D’Angelo, Raymond and Herbert Douglas, eds. Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Race and Ethnicity, 7th edition (Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2009).
“Issue #19: Is Affirmative Action Necessary to Achieve Racial Equality in the United States?”
Affirmative action is an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of member of minority groups and woman; also noted as an effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons. Affirmative action arose in 1964 as a way to fix the racial discrimination and to promote the rights that were declared in the Civil Right Act. In the 60’s, Americans who knew the potential of “equal protection of the laws” expected the United States government would uplift the promise of the 14th amendment. But when the government didn’t, is arose this question: Does the constitution’s prohibition of denying equal protection always ban the use of racial, ethnic, or gender criteria in an attempt to bring social justice and social benefits? Affirmative action is necessary to achieve racial equality in the United States.
Those who are for affirmative action believe that the United States is not what it says it is when it comes to a “color-blind” society. An African-American sociologist, Robert Staples, views affirmative action as a positive policy that will restore the rights for minorities and women. His views on American society are ones filled with racism. He states that he fears that the attack on affirmative action will cause white supremacy and the continuation of subordination for African Americans, women, and other minorities within the society. “Affirmative action is not a “black” program, but one that sets equal opportunities for minorities and women”.
Opponents of affirmative action view it as a “bad public policy”. Roger Clegg, a general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Sterling, Virginia and contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education, argues against affirmative action, saying that such programs violate equal opportunity. Clegg is the President and General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Before he joined the CEO, Clegg served in a variety of capacities with George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations. Clegg was also a graduate from Rice University as well as Yale University.
He believes that this display of affirmative action is divisive and contributes to the continuation of racial intolerance in the United States. According to opposing forces, affirmative action reinforces feelings that make us believe that we cannot do anything on our own or lack of a drive, which results in missed opportunities.
It is estimated that about 5 million African American men get their jobs from Affirmative action. The numbers for African American women are even greater because women work more than men do. On the other hand, the progress for white women is a little bit different because the majority of them are married to white men in which they live at the same standard. This group of African Americans and women make up about 70% of the American population. A major part of the attack on affirmative action is the white male. If one doesn’t believe in affirmative action that means that one should assume that every white male is superior to every female and colored people.
The opposing side argues that the reason why white males should have superiority over African Americans and women is that white males have the skills that other groups do not. Standardized test is one way that the government tests their performance. They pretend that the standardized test scores proves that white males is a valid measure of merit, thus white males get the best jobs. Another test run by white males proved that the first standardized test had nothing to do with intelligence or work ethic. Affirmative action was also used as a tool to consider measures to evaluate job applicants. On the other hand, opponents of affirmative action mention that the people hired by affirmative action didn’t have the skills for the job in which they were hired for.
There have been some problems with the affirmative action programs and the white mail is chiefly responsible for these problem. The first hole in the affirmative action program is called contract set asides. This happens when African Americans and Latinos turn in their contract, and the white man “sets them to the side” so that the minorities’ contracts don’t go through the whole process. Secondly, since there is a small percentage of an Indian heritage, those who have that ancestry can live as a white man, but with affirmative action treatment. It got to the point where so many white people were claiming to be of Native American decent and they were receiving benefits from it. Opponents of affirmative action wanted to remove the race and gender component from the equation and put socioeconomic status as its replacement. This was quickly shot down when realized that it is unfair to correlate race and gender to socioeconomic status.
A poor white male shouldn’t be able to get a college education and get an average job when an African American and women have the same status, but with a difference in skin color. Without affirmative action, a color blind society is impossible. Affirmative action is a tool that if used properly can be very effective. Affirmative action is what needs to be done to gain respect for the colored people and women in the United States.
The opponents of affirmative action argument are based off of the Title VII from the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans employers from discrimination. Advertisements usually discriminate the minority and female groups but the Title VII makes this illegal. Any advertisement must include race, color, religion, sex, and origin for it to be published. Even though this prevents discrimination, it doesn’t solve the problem of discrimination of who is weeded out from the application process. The opposing side then goes on to say that they denied scholarship at the Southern Illinois University for proving a scholarship to minority students, claiming it would violate the Title VII. Similarly, once applications are received from the college, and there are not a diverse number of students, that college will then they will open up slots to whichever minority they need more of.
This may seem like a good thing for the colored people and women, but it’s not, it’s selfish. Minorities shouldn’t be accepted to a college or university for the color of their skin or the status of the being. One should be accepted because of their intellectual achievements and accomplishments. Students of color at the University of Wisconsin in Madison stand up against Robert Clegg. They believe that Clegg does not care about them because of their color. Even though there are many myths about affirmative action, race-based affirmative action is a matter of justice.
The first myth the proponents of affirmative action can come across is that students of color admitted under affirmative action are not admitted on merit. Roger Clegg is a firm believer that affirmative action can me called “lowered expectations”. Proponents call it recognition of higher achievement. A second myth that the opponent brings up is that white students are admitted to college solely on merit; claiming that all college admissions are race-neutral. There isn’t such thing as a race-neutral college admission policy in the United States.
“Affirmative action hurts students of color by putting them in environments in which they cannot handle”. This statement was made by Clegg and was named his nastiest comment because he pretty much said that the proponents put colored student in a position to fail by putting them in the affirmative action program. In a sense, colored student do have a harder time in college but not because they aren’t qualified to do the work but because of hate and discrimination received from the white students. These top three myths summarize the ignorance of the opponent.
Roger Clegg and other opponents of affirmative action believe that such a program shouldn’t exist just because African American people have made a significant amount of progress. On the other hand, Robert Staples and the proponents of affirmative action found out that these programs were not applied appropriately and to give the “protected class” member a boost is unconstitutional and must change; making quotas unacceptable in affirmative action policy. Affirmative action is an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of member of minority groups and woman; also noted as an effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons. Affirmative action to me is something that should be present to achieve racial equality in the United States because without it, minorities and women would not receive the respect they deserve.
1. Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, “Ten Myths about Affirmative Action.” International Socialist Organization (2011), accessed September 9, 2013, http://socialistworker.org/2011/09/19/myths-about-affirmative-action
2. “Jonathan Agnew column .” Center for Equal Opportunity. http://www.ceousa.org/content/view/507/123/ (accessed September 12, 2013).
3. “Untitled Document.” Cal Poly CLA – College of Liberal Arts. http://cla.calpoly.edu/~bmori/syll/316syll/Robert%20Staples (accessed September 12, 2013).
4. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.” National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-rights-act/ (accessed September 12, 2013).
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