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Our book defines affirmative action as a term that refers to programs designed to ensure that women, minorities, and other traditionally disadvantaged groups have full and equal opportunities in employment, education, and other areas of life. Affirmative action was implemented to reduce discrimination practices based on race, gender and ethnic background. Most Americans feel that there is a need for affirmative action but there are also those Americans that feel that it will discriminate against white males and those best qualified for a particular job, school or other area of interest.
One advantage of affirmative action is that it helps those groups or persons that are at a disadvantage due to race, gender or ethnic background have a fair chance when applying for a job or admission to a university or college. Using a quota or preference system ensures that there will be some minorities hired in the workplace, including management positions and admissions to universities or colleges. Minorities refer to women, blacks, Hispanics and any other group of people that are at a disadvantage. Another advantage is that the federal government gives an automatic ten percent to contracts given to minority groups as long as the group is not hired based on past discrimination. Through hiring and school admissions it allows a minority person or group to better themselves socially and economically and have something to offer and help encourage that particular minority group. An example to illustrate my thought is a Hispanic woman who has potential but her financial situation does not afford her the means to pay tuition. She is accepted into college based on her ethnic background race and gender. She graduates with a BS in Education and then gains employment at a school in her neighborhood. She is the role model for other Hispanic children to do well in school and get an education to go further in life. If not for that quota there would have been no other way for that Hispanic woman to get into college.
On the other hand, affirmative action can hinder those that are the best qualified or those able to meet the necessary requirements. It can bring down performance in the workplace because the best applicant may not get hired because a quota of minorities must be met first. Another reason is that it can give rise to reverse discrimination, and it is especially alarming to white males since traditionally they dominated the workplace including management positions.
Affirmative action support has declined in recent years. Supporters are opposed to the hiring and admissions decisions on race. They agree that diversity in the workplace and in college is a desirable goal and special efforts should be made to those who are at a disadvantage to compete equally. Rather than eliminate the policy all together, Americans prefer to abolish the quota or preference aspects of affirmative action.
The issues that surround affirmative action usually deal with societal issues and also end up with a court decision. The first policy that was tested before the Supreme Court was in 1978 in University of California Regents v. Bakke. Alan Bakke, a white male was twice denied admission to medical school even though his admission scores were higher than those of some minority group students. The Supreme Court ruled in Bakke’s favor. The Supreme Court did not invalidate the affirmative action but stated that rigid racial quotas are impermissible. In the 1980’s the Supreme Court restricted the use of race, as a basis for determining which employees would be terminated in the event of layoffs. It also upheld a quota system that required ten percent of public works funds be set aside for minority owned businesses. The Civil Rights Act of 1991, required larger firms to prove their white workforce is a result of business necessity. In a 1995 decision, Adarand v. Pena, the Supreme Court reversed earlier precedents that allowed the federal government to give a preference to minority applicants. Lastly, the California Civil Rights Initiative, known as Proposition 209, which bans in California any public employment, education or contracting program that is based on race, gender or ethnicity. It was challenged and in 1997 the Supreme Court upheld the decision. In 1998, the state of Texas innovated the ten percent rule, which guarantees any high school students admission into public college if they graduate in the top ten percent of their class. This rule has met with little opposition because it eliminates the suspicion that students are admitted based solely on race. It is a positive step towards encouraging any student to better scholastically and not limit it to a particular disadvantage group. The main purpose of affirmative action is to reduce discrimination between a person and groups who otherwise would not have an equal opportunity or chance.