Affirmative Action

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Affirmative action, is it still needed in this day and age? Has it accomplished what it was supposed to? Many people say that if America concentrated on programs that provided assistance to the most needy then they would have the opportunities that affirmative action is trying to provide. By going into the ghettos of our cities and stimulating business, thereby, promoting economic growth, the disenfranchised will reap the benefits. Have they been reaping the benefits of affirmation action? As a nation devoted to equality, the United States must do away with unproductive race-dividing policies. By eliminating them, Americans can take major steps in promoting competition and overcoming the color barrier. In his famous march in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. longed for a society where "people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Moreover, skin-color and social status should be irrelevant in hiring employees. Whereas, judging people by the "content of their character" and their capabilities will create a thriving country. The emergence of Louis Farrakhan and the O.J. Simpson verdict have aroused American awareness regarding the extent to which race relations in this country have deteriorated. While Martin Luther King Jr. preached unity and equality in America, Farakahan supports segregation. Any organization or individual promoting a particular race diminishes uniformity. The existence of affirmative action and quotas further segregates American society by characterizing people by race and distinguishing between skin color. In order to bring people together, these classifications must yield. In employment situations, when the employer is bound to affirmative action policies, an individual of race A will receive a job before a better qualified individual of race B. These results are unfortunate. It’s discouraging to think that a company may not reach its greatest economic Affirmative Action 3 potential because it is forced to hire the less qualified of two individuals. How can we, as Americans, possibly promote policies that give preferential treatment to one person over another, based on something as irrelevant as the color of their skin? We can’t. Maintaining the role of one of the most competitive countries in the world, I would like to think that, as Americans, we have more pride in our country than that which is hampered by affirmative action. Furthermore, affirmative action and quotas play a very similar role in education. Unfortunately, many exceptional young students may not reap the benefits a well-respected college has to offer because someone with a possible, lesser degree of potential may be granted admission on the basis of their skin color.

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Through the demise of race-dividing policies, underrepresented individuals shielded by affirmative action would be forced to compete, on a level playing field, for jobs and admission to colleges and universities. Competition has nothing but positive effects and is crucial in accelerating capitalism. The debilitating effects of affirmative action and quotas hinder an individual’s desire to compete in society. In order to promote a competitive society, employers need to be free to hire those who are the best qualified not those who are underrepresented. Affirmative action should be considered offensive to the very people it is trying to assist, because it is lowering their standards of quality. In addition, white liberals and feminists may support affirmative action, for example, but only because they still believe that African Americans (and other minorities) are inferior. Affirmative Action is supposed to be a program designed to end racism, but isn't it really justifying racism by it's own actions? Its policies totally judge people solely on skin color and gender. That is discrimination in itself. Is discrimination the solution to resolving past discrimination? No, it's not. No program can be considered good when it hurts others. Affirmative Action 4 Affirmative Action tried to help minorities and women, but in the process, reverse discrimination has taken place. Now, white males are discriminated against. This cannot be an affirmative program if there is a form of discrimination involved. Instead of choosing a candidate for a job or for school admission, because of one's color or gender, it should be because of their talents and abilities. The best any colored male or female should be selected for the job, or to be accepted into school. Why should some people get special preferences over others? It just isn't correct. There should be no special treatments, and no special preferences given to people. Everyone has the opportunity to advance in this country; you just have to take the initiative. President John F Kennedy first used Affirmative Action in a racial discrimination context in Executive order NO 10,925 issued in 1961. This executive order indicated that federal contractors should take affirmative action to make sure that job applicants and employees are treated without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. Affirmative action also causes reverse discrimination. Discrimination against white males is just as bad as discrimination against minorities. Many consider Affirmative action an injustice and it is true that it is not totally fair, but what we argue is that a society owes itself to redeem the actions of its former views that were wrong and caused many people to suffer. Affirmative action is not the cure that people want it to be. Newt Gingrich proclaimed recently that because Affirmative action has had thirty years to work, and supposedly it has not, then it is time to end its institution. However, two hundred and twenty years of racism is not going to go away in thirty years. The best solution is that racism be erased from our society in a steady, state-supported way. Racism must be cut out of American society by the root and branch. Affirmative Action 5 Another question behind affirmative action, is this piece of legislature designed to empower the minorities or promote balkanization? Douglas J. Amy from Mount Holyoke College (1995) in regards to politics states that, “proportional representation would also help revitalize elections and make voting a more meaningful and effective political act. Our current two-party system would likely be replaced by a multi-party system” (1). The thinking behind this is it would allow more choices at the election polls and more opportunities for minorities to be heard. Unfortunately what would be created is an increase in segregation and an increase of competition between races. Amy (1995) goes on to say, “in a multi-party system, we would finally have city, state, and federal legislatures that truly represented the diversity of political interests and ideologies in this country” (1). The reality of this multi-party system isn’t diversity being represented equally in legislature since a limited number of representatives would be chosen, as is the case now. Does affirmative action encourage balkanization? Of course it does. A shortened version of the definition of balkanization is the breaking down of a group into smaller groups, which is the result when employers and educational admissions staffs have to record the number people by race and gender. The practice of balkanization is caused by the persistence to create equal opportunities for minorities, which is mandated by the judicial system to impose racial or gender quotas if there has been a history of discrimination. Is balkanization the outcome in mind when legislature implemented the Executive Order for Affirmative Action? Or was empowering minorities a more realistic goal of what was intended? Equal employment opportunities can only exist for minorities if they are given the same educational opportunities as the white male. Affirmative action is not the answer, because it does not create the same equal opportunities, is only says that an individual will be considered regardless of color or gender. Equal opportunities need to be based on qualifications and merit, Affirmative Action 6 not skin color or sex. So how is this established since the skin color and sex of an individual is the obvious choice to fill a quota? The answer doesn’t lie in the filling of quotas or enforcing stricter consequences against discrimination, the answer is eliminating those additional factors along with other silly requirements when filling an employment position or determining which student should be enrolled in college. Standardized tests are a good choice in determining the best candidate for the position because the answers are not based upon the race or gender of the individual. In regards to empowering minorities, how does one empower them to increase their opportunities to be heard, to be well educated and to have equal opportunities in the work force? Some may concur that education and knowledge is the simplest and most effective solution. Individuals need to have the educational background and common sense to understand what obstacles are challenging them, they need the skills to analyze possible solutions, ability to implement a solution and evaluate if that solution was effective. These skills will increase their chances of being competitive for any position they are applying for. The second major factor for equality is skill and experience, which should begin in a child or adolescence life. This will lead to more opportunities for personal growth; education and training needed to be competitive with the white male. In America, the concept of affirmative action is ridiculous to some people, being that United States is the country where equal opportunities should exist regardless of gender, race, religion and so forth. Throughout life I have always been told that looks can be deceiving and not to choose a book based on its cover. You never know what the contents or personality and qualities a person possesses based on looking at them. Some advice to the current and future generations of this country is not to make judgements based on personal prejudices. Affirmative Action 7 Clarence Page concludes his article by stating, "America will not have racial equality until opportunities are equalized, beginning at the pre-school level…" Hasn't this equalization already begun? American schools were desegregated as a result of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Didn't that decision assure that every American child, regardless of race, would receive the best education available? Let's look at that a little more closely. It was shortly after this decision that white Americans started to flee to the suburbs. This phenomenon made it quite apparent how the majority of this population thought about attending schools with African Americans. In his article, What Is the Future of Predominantly Black Urban Schools?: The Politics of Race in Urban Education Policy, (p.316) Jerome E. Morris (1999) discusses his personal educational experience as a black child growing up in a low-income housing project attending all-black schools in the South. He tells how he was "cognizant of the inequities in resources" between his schools and those in white communities, and how he felt that black students wouldn't have a fair chance. Mr. Morris believes that most white people will not eagerly open their communities and schools to black families from the inner city. He reminds us "A great difference exists between tolerating black children and welcoming them." So, these inner city black youngsters are left to struggle for an education in inferior academic settings filled with violence. Mr. Morris assures the white population that the black community never really believed that integration would solve the academic inequity; however, if black children were not admitted to white schools, they would be forced to attend inferior facilities that lacked resources and a rigorous academic curriculum. The majority of people, no matter what their race, cannot rise above that type of learning environment; thus, perpetuating the inability of young blacks to enter college or even obtain decent jobs after high school graduation. Affirmative Action 8 Affirmative action cannot correct the lack of educational opportunities for inner city children. According to Steve Farkas and Jean Johnson (1999), "Most Americans seem to believe in the concept of equal education for every child, regardless of race or ethnicity" (p. 24). They also point out that although Americans agree on the need for equal education, they cannot agree on how to get there. In the meantime, thousands of black children continue to suffer everyday in their schools. In their article Farkas and Johnson quote a report (1999), "Time to Move On: African-American and White Parents Set an Agenda for Public Schools." African-American parents·This report states some of the following findings: seek academic achievement for their children as the most important goal for Raising academic standards and achievement is a higher·public schools. The majority of·priority than achieving more diversity and integration. African-American parents feel that too much is made of the differences between blacks and whites. They want more emphasis put on what the two races have in A huge majority of both black and white parents agree that America is·common. very diverse and that children need to learn to get along with all types of The majority of black and·people from different backgrounds and cultures. white parents think that less than half of black students are in good schools with good teachers, while they think that more than half of white students are African-American parents express doubts·in good schools with good teachers. about some policies. They think affirmative action in school hiring is a double-edged sword that accomplishes some goals but can have negative consequences and can distract schools from their main task. Affirmative Action 9 How will things change? Perhaps every citizen of this country will have to adopt the motto of the National Urban League, "Our Children = Our Destiny." In Committed to High-Quality Education for All Children: An Interview with Hugh Price, (2000) Mark F. Goldberg tells us that the National Urban League publications leave no doubt that young people are the primary focus of the organization (p. 604). This organization has been the "the premier social service and civil rights organization in America" since 1910. Although the Urban League deals with many issues, in the last two years it has made education the centerpiece of the organization. The members believe that "to assist African Americans in the achievement of social and economic equality," education must be a primary goal. Several large companies and organizations such as The State Farm Life Insurance Company and The Lilly Endowment have provided financial assistance to further the Urban Leagues' educational campaign. This is the beginning of realizing the equalization of which Clarence Page speaks, but it cannot be left to just a few entities. Everyone in this country needs to get behind this educational equalization movement. Furthermore, there are many people who believe that once this goal is realized then there will be no need to worry about discrimination, even reverse discrimination, because affirmative action will be a thing of the past just like the WPA. Summary As a group, there was no one solution that could be agreed upon. Suggestions to resolve affirmative action issues, within the group, went from equalizing educational opportunities for all children, changing the name of affirmative action, educating employers on benefits of diversity, all the way to eliminating affirmative action all together. In taking a look at the supply side of affirmative action, and the downsides of it, although there may not be one perfect remedy, doing something, beats doing nothing at all.

Bibliography
References Page, C. (1996). Supply-side affirmative action. In Kurt Finsterbusch (Ed.), Sociology 99/00 (pp. 119-123). Morris, J.E. (1999). What is the future of predominantly black urban schools?: the politics of race in urban education policy. Phi Delta Kappan, (v81, i4, p. 316). Farkas, S. & Johnson, J.(1999). Looking at the schools: public agenda asks African-American and white parents about their aspirations and their fears. Arts Education Policy Review, (v100, i4, p24(1). Goldberg, M.F. (2000), Committed to high-quality education for all children: an interview with Hugh Price. Phi Delta Kappan, (v81, i8, p. 604 Douglas, Amy J. (1995) The Good Society: The Newsletter of the Committee on The Political Economy of The Good Society, Vol-5. No. 2. http://www.mtholoke.edu/acad/damy/pegs.htm


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