History of Affirmative Action Creation

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Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action was created by President John F. Kennedy through an executive order in 1961, continued through Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, and so forth. The rationale behind affirmative action was to promote diversity and end job discrimination. It sought to even the playing field, giving minorities the opportunity to pursue higher education or a career field. The objective was to rectify the social inequality faced by many oppressed minority groups at a certain point in United States history. Opposition to the policy emerged, resulting in a great deal of controversy from both the majority and minority perspectives.

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This paper will explore the history and present state of the policy and how it continues to impact Americans today.

The problem that necessitated the creation of the policy, affirmative action, shares the same objective as equal opportunity but differs in its proactive approach. Equal opportunity, a passive policy, seeks to ensure that discrimination is not tolerated once detected. In contrast, affirmative action enforces established practices not only to subvert but also to avert discrimination (Crosby, Iyer, & Sincharoen, 2006).

Affirmative action aims to eliminate discrimination in jobs and higher education opportunities regardless of race or gender. It has expanded to include categories such as disability, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. “Affirmative action policies are necessary in order to compensate for centuries of racial, social, and economic oppression. Generally, individuals with higher socioeconomic status have more opportunities than those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Supporters argue that certain racial or ethnic groups are disadvantaged because of their often lower economic status, which limits their exposure to resources available to students from higher socioeconomic classes. Advocates believe in a merit-based competition among students but argue that affirmative action compensates for economic disparities” (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2014).

The impact of affirmative action is felt both by the majority and minorities. Some attitudes towards the policy suggest it may harm minorities rather than help them. It can incite allegations of reverse racism, where a qualified candidate might be overlooked to meet a specific racial quota with less qualified applicants. According to Wallace and Allen (2016), Caucasians often link affirmative action to reverse racism, fueling negative feelings primarily towards Blacks and other minorities. Caucasians tend to believe that minorities no longer face the disadvantages they once did, and therefore affirmative action should be discontinued as a policy.

The historical background of the policy dates back to the discovery of America in the 1400s-1600s, marked by the enslavement and brutal treatment of Native Americans, Africans, and numerous other minorities. Many minority groups suffered separation from family and friends, death, rape, torture, and beatings. Native Americans were forced from their lands into small communities now known as reservations. They also endured forced assimilation, leading to a loss of their heritage and native tongue. Africans were sold or captured and transported across the sea to endure enslavement and forced labor. Chinese immigrants arrived and were made to work in brutal conditions, building railroads and other infrastructures. America’s history is fraught with the oppression of minority groups and systemic inequality. Affirmative action sought to redress the injustices experienced by these disadvantaged groups.
The implementation of affirmative action, though initiated with good intentions, has seen changes driven by the policies of each presidency. President Kennedy brought forth the use of affirmative action during the civil rights era to combat discrimination, primarily in the workforce. Over time, the use of affirmative action expanded to encompass other areas such as higher education and politics. According to Anderson (2005), Lyndon B. Johnson did not support state-mandated quotas like the previous administration. Instead, he created Title VII, which “banned discrimination in small businesses,” and an executive order that superseded all previous orders, becoming the guiding legislation for affirmative action’s future. During President Nixon’s term, he implemented the Philadelphia Plan, which bore a direct correlation to the population of the area where it was enacted and laid out focused goals and timetables for its achievements. Nixon also established a set-aside program which “granted “set-asides” and contracts to “socially disadvantaged” firms, initially in the ghettos, but later nationwide (Anderson, 2005, p. 119). Under Presidents Reagan’s and Bush’s administrations, affirmative action policy began to take a backseat in public consciousness and was perceived as increasingly unnecessary. During these terms, the public and conservative presidents ostensibly yearned for more neutrality but made no attempts to repair the existing policy. Public perception of the policy has changed throughout history, with many Americans now perceiving it as less necessary than it was in the 1960s. Affirmative Action was initially established as a system to eliminate wrongful discrimination, redress the effects of discrimination, and prevent future discriminatory practices in the realms of education and employment (Cornell Law University, 1992).

Having stood the test of time over 57 years, affirmative action policy has featured in several court cases, maintaining prominence in some states while morphing into race-neutral policies in others. The promotion of diversity allows for the broadening of perspectives and fosters harmony among varied races, religions, and nationalities. As a melting pot of diverse cultures and nationalities, America theoretically stands to benefit from these outcomes. “The anticipated outcomes of affirmative action policies include improved educational opportunities for students regardless of race or gender, increased diversity in enrollment, and positive effects on learning and democratic outcomes.” (Garrison-Wade & Lewis, 2003). However, affirmative action programs that impose quotas have sparked considerable debate across the nation over the fairness of the policy. The general public has often perceived it as granting preferential treatment to minorities at the expense of potentially more qualified Caucasian candidates, whether in higher education admissions or professional employment (Antwi-Boasiako, 2017).
Affirmative Action, derived from the civil rights movement, bears similarities to human rights. However, it’s scope extends beyond racial differences and is particularly relevant in the sphere of employment. The U.S. Department of Labor asserts that federal employment facilitates the advancement of qualified minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans (U.S Department of Labor, 2018). This offers substantial support to oppressed groups who have historically been, and continue to be, subjected to lower wages owing to race and gender, amplified instances of discrimination, and unfair treatment. Affirmative action has been refined via outreach programs, training initiatives, etc. aimed at assisting vulnerable groups who stand a chance of exploitation. As Affirmative Action is integrated with equal opportunity and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, diversity is becoming increasingly prevalent across the United States.

Policy Analysis: Over the past few decades, a number of court cases have challenged the policy established in 1961. A case that garnered significant public attention was Fisher v. University of Texas in 2013. According to Oyez (2013): Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian female, applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas in 2008. As Fisher was not among the top ten percent of her class, she was further evaluated against other non-top-ten-percent in-state applicants. Fisher’s application was denied by the University of Texas, following which she sued the university and other related defendants, claiming that their consideration of race in admission decisions violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The university defended its stance, arguing that their use of race was a narrowly tailored method to foster greater diversity (pp. 11-34). The case was ruled in favor of the University of Texas. This situation highlighted the critical discourse surrounding affirmative action in relation to higher education opportunities, and the diminishing role race plays in determining university admissions.

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History Of Affirmative Action Creation. (2020, Mar 14). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/history-of-affirmative-action-creation/