do otherwise. But, that is exactly what
affirmative action does. It forces an employer, who needs to meet a
quota established by the government, to hire the minority, no matter who
is more qualified.
Another way that affirmative action deducts from a companys
profits is by forcing them to create jobs for minorities. This occurs
when a company does not meet its quota with existing employees and has
to find places to put minorities. These jobs are often unnecessary, and
force a company to pay for workers that they do not need.
Now, dont get the impression that affirmative action is only
present in the work place. It is also very powerful in education. Just
as a white male employee needs more credentials to get a job than his
minority opponent, a white male student needs more or better skills to
get accepted at a prestigious university than a minority student. There
are complete sections on college applications dedicated to race and
ethnic background. Colleges must now have a completely diverse student
body, even if that means some, more qualified students, must be turned
A perfect example of this can be found at the University of
California at Berkeley. A 1995 report released by the university said
that 9.7% of all accepted applicants were African American. Only 0.8%
of these African American students were accepted by academic criteria
alone. 36.8% of the accepted applicants were white. Of these accepted
white students, 47.9% were accepted on academic criteria alone. That
means that approximately sixty times more African Americans students
were accepted due to non-academic influences than white students. It
seems hard to believe that affirmative action wasnt one these outside
Another interesting fact included in the 1995 report said that the
average grade point average for a rejected white student was 3.66 with
an average SAT score of 1142. The average grade point average for an
accepted African American student was 3.66 with a 1030 average SAT
score. These stunning facts shows just how many competent, if not
gifted students fall between the cracks as a direct result of
affirmative action (Affirmative action).
Well, I believe that the problem has been identified; affirmative
action is becoming a form of reverse discrimination. It is now time for
the doctor to prescribe a potential remedy. Society should work towards
broad based economic policies like public investment, national health
reform, an enlarged income tax credit, child support assurance, and
other policies benefiting families with young children. Widely
supported programs that promote the interests of both lower and middle
class Americans that deliver benefits to minorities and whites on the
basis of their economic status, and not their race or ethnicity, will do
more to reduce minority poverty than the current, narrowly based, poorly
supported policies that single out minority groups. However, if this,
or another remedy is not taken sometime in the near future, and
affirmative action continues to separate minority groups from whites, we
can be sure to see racial tension reach points that our history has
Affirmative Action at the University of California at Berkeley
October 28, 1996. http://pwa.acusd.edu/e_cook/ucb-95.html
Civil Rights Comptons Interactive Encyclopedia. (1996). Computer
SoftKey Multimedia International Corporation.
United States. Commission on Civil Rights. Affirmative Action in the
Dismantling the Process of Discrimination. Washington: 1981.
United States. Nebraska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on
Private Sector Affirmative Action: Omaha. Washington: 1979.
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